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Thursday, October 20, 2011

162

My Case With Accutane

“Have you or a loved one ever taken Accutane?”

These ambulance-chasing infomercials sound like a total sham until they suddenly apply to you.

“Have you or a loved one ever taken Accutane?”

My ears were still half-tuned out when I realized, why yes, yes I had.

“Then you may be eligible for a large sum of money.”

Go on…

“Accutane has been proven to cause serious side effects such as Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

Oh.

“And you may be owed damages.”

Go on…

In economic times like these, I’m not above a shameless lawsuit to make my millions. Unfortunately, at worst my bowels are unpredictable and there’s no way to argue otherwise. While I’ll sue willy-nilly for a seven-zero paycheck, I am above flat out lying — for the sake of everyone involved. I once dated a guy who had ulcerative colitis and having, um, witnessed it first hand I can say with full confidence it’s not a disease I want to fake.

But despite the disappearing promise of newfound wealth, I was transported to a time in my life I had all but since forgotten. The time when I took purported miracle drug Accutane.

You see, I had acne. Scratch the past tense. I still get breakouts. But as a tweenager, I had chronic acne. The kind that consistently replenished your face with a nice sheen. The kind that spread to your back, your chest, and any place you sweat, which with hormones like mine, could really be anywhere. The kind where popping a zit turned into a three-hour surgery. The kind that rebuffed the advances of Differin, Tetracycline, that shimmery white cream that smelled like cheese, and every other topical/oral combination prescribed by dermatologists. And when you had this kind of acne, all roads eventually led to Accutane.

Accutane is a brand name for the medication known as isotretinoin. It was originally used as a cancer treatment, but Gerald Peck and his colleagues at the National Institute of Health discovered it also worked on severe acne. The drug company Roche acquired the patent for the drug and began selling it as Accutane in the United States in 1982, then in Europe as Roaccutane in 1995. The drug is a retinoid, which basically means it’s a massive dose of Vitamin A. According to Drugs.com, it works to “reduce the amount of oil released by oil glands in your skin and helps your skin renew itself more quickly.”

The bacterium that causes acne actually lives in the oils your skin produces, so if there is less oil then there is less bacteria. Acne.org claims that 95% of people who take Accutane find their acne effectively cured. For life. Do you believe in miracles?

While I haven’t had a bad acne episode since my time on Accutane, I still get zits and probably will until I’m old and gray. Sorry, boys. But for all intents and purposes, this drug fulfilled its miraculous promise. So why doesn’t everyone take Accutane if it’s so darn effective, you ask?

Because, simply put, shit will fuck you up. When I took a regiment of pink, yellow, and brown capsules back in 1999, the ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s risks weren’t even on the radar. And still, the known side effects were very serious. Apparently, high doses of Vitamin A can be terrible for your liver. Anyone taking Accutane was required to get monthly blood work done to ensure their liver was preserved for more conventional damage —  like binge-drinking in college.

If you were a woman, you had to sign a waiver promising you were not pregnant and would not become pregnant during the course of your treatment. As an acne-riddled 14-year-old this was not a problem for me. But in case you were tempted to conceive, the drug manufacturers included a graphic illustration of a deformed fetus with the drug information found inside of each box.

In 2006, a birth-defect prevention program called iPledge was launched, and it required all female patients wanting to take Accutane to register on the iPledge website. Registrants had to agree to monthly pregnancy tests along with their regular blood work, and commit to using two forms of birth control while on the pill. Unsurprisingly, iPledge was not without its critics and was ultimately not very successful.

And then there were the suicidal tendencies. Accutane was long associated with depression. Made sense. Any drug that powerful was bound to interfere with some chemicals. In fact, when I first went on Accutane I had difficulty with mood swings and my doctor ultimately reduced my dosage. I had other friends who struggled with more serious depression while on the drug. In 2000, a Congressman’s son committed suicide while on the medication, prompting a surge in research on the relationship between isotretinoin and suicide.

In addition to the more serious side effects, the cosmetic effects were no walk in the park, either. Some patients became highly sensitive to bright light, your skin became a magnet for sunburn, and, most famously, it dried everything out. Nearly everything on your epidermis would flake: face, arms, scalp, lips. I already sweat excessively, I had braces, and now I had a light dusting of snow all over my body. The course of tween years never did run smooth.

Thanks to Accutane, 12 years later I still moisturize obsessively. Step into my bathroom and you will find an apothecary of creams, lotions, and salves.

Of course, all of this is kind of moot. In my revisiting of Accutane I discovered the drug was actually discontinued in 2009. After settling a $33 million lawsuit that year, Roche decided to cut its losses and stop selling Accutane in the United States. But don’t worry, they still sell Roaccutane in other less-regulated parts of the world. Plus, Roche’s patent expired back in 2002, so generic isotretinoin is still available in the United States from other manufacturers. Long live the miracle drug!

On the one hand, Accutane saved me from one of the more painful aspects of puberty. On the other hand, good lord what did I put in my body? In spite of the mountain of downsides, part of me feels like a member of a secret society that today’s teens, as well as many of my peers, will never understand. Accutane was my five-mile walk to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways.

I remember one time after a drama class — I wasn’t doing myself any favors back then — trying to discreetly pull a yellow capsule out of my backpack. A classmate immediately noticed, but not in a quizzical way. His eyes lit up with instant recognition and we exchanged a knowing nod. This may have been the only time having acne made me feel a part of some special club. A feeling of belonging. Isn’t that what every kid wants?

You know what every adult wants? An inflamed colon so she can sue for millions.

Laura Turner Garrison is a freelance writer and producer living in Brooklyn. She shares her thoughts and work sparingly here.

162 Comments / Post A Comment

FromTheFuture

My brother took Accutane as a teenager and went prematurely bald-- like before he was 20. He started losing his hair about a year after he started taking it. Maybe he was going to lose it anyway bc of genetics, etc... but it happened so suddenly and so young that I'm sure Accutane played a role.

Elvis Costello's Spectacles

@FromTheFuture I don't doubt it. My boyfriend was offered an acne drug but was told that the side effects included hair loss and depression. In the end he decided that bad skin was a fair price to pay for sanity and hair!

HydrogenJukebox

I was on Accutane at 16, and for serious, that shit works. It was before this iPledge business, but I do remember having to sign that waiver, go to the gynecologist, and those fun little line drawings of the weird potato-babies. (Fun fact: This is how my mom inadvertently discovered I was not a virgin anymore. Fun times!)

Jukeboy was on it (now called Claravis or something) last year, and he had to do the iPledge thing as well, so I guess it's now maybe not just for girls? They wouldn't even let him refill his prescription unless he'd updated his agreement right before. I told him if he accidentally impregnated me with a potato-baby I was going to name it Spud. (He didn't.) It did make him smell different though, which was strange.

piekin

@HydrogenJukebox Yeah, my little brother had to do the whole iPledge thing every month when he was on Accutane, and promise to use a condom and another form of protection if/when he had sex. Who knew our hypervigilant capitalist medical system was so equitable?? (jk)

L M
L M

god I loved accutane. the incessant cysts were so fucking painful, though the mandatory birth control (hi, lesbian) was ridonk. the ibs? weight management!

having done basically every prescription acne drug/cream on the market, I've finally settled on/swear by proactiv. yayyyyyy proactiv.

raised amongst catalogs

@Lucia Martinez Acne-talk time! Out of curiosity, how long has Proactiv been working for you? I had to stop after a couple of years because it stopped doing the magic on my face, but when it worked I loved it.

L M
L M

@vanillawaif oh god please don't say that. I'm finally dermatologist-free for the first time since I was eight.

I started in march, and it's still going strong--just the cleanser's enough.

major disaster

@Lucia Martinez If you want to save some money, this:

http://www.cleanandclear.com/product/cleansers/continuous-control-acne-cleanser

does basically the same thing as Proactiv for way less money. Although the rest of the ingredients are different (and it's not abrasive), it has the same active ingredient - 10% benzoyl peroxide. These are the only two products I've ever seen that have that high a concentration in a cleanser, and doing it that way (as opposed to applying an ointment or something that stays on your face) is the only thing that has ever worked for me.

ETA: And I should add that for me, it works just as well. (And I just remembered that CVS sold a store-brand imitation that I did not like for whatever reason.)

raised amongst catalogs

@Lucia Martinez AHHH, sorry! Forgive a dry-skinned girl who can no longer tolerate benzoyl peroxide. I'm oil-cleansing now, as of the last couple of months. It's definitely not the night and day difference I got from Proactiv, but what I do get is less painful/cyst-like and seems to go away faster.

L M
L M

@major disaster I've tried the DR and natural equivalents and nadaaaaaaa. and my favorite thing about proactiv is the combination of micro-abrasives and benzoyl. (I've done prescription-strength benzoyl creams and they didn't get in there like it seems to with the exfoliating thingies.) (that's the scientific term.)

parallel-lines

@Lucia Martinez I could never do proactiv b/c of the benzoyl peroxide, but I did two rounds of accutaine - the first was fine except for the bloody noses. The second I lost my marbles. Like, constant crying freak out screaming nutso. I still haven't really found anything that works :/

kneesup

@Lucia Martinez yes!! that clean and clear cleanser is the only one that's made a difference for me. i had no insurance so i couldn't fill my prescription but my dermatologist had prescribed a sulfar wash and benzoyl peroxide so i just found over the counter products. i also use neutrogena oil-free makeup removing wipes (not sure of the exact name but theyre in an orange package) at night to take off my makeup and it really cleans out more pores too! they are diiiirty when i'm finished using them. anyway i have okay skin. not perfect but not destroyed.

loudmouthedgirl

@major disaster @Lucia Martinez I like the clean and clear cleanser as well, but I am all about this one from Vichy:

http://www.vichyusa.com/_us/_en/face-care/cleansers-toners/normaderm-daily-exfoliating-cleansing-gel.htm

As someone who is post-accutane but still gets the occasional pimple it is amazing. It's pretty much all I use, and it gets the job done.

Polina

@kneesup Oooh I want to second the wipes. I used to just use face wash to remove my makeup and using the wipes first has really, really helped.

likethestore

@loudmouthedgirl I use Vichy too! I really hate paying that much for products but they seem to be working pretty well.

BUtterfieldGR8

@Lucia Martinez This must be one of those "everyone's skin is different" things. Proactiv didn't help my acne and it gave me this ridiculous bumpy rash - on my face- that didn't go away for over a month. I remember feeling like Jessica Simpson had lied to me.

mllemargaret

Accutane WAS a miracle drug for me, so I have to leave a comment in its defense. It was absolutely worth the side-effects. If you have just moderate to bad acne, it is probably not worth it, but if you have horrific, disfiguring, intensely painful acne? It can turn your entire life around.

xtinam

@mllemargaret I feel the same way! I say miracle drug. I took accutane in 1998 or 99 and I have never had breakouts again.

MzFrizz

@mllemargaret I just finished a course of isotretonin a couple months ago and yes, it was a HUGE pain in the ass, but as somebody who still had constant cystic/hormonal acne at 25 and had tried everything (literally everything) else, it was a miracle. Now I have normal skin and don't have to wear a pound of concealer everyday and feel like a grown-up. So. Worth it.

hungrybee

@mllemargaret It turned my life around, too. Smearing lip balm on nearly constantly was a small price to pay for not being terrified to go to school with scabs and cysts over my entire body.

mllemargaret

@xtinam In 2001, I had layer upon layer upon layer of cysts on my face and GIANT cysts on my back. I couldn't sleep at night because it hurt to lie on either side OR on my back. I avoided talking to anyone or even leaving the house because people flinched when they looked at me. I went on a high dose of Accutane for six months. Now people who meet me don't even notice the light scars on my cheeks unless I point them out. And I can sleep in any position I want! Well, except sitting up--I will never master airplane sleeping. Miracle drug!

JGP
JGP

@mllemargaret I'm an (old) dude and was one of the 5% or so who had to do Accutane TWICE. Did it in 9th grade in 1990 and it cleared my entire back and face up, but I kept having problems on my chest and neck. Course two sophomore year of college more or less solved that. I did get a touch of depression - not suicidal or anything, but definitely didn't want to get out of bed some mornings and face the day. The last straw that caused me to quit my second term about a month short was that I got a wicked nosebleed in the middle of a class, when I was sitting in the middle of a row. To avoid climbing over people and possibly bleeding on them, I sat there with my chin in my hand, bleeding down my arm for an hour. I looked like the cover of that Andrew WK album when class ended. AFter that I was done.

But man, that stuff works great when you're brace-faced, pimpled and mulletted (mulleted?) and raging with 14 year old hormones. It really did change my life.

whereismyrobot

@mllemargaret I am glad you mentioned the pain, because that is not mentioned often. Acne HURTS. It is open wounds...ON YOUR FACE. People treat it as though it's a vanity issue and it's not.

Bittersweet

@whereismyrobot: Yes, cystic acne just hurts and hurts. I took Accutane to get rid of it in '99, but no side effects beyond the very dry skin/lips/eyes. Lately it's come back (blame stress and hormones) and Retin-A is keeping in check. That shit is magic.

tibia

@mllemargaret yes yessss. I actually only had moderate acne, but for yearsssss and NOTHING helped and at 21 I was finally like "fuck it." I took claravis and it was kinda a pain (ipledge!) but my only real side effects were achy joints which went away as soon as I finished the medicine. And: my skin is amazing now. I will still get the rare zit, but I knew that I had made the right decision when a few months in this beautiful cool girl stopped me in the dorm bathroom to tell me my skin was gorgeous and ask what I used on it. To end up there after YEARS of feeling ugly and spotty was the. best. Team isotretinoin!

Beck Rea@facebook

@whereismyrobot THANK YOU.

I get cysts where my bra rubs...still!

At 30!

WTF?!?

Never took Accutane--took a mild version of somethingsomething because my mom draaaagggged my to the dermatologist when I was in college.

She and dad got so mad at me for picking my face.

Guess they didn't connect it (the obsessive picking) to the fact that they were forcing me into a teaching career, and that they forbade me to move out of their house.

Acne is so much more than a vanity issue.

priscillamalarky

@whereismyrobot @mllemargaret Thanks, I was reading the other comment threads before this one and thought, Isn't anyone going to stick up for Accutane??

While I had almost no acne on my body, strangely, I started getting HUGE cystic acne breakouts on my face when I was 10. It was miserable. At that age other kids don't realize that that's hormonal and they just assume you're not clean. Nothing else worked, and people shuddered when they looked at my face. I actually recently saw a photo of myself from that time and couldn't believe how covered in cysts my face was. At 13 my doctor put me on Accutane and that shit worked like nothing else. It was pretty unbelievable. As some others here have said, aside from some really chapped lips and mild flaking--oh, and also seriously elevated cholesterol! anyone else? It didn't matter because I was a beanpole-thin 13-year-old with a really healthy diet and my cholesterol normalized afterward--my side effects were no problemo.

Unfortunately acne reared its ugly head again at 17, and I went on a second round of Accutane, this time for a bit longer and at a higher dose. During this round, I got all kindsa depressed. It was a bad year generally--my grandfather, whom I'd always been very close to, passed on; my first boyfriend broke up with me for racial reasons; and there was a big falling out with all my friends at school over some stupid gossip--so I had a lot of reasons to be down, but I think Accutane probably played some role in just how shitty I felt.

But when that was done, I was acne-free and I felt great about myself--no more huge, painful zits, no more giant scabs, no more feeling like the most horrifying-looking person in the whole entire world. That feeling was so, soooo worth the 7 months of, ultimately, pretty mild depression. If I had it to do over again, I'd definitely use Accutane (if it were still available), because given how severe my acne was--and, as others have said, how much more it is than a simple vanity issue--it was just so worth all of the risks to me. Period.

I do still get a pimple or two on my chin (always on my chin!) around my period, but these are so manageable and look like tiny sand dunes--easily coverable with some light foundation--compared to the giant mountains I used to get.

One more thing: I think I tried Claravis, or maybe some other generic, when I was on Accutane because it was cheaper and for a quick sec my insurance company was like, "We're not paying for the brand-name stuff," and it really, really didn't work as well so my doctor wrote a note saying, "Yeah, you gotta pay for the brand-name stuff," and my insurance company finally said, "Sigh, fine, ok." But yeah, so, is Claravis any better these days? I think it's a shame that Accutane isn't available and I feel like Roche did people like me a huge disservice by pulling it, especially since, as far as I know, Claravis just isn't as good. Thanks a lot, ambulance chasers!

whereismyrobot

@priscillamalarky I am on Clavaris, unfortunately.

So far it has been good but my scalp itches SO much.

Mad as a Hatter!

Man, don't ever wish for colon problems. I had a first date where we went out and had teriyaki and I ended up having to excuse myself to go have explosive diarrhea. Good times.

Polina

@Sherlock Seriously. Colon problems have put me in some pretty embarrassing (though mostly just for me) social situations.

itmakesmewonder

@Sherlock FOR SERIOUS.

melis

@Sherlock Oh that's so funny, I know something that will clear that right up.

Mad as a Hatter!

@itmakesmewonder FOR SERIOUS. Somehow he called me back and we dated for three years.

itmakesmewonder

@Sherlock I meant it more like AMEN, but yes, bless that fellow, and yes, repeat but with sweet and sour chicken OR Mexican food and I've done those things.

Megasus

I knew one girl who was taking it in like 2003/4 and we were like "What!? That shit f*cks you up!"

jagosaurus

I've seen this ad too.

I took Accutane back in the mid-1980s and it saved my skin. I still get hormonal breakouts and probably will until menopause, but they're nothing like what I dealt with pre-Accutane. I remember signing the pregnancy waiver but I don't remember much else except the smell of Carmex lip balm and Lubriderm lotion, both of which were recommended by my dermatologist to counteract the very drying effects of the medication and both of which transport me instantly back to my adolescence.

raised amongst catalogs

@Jane George@twitter I worked with a girl whose joints all dried out from Accutane, but she said clear skin was worth it.

nonvolleyball

one of my friends used to take Accutane, & he ended up developing IBS, which (in retrospect, after having seen those ads myself) I've got to think was related.

my favorite part was the drawing you'd have to punch out to get to each pill--a silhouette of a pregnant woman with a red circle/line through it: "NO PREGNANCY!" its emphatic creepiness cracked me up every time I saw it.

hachacha

@nonvolleyball I saved all of those little tabs from when I was on it. They were too funny.

jane lane

@nonvolleyball I thought so too! Whenever I occasionally find one in an old bag it cracks me up, but no one else ever seems to see the humor.

limnupon

@nonvolleyball I made earrings for my friend out of those! I think I have the rest of them saved up somewhere.

laluz

I also took Accutane as a pimply teen in 1998 -- I had some crazy old, OLD derm at the time who basically prescribed it to me the second my mom asked about it, I believe I only tried one or two other medications first. But yeah, I had really severe acne, and 10+ years later, it's never ever been a problem again. Only side effect ish I remember having was chapped lips and dry skin.

My sister, however, started it (or a facsimile? I had no idea it was discontinued) and was really weirded out by the pledge and the fact that she also had to take birth control despite being a lesbian. Seems intrusive to me.

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@laluz: Probably the result of liability/law stuff to prevent any suits to the parent company.

jane lane

@laluz You don't HAVE to be on bc, though. I had a friend who was on it at the same time I was who just pledged abstinence/abstinence as her two forms. But getting on the pill helps a lot of girl's acne clear up anyway

gidgetjones

I took Accutane in the mid-90s and high school. It cured my dreadful, painful bacne and vastly improved my elsewhere acne. I laughed out loud when I had to go on birth control (as a Catholic gal I told my dermatologist I'd be the next Virgin Mary if I managed to get knocked up) but that was a blessing in disguise as well, as it finally regulated my periods and eased my cramps and crazy bleeding (gross, sorry.)

But to this day, I firmly believe Accutane worsened the depressive and suicidal tendencies I already had. I'm just now recovering from a suicide attempt, and see above as to how long ago I took Accutane. I'm not blaming it but I'm just saying.

And I still get zits, and I can't tan anymore. Dammit.

raised amongst catalogs

@gidgetjones Hi, you. I don't know you but I hope you're doing ok.

stephanieboland

@gidgetjones @vanillawaif Seconded. I'm sorry, that sounds really rough, and I hope it gets easier for you.

gidgetjones

@stephanieboland @vanillawaif Thank you both very much. I'm touched. And I'm getting there ... let me tell you, I asked the HELL out of A Dude!

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@gidgetjones: Don't go. Your back tattoo is too awesome.

gingeresq

@gidgetjones I am one of the few people who went through 2 courses of Accutane and had no positive results. I also believe that it triggered something for me that would not otherwise be a tangible issue...I suffered some crippling depression during my 2nd round, which was over 10 years ago, and it's been a burden ever since. Stay strong.

grenadine

@gidgetjones Me too! I was 14 when I went on it, and I don't think my poor neurochemistry has ever recovered. My mom says I underwent a pretty dramatic transformation when I started taking it. (So why didn't you take me off it, I want to say, but no sense blaming now.) 15 years of antidepressants, therapy, psych inpatient, and a failed suicide attempt later, I have GREAT skin.

(Insert discourse on how mental illness has actually made me stronger, I have no regrets, I'm a survivor, etc. Still, up yours, Roche.)

LilyMarlene

@gidgetjones @grenadine :hugs: to you. I'm glad you're both still here. <3

Beck Rea@facebook

@gidgetjones Keep hanging on, lady.

Depression is an asshole--kick it in the face.

*fierce hug*

Where Pies Go When They Die

@gidgetjones @gingeresq @grenadine Hello! I am responding to this very late (I was researching Accutane), but I just wanted to second (third?) some of the other responses above: I'm so sorry you had to go through such shit, and I really hope you're doing ok now and are on your way to being brilliantly happy! I am about to bust out a cliché, but a high quality cliché: stay strong. You can and will get through this x

pinta

How timely. I have my final dermatologist appt this afternoon and this evening I'll be starting my first dose of isotretinoin (aka generic accutane). I've done the iPledge thing, had one negative preg test a month ago and will have another one today, and got my blood drawn.

I don't like this piece. Part of it is because I'm about to take this drug and I'm scared. But plenty of people have taken accutane with minimal side effects and don't regret it. Now I'm really rethinking this. shit shit.

lafleur

@pinta Don't rethink it. If you have problems with side effects, your doctor can change the dosage. Just keep your eye on the prize.

realtalk

@pinta I took it three years ago and my skin is still clear. I didn't have ANY negative side effects (obviously, besides dry skin). (also, I haaaate hormonal contraception, so I just ... didn't take the prescribed birth control and didn't touch a penis the whole time. SO.)

Keep doing it. If the mood swings are crazy, get your doctor to lower the dose. For me, a big part of what I hated about other pill-based acne stuff is that you're on it FOREVER. Like, no, I don't want to be on antibiotics for the rest of my life, thanks. I'd rather do a 6 month crazy thing and then be done forever. Which is exactly how it worked out.

GOOD LUCK!

L M
L M

@pinta I loved it. and that was through two rounds. stock up on a big tub of cetaphil or another humectant moisturizer.

kislan

@pinta Don't worry! I finished a course just over a year ago and was so happy with the results! As far as the dry skin goes, I WISH MY SKIN WAS STILL AS DRY AS IT WAS ON ACCUTANE. My face has always been an hot oily mess, and the only time it was ever matte and nice was on accutane. Now it is sadly oily again (sad), but totally pimple-free!

mllemargaret

@pinta I think it depends on how bad your acne is and whether getting rid of it is worth the possible risks to you or not. For me, it was a no-brainer--my acne was so bad that it was taking over my life. I was in a lot of pain and had a hard time having normal social interactions because my face was covered in cysts. Curing my acne was worth any risk to me. Luckily, I just had dry skin and lips while I was on Accutane. (I only had to wash my hair once a week!!) I don't know if it affected my digestive system because I already had IBS before I took it.

Gaelic for Failure

@pinta I'm finishing up my fifth and last month of Claravis and am so, so, so happy with the results. I had minimal side effects, even when my dosage was increased. Cerave moisturizers and Aquaphor were my saving graces.

iPledge is so NOT a big deal for me.

werewolfbarmitzvah

@pinta Well, if it helps to get your courage up, my ex-boyfriend and my best friend both did Accutane, neither one of them had any terrible side effects beyond the usual extra-dryness, and both of them came out of the experience with skin so clear, you'd never be able to guess that either of them had ever had serious acne problems. Visions of loveliness, the both of them.

annestofannes

@pinta Isotretinoin changed my life, for the better. I went on it at 23 because my hormones decided to revert back to my pre-teen years. The iPledge isn't fun, but my side effects were very minimal--mostly dry skin. On the plus side, I didn't need to shower very often and my hair never looked better. It's been two years, and things are still good. I get compliments on my skin all the time, and it's the best feeling in the world after working at it for so long. I hope you go for it and get the results you want, good luck!

lafleur

When you stop taking Accutane, you will see some breakouts occasionally, but there won't be any of that hideous cystic stuff that takes over your cheeks or chin. I recommend Accutane to everyone—I did experience some side effects, like joint pain, ridiculous dryness and some mood swings, but the payoff is so beyond worth it. I do think iPledge is a huge hassle (the "quiz" you have to answer every month is 1st grade sex ed shit), but I would have gone through four times worse just to end up with the relatively great skin I have now.

coconuts

I started taking Accutane last November for my skin. My skin wasn't outright horrible but I was 26 and sick of the constant breakouts and pimples that took months to go away. It cleared up my skin but in the fourth month I started getting a weird sound in my ears (not ringing, more of a whooshing) and had to go off it. On the one hand, I'm glad to have clear skin now. On the other hand, I still get that weird sound occasionally and have yet to figure out if it will ever go away. Also, monthly blood tests are hell for someone with tiny well hidden veins like me.

marilira

@coconuts FYI accutane/high doses of Vit A have been correlated with "idiopathic intracrainial hypertension" (formerly called pseudotumor cerebri) and one of the symptoms includes a "whooshing sound"/pulsatile tinnitus in ears. If you keep getting it or have bad headaches/vision changes I would get it checked out.

undercoverhippie

I took accutane in high school (mid-90s) and again in college. (Only 15% of people have to do two rounds-- lucky me!). I will agree that it was like a miracle for my face, despite the concurrent drying effects. My fellow Accutane peeps will recall the "no pregnancy!" tabs you had to pull off to get to every pill. They showed a pregnant woman's silhouette circled in read and covered with a red slash-- just like a no smoking sign. As a completely virgin teenager, my friends and I thought these were so hilarious that we taped them inside our lockers and would randomly drop them into others' lockers as well.

MrsLlama

@undercoverhippie I had to do two as well! Go us!

nocomment

@MrsLlama I did two as well, plus a bonus month at one point in between the two.

LilyMarlene

@fatgirlinohio @Mrs Llama @undercoverhippie I AM THE 15%. My two rounds of isotretinoin were about six months apart, taking place between ages 31-32, after suffering miserable, constant breakouts from the age of fourteen. My breakouts have lessened considerably, but my parents are in their sixties and both still get mad zits. I'll probably be fighting the family face-DNA for the rest of my life.

I live overseas. My prescribing GP it mentioned iPledge, said it's not mandatory where we live, but stressed the importance of not getting knocked up whilst on isotretinoin. I informed of my IUD which has a reported 99%+ effectiveness rate. He told me to use an additional method of birth control, since he's delivered babies who were holding their mothers' IUDs in their hands, and if the same happened to me whilst on isotretinoin, mine would likely have no head. I've been through with isotretinoin for almost six months now, but still have nightmares about a Headless Horseman newborn carrying a Paragard into the night. JAYSUS.

I am deeply jealous of your "no pregnancy" tabs, though.

Also, re. dry isotretinoin skin; in the shower, I smeared my entire body and face with olive oil and rinsed for about thirty seconds before getting out. My skin soaked it up like Death Valley soaks up rain - no shininess whatsoever, it was that dry. For times when it'd be inappropriate to cover oneself with olive oil (at work, in line at the bank, the opera), I highly recommend The Body Shop's line of hemp products, particularly the lip balm. I didn't know about these products the first time around, but for the second round I remember thinking "it sure is nice not walking around with the corners of my mouth cracked all to fuckery and bleeding!"

Mandykins

@undercoverhippie I'm a little late to this party, but I started cracking up when I read this comment because my friends and I did the exact same thing! Little "no pregnancy" cardboard ovals for everyone! I'm also a 2-timer (at 12- and 15-years old, way before I was sexually active) and those things were so school girl hilarious.

I'll say that at 26, my skin is basically still entirely clear 11 years after my last round of Accutane. For the breakouts that I do have, I swear by a Clarisonic brush. That thing is amazing. Get thee to a Sephora!

charlottecat

I took Accutane for a little while. Not so much because I wanted to but because my mom wanted me to. I was, however, a very stubborn teenager and I eventually stopped cooperating and just quit taking it. I still have/get acne, but that Accutane stuff was a pain in the neck what with all the blood draws, etc.

shenannies

Had to log on just to defend Accutane as well--took it when I had not too too bad acne but it would have led to scarring. For me it was also a miracle drug, despite getting incredibly dried out and body aches so bad it hurt to stand up or lie down. Totally worth it.

major disaster

I took Accutane in college and kind of loved the fact that it gave me an acceptable reason to tell my mother why I had to take the pill. "I have no choice! They make you take it no matter what!"

In an odd moment, years later, I found out my dermatologist apparently had moved to New York when David Letterman had him on his show after he treated him for shingles.

loudmouthedgirl

I took accutane twice (eek!) in highschool and it was honestly probably the best thing that happened to me at the time. When you have just gotten glasses and braces and horrible acne, highschool = serious no fun. The only side effects I experienced were crazy dry, chapped lips and my skin became very sensitive to changes in temperature; in winter, as soon as I went indoors, my face would go bright red and stay that way for about an hour. But it was totally worth it. Just over ten years later I only get the occasional hormonal pimple.

Onymous

I guess in hindsight my lips were extra chapped during my stint on it, but I already had super dry skin (icthyosis vulgaris for the lose) so if it did dry me out any more I didn't notice.

NirvanahCrane

@Onymous Oh ow, my partner has icthyosis and it is horrible. The only thing that seems to work for him is the Cetaphil moisturiser.

The Widow Muspratt

I guess I should consider myself lucky that the only long-term Accutane side effect I have is a serious lip balm addiction.

major disaster

@akapocalypse Same here, though for me it's vaseline. I have several tubs stashed around my apartment and tubes of it in every coat and purse I own. I start acting like a drug-seeking addict if I can't find any.

whereismyrobot

I started accutane (or whatever they are calling it now) last night. I had to ipledge and the pictures of deformed babies on the packages is crazy.

I am 34 and this is my last hope. Everyone that I have talked to IN PERSON has had a good experience. So that's good.

I have seriously thought about blogging this entire weird experience, most especially the cost.

shenannies

@whereismyrobot Good luck, that stuff really does work wonders. I constantly had acne and now I get maybe one small blemish a year.

pinta

@whereismyrobot DO IT

mllemargaret

@whereismyrobot I feel your financial pain--my parents (who are not wealthy) paid for my Accutane out of pocket, and it was insane. Best thousands of dollars they ever spent, though! Good luck--I hope it works as well for you as it did for me!

nocomment

@whereismyrobot I had a good experience with it. I just got really dry skin but no other ill effects that I can recall. And I am so glad I did it. I was miserable with terrible skin as a teen and an adult (I did it at 16 and again in my early 20s).

jane lane

@whereismyrobot the generic pill only cost me $10/mo! But I had a friend whose insurance didn't cover it (and super rich parents) who paid hundreds every month, and I can't even imagine that. It was worth the two courses I did, I guess. My skin still kind of sucks but I had minimal side effects.

whereismyrobot

@pinta I am looking at getting a new job and I am really worried about the costs. This is how bad I wanted to go on it though. I am willing to risk having to pay out of pocket for a while.

bridget@twitter

I rocked the Accutane around age 19-20 and, yep - that shit works. Aside from the various digestive issues I've had (nothing major, just nothing fun), my thyroid broke and I'll probably have to take a daily pill for the rest of my life. No bigs, really. What freaks me out most is WHAT IF IT BROKE MY UTERUS? Ok, that's over-dramatic, but I'm 30 and have never had so much as a *scare*.

Suppose I should meet with others in the secret Accutane club and see if any of them were able to produce healthy, non-potato babies.

HelloKatie!

@bridget@twitter Good news about non-potato babies! Both my sister and I took Accutane in the late 90s (and lucky me, again in college, circa 2005) and she has two of the most adorable, non-potato babies out there! Granted she got pregnant years after going off Accutane, but her two kids are both happy, healthy, and totally not potato(y).

realtalk

@bridget@twitter it clears out of your system within a few months of stopping taking it, and it's the actual presence of the drug in the bloodstream that harms the fetus - so science says you'll have beautiful babies!

Seth Persons@twitter

@bridget@twitter Oh geez, it messed up your thyroid? Mine is going crazy since I started accutane, and they're saying it's not a side effect, but it happened at the same time!

BlodwynPig

I took Roaccutane as a teenager in Britain, circa 96, for my cystic acne and that stuff sent me wappy. I guess I'll never know if the one-and-only depressive period in my life so far was caused by this drug or just by being a teenager, but I'm almost willing to bet my liver on it. What's left of it, that is (every now and again, when having a couple of beers with friends I wonder if I really should be drinking, even though I finished the course many years ago). Apart from the out-of-nowhere self-harming tendencies and the pain it caused my family, I also remember having the driest of dry skins, the quite agreeable sensation of being in a secret club and, six to nine months after I’d finished the treatment, the sudden realization that the strange emotion I was feeling was happiness. It had been so long. I think I would have endured the acne better.
Anyway, I found it interesting when, several years later, my little bro' was prescribed the same treatment but in vastly reduced quantities. If memory serves, I was on 50mg/day (four pills in total: 2 big, 2 small) for one year. My little brother at the beginning of the noughties was put on a medium dose of 20mg/day because while his acne was really bad, the doctor said he was underweight and thought it’d be risky to give him more. I weighed at least two stone less when they started me on a much higher dose.
Currently, I’m having a lot of problems with eye infections, styes and the like. Vitamin A eye creams seem to help, but I can’t but wonder if these weaknesses in my body’s ability to heal itself are not the result of that year on roaccutane.

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@BlodwynPig: Thumbs up, if not for you story, then for your wonderful English jargon. Wappy!

realtalk

@BlodwynPig It's interesting that vitamin A eye creams help your styes, because isotretinoin/roaccutane/accutane is a vitamin A derivative.

And yeah, they've gotten a LOT more conservative with the dosages. 50mg/day is the absolute max they'll prescribe now, I think - when I took it, I started with 15mg/day and increased up to 20 the second month of treatment. It means your treatment course is longer, because its length is based on the total number of grams administered, but if you have fewer negative symptoms, it's worth it.

Were you warned by your doctor about depressive symptoms as a possible side effect? Because my doctor told me that if my mood shifted at all, or if it made me more sore than a long run, that my dose would have to decrease.

DerbyshireDave

@BlodwynPig Me too, in about 1988/9 as bit of a pioneer in the UK. Huge doses, 9 months, all done through my local hospital's dermatology department who'd not treated many people with it before. Don't specifically recall blood tests, but do very much recall dry skin. Very dry skin. I seem to remember suffering very dry nasal passages which was quite unpleasant.

To be quite honest, knowing all what we know about it now, if I could turn back the clock and be offered it again, I'd snatch their hand off. It changed my life and I don't regret it.

Nearly 25 years later, I'd say I'm a picture of health. No after effects that I've ever specifically put down to accutane. But this has got me thinking about a short bout of depression a few years ago. Never connected one to the other and to be fair probably still don't. Otherwise, constitution of an ox. File that one away for claim chowder.

Since I took it I've met a few others who also used it. None of us has ever regretted it.

BlodwynPig

@realtalk No one else has brought this up, but along with the extreme lip and skin dryness, my eyes got super dry to. It was agony trying not to scratch them out of my face!But maybe that was just me. It is the whole vitamin A derivative thing that got me thinking that maybe there's a link between the infections I get now and this drug I took in the past - like maybe it damaged the way I absorb vit A or something? But really it is just wild speculation on my part.

was I warned about possible depressive side-effects? Not so much, I think that back then , even though it'd been available in the U.S for some time, docs in the U.K weren't so totally clued in to the negative aspects. The whole 'don't get pregnant thing' was mentioned but there was no pledging... I guess my GP figured I was too young to be having intercourse. He was wrong, but happily I was a careful teen and didn't make any potato babies. I will also say that roaccuatane did clear the shit out of my spots (losing the bacne was the best) and that I've probably just forgotten how awful it was to be the girl at school who had a face that moved (and not in the normal way). Seriously, I used to think that pus was the only thing holding the skin together on my face!

ABear

Was it discontinued? I took it in 2009. Maybe it was roaccutane, though. My biggest complaint is that I didn't take it as a teenager (I was 27 when I started taking it). It's been life changing.

Polina

I never had to go as far as Accutane, but with the colon problems I've had..I'm so glad. But I really wish that I could go back and do things differently even with the treatment I had. My acne was just bad enough to seek treatment, and while I can't know for sure if things would be different sometimes I wish I hadn't. When I was first being treated, I was on doxycycline for a year. Up until this I was never, ever sick. I truly believe (I'm not a doctor, I know) that it weakened my immune system. Suddenly I was sick literally all the time. Didn't have a bad diet, was moderately athletic, slept well. Chronic sinusitis, walking pneumonia, and when I was 20 I had both my tonsils and adenoids out. I mean sure..could this have happened anyway? Yeah. But it was hellish, and I've only in the past few years been pretty free of sinus etc problems (save the torn cartilage in my jaw when they took my tonsils out...different story for another time?).

Anyway, after a couple of years of the various treatments I was put on a combination gel. It worked the best so far and I kept using it up until a few months ago (so this is like 8 years here). A few years ago after I finally stopped getting sick so much, I suddenly had IBS after a lifetime of no stomach issues. I know, I know. I'm a lady. We all have IBS, Crohn's, and every other colon problem. We're an enigma! Yeah! The last time I went to get the prescription filled, I noticed new warnings on the slip. DO NOT TAKE IF YOU HAVE DIARRHEA, IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME/DISORDERS, CROHN'S, UC, ETC. So I said, fuck this shit, stopped taking it...and aside from a few obvious stress related bowel problems, my colon has been quiet. I'm not saying that I don't truly have IBS and won't have a huge flare up. But if this gel was exacerbating it, I'm done with it. I'll take all the acne in the world over that shit.

Anyway, not an Accutane story. I know how bad acne can be. But I wish there was a little more concern out there for how much ALL acne treatments fuck with your system.

rabbitheart

@polina Hi! I just registered to comment because I had to tell you, you're not the only one that had major problems with doxycycline. That shit BURNED A HOLE IN MY ESOPHAGUS.

Seriously, I was in my first year of college and had combination/mild acne and my doctor put me on doxy. I developed a horrible and weird sore throat early on, but chalked it up to partying too much and living in a filthy dorm full of college students. The pain spread and eventually became severe enough that by Thanksgiving break, I could only drink lukewarm water and barely get any food down.

I went to a GI specialist and he was totally confused, until he asked me when specifically I was taking the doxy. WELL, back then there wasn't a warning on the bottle not to take it before bed, so like a normal person, I took my last dose of the day before going to sleep. APPARENTLY that meant the pill just lounged around my esophagus every night, slowly burning a hole in my throat. GROSS.

Anyway, GI doc fixed me and I never took doxy or anything related to it ever again. I'd rather have zits than putting toxic ick into my body.

Polina

@24k Whoa. I do for some reason remember taking it in the morning. I'm glad you stopped taking it!

Another reason I wish I wouldn't have been on it for a year is that it causes permanent photosensitivity when used long term. As a teenager I wasn't hip to slathering sunscreen on my face before school. And I'm already on photosensitivity altering drugs like birth control pills and topical creams/gels. Also one of the pale people with skin cancer in the immediate family.

I'll never forget when my derm decided to stop the antibiotics course. He told me I shouldn't really be on it much longer anyway because it could turn my teeth blue. Real ultimate WTF moment, there.

BUtterfieldGR8

@24k Did you tell us this one before? In one of Jane's columns? Or has this happened to two 'Pinners? This story scares the jeebus out of me. I take Doxy every now and then because my acne came back with a vengeance when I went off YAZ birth control (speaking of class-actions-we-didn't-join, I had an obscene number of blood clots in my lungs). I am taking those pills in the morning from now on!

rabbitheart

@BUtterfieldGR8 Nope, that was my first comment ever. Not sure whether I am comforted or totally freaked out by the fact that someone else went through the same thing. I wouldn't worry about doxy if you take it infrequently, maybe? I had to take mine twice a day, so once in the morning, once at night...just, uh, don't lay down after taking them?

@polina I took mine at both times. Derms are usually full of WTF moments -- I mean, the very idea of long term antibiotic use is WTF!

omgAileen

I took Accutane in college, and I can't even remember if it worked at the time. A trip down Facebook photo memory lane just confirmed that it did (mostly). But I've been off it for a few years now and am back to super annoying and pretty much constant breakouts. I have the dubious distinction of being "the most frustrating patient ever" to my dermatologist. I feel like that at least merits a certificate of achievement. Anyway, Accutane: might be miraculous for some, not so much for others.

cmonster

Ugh, you guys. Just the word Accutane gives me shudders. My lips bled, my back got so sore I could barely get out of bed, my stomach problems have never gone away and I've never been so depressed in my life. My acne cleared up (mostly) and they said I should go on another round but I couldn't bear it.

Peteykins

@cmonster How many tubes of Blistex did you go through? It must have been hundreds for me. Ow.

cmonster

@Peteykins I actually used this stuff: http://usa.loccitane.com/FO/Shea-Butter-Lip-Balm-Stick,p01BL005K0.htm (don't know how to embed) because my mom brought it home once and I SWORE by it. I made her get me multiple tubes because I couldn't be without it. I just realized now how expensive it is - $10 for chapstick whaaaaat?! Guess she was willing to go to any length to have a daughter acceptable to society.

hairspin

Ladies, may I suggest the Rx Doryx. My dermatologist gives me sample b/c it's expensive and I don't have insurance :(
I don't really have acne per se, but every once in a while I get one of those slowly-growing, very painful sub-dermal pimples which I can feel coming on. I take a pill, maybe two days in a row and it's gone. Brilliant. just saying.

emilylou

One of my friends took Accutane in late HS/early college (about 15 years ago for her, I guess) and then developed horrible, horrible colitis... she had to drop out of school, spent a year in the hospital, and eventually have her entire lower intestine removed, guys. NOT EXAGGERATING. She is convinced it is because of Accutane and is involved in this suite, I hope she squeezes every penny out of them, because... imagine life without a lower intestine?!??!

On the other hand, I also took Accutane for a couple months in high school (Although I only had mild/moderate teen acne, my derm was apparently pretty liberal with the meds) and suffered no side effects besides dry skin/hair, plus my skin cleared up crazy fast and has stayed that way forever. I guess it's a total game of roulette.

The iPledge stuff really freaked me out, too. Conehead babies :/

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

I had annoying/moderate acne and went through the usual song and dance of tetracycline, etc. At one point my mom, knowing folks in the medical field, took me to a new derm who said yes to Accutane, and in fact had enough free samples to last an entire round. So, free Accutane if I wanted it. And then he said "we just have to monitor your blood, so you don't develop bone spurs off your spine (due to the blood chemistry changes)." And then I was like hahaha NO THANKS. And so I trudged on and then the acne got less and less and now I just get a pimple now and then.

Nutmeg

I had to do iPledge! My primary birth control was "Abstinence" and my secondary was "nothing." I remember driving to my 6 AM blood tests once a month on a fasting stomach, and then following it with a bagel from Panera before I had to run to my senior seminar at 7.

It worked like a miracle at first- NOTHING, no zits at all, for the first time since 7th grade. Then the regular zits gradually came back, followed by the cystic acne. It's been mostly okay, though? My acne covers much less of my face at all times, and the cystic acne sticks to my chin zone.

YAY PILLS

Marzipan

@Nutmeg Yeah, we talked about it with my derm and he said we could have the primary be 'abstinence' and the secondary be 'condoms'. Which, hmmmm. But, you know.

I kind of hate talking about acne though, this is grossing me out even though it is ON MY FACE all the time and that is okay somehow? That is probably why I didn't go through with the Accutane. I was all, "ehhhhhh...seems pretty extreme. I'll just ignore it, that's how I do."

Peteykins

I was an early guinea pig/test subject for Accutane. I was given a dosage many, many times the dosage which the FDA eventually approved. It was really horrible; I practically had to bath in lotion, and my lips, the palms of my hands, and the soles of my feet were cracked, bleeding and sore for months and months.

It sure got rid of the zits, though!

I never experienced anything like the other side-effects, the emotional ones (other than wanting to cry because I was so sore). Since I was on such a crazy high dosage, I've always been a little skeptical.

fondue with cheddar

regiment: a permanent unit of an army typically commanded by a colonel and divided into several companies, squadrons, or batteries and often into two battalions

regimen: a prescribed course of medical treatment, way of life, or diet for the promotion or restoration of health

Laura, you're so lucky you didn't end up with any of the super terrible side-effects! Crohn's disease is pretty nasty, too.

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@jen325: You know what disease is nasty? Miss Know-It-All disease.

fondue with cheddar

@Too Much Internet Wow, I was just helping. I wasn't mean about it.

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@jen325: I know, and I wanted to be funny so I make joke, is good ya? I was debating the winky smiley but thought that would take too much of the sting out of the sarcasm.

fondue with cheddar

@Too Much Internet Okay, I read it three times trying to figure out if it was sarcastic or sincere. I was leaning toward sarcastic, but then I guess I was feeling a little defensive yesterday. I should have known better, because 'pinners are nice people! Clearly, we need a more toned-down version of the winky smiley.

It was a good joke and I still love you. :)

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@jen325: hugggggs

I should have added 'to be read in the voice of melis'

fondue with cheddar

@Too Much Internet Awww. :) The Hairpin, you and your people are super sweet. I will never doubt any of you again.

femme cassidy

Ugh. I took Sotret in high school and got wicked nosebleeds. My skin cleared up while I was on it, but six months after I finished, it came back. It's still pretty bad, but there's no way I'm going through that shit again. I'm so jealous of everyone for whom it worked the first time, you lucky hookers.

dehmermaid

My main memory of Accutane is having a killer lower back ache constantly. That and the excruciating dryness. That's when I really became a chapstick addict. The sides of my lips cracked so bad!

It really got rid of the acne, that's for sure. And I'm not experiencing any lingering side effects, to my knowledge. It does wear off, though. I certainly wouldn't call my skin clear anymore. It's not teenage-level embarrassing, but is a constant battle.

sarah girl

To expand this to general acne chat a bit, I just started spironolactone about a month ago - anyone have experience with that? I'm finally figuring out that my acne is mainly hormonal, but I can't do the usual birth control route because I have migraines that don't play well with estrogen. It's been about a month and it seems to be helping a bit (that and Differin), but I can't tell for sure yet.

mayonegg

@Sarah H. I'm on spironolactone currently, too, after three ultimately failed tries with Accutane. I seriously have never had better skin in my preteen-to-adult life. It'll get even better by your second month...I take it with birth control because my derm recommended that since it kind of plays with your hormones. There's kind of weird research on it and its side effects, too. The only ones I've experienced are mild dehydration and my boobs getting a tiny bit bigger. Honestly, though, spironolactone is my personal miracle drug. Wayyy less scary than Accutane, which made me flaky and cracked and a bit crazy a few times.

ducklinglass

@Sarah H. I was looking for a spironolactone crowd! I've been on the medication for about three months and am loving the results. The side effects are a bit iffy; I sometimes become very lightheaded after sitting on the couch and have to constantly pee. On the plus, though, peeing in the middle of the night means slamming more water, therefore, fewer hangovers!

The reason I am on spironolactone is because of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which explains so much about my skin. I have had awful skin since my teenage years (I'm now 26) and refused to go on Accutane. I finally received the PCOS diagnosis this summer and the spironolactone plus birth control plus two topicals equals great skin.

So ladies, I would highly recommend looking more into PCOS if you're out of teen years and have bad skin. Yes, I'm practicing without a license, but I had never heard of PCOS before this summer and having the diagnosis has changed my life for the better.

filo

@Sarah H. I've been on it for, I guess it's been like, 4 years now! whoa. I'm not super diligent about taking it though because sometimes I'm not sure how much it helps. It's weird having been on it for so long, I've seen my acne change. Like for the longest time it was larger cystic zits that would be the problem, now it's little clusters of clogged pores that never go away. I'm also on differin too and I use Kinder To Skin tea tree oil as well. I think the combo is pretty good for now, I've just grown complacent. Like, I don't know what I could do to get a better combination of medicines, I feel like I've tried so many things I didn't like.. I still break out but what makes my skin the worst is if I pick at it so that's my own fault. I'm getting one of those cool electric face scrubber things and I hope that helps!

sarah girl

@mayonegg Awesome, thanks for the feedback, all! I've noticed the lightheadedness, and it has DESTROYED my already-low alcohol tolerance; I got an all-day hangover from two beers last weekend, ugh. And @filo, that's odd, because my derm said that spiro would specifically address the clusters of clogged pores (just under the skin, yeah?) since they're usually caused by hormone fluctuations. And I totally feel you on the skin-picking, although I'm slooooowly starting to get better.

Danzig!

Took it for awhile, and my acne cleared up to a degree it never had and hasn't since (currently on Amoxicillin, it's good but I'm leery about taking antibiotics for acne) but I was already depressive and I started to get hit with serious suicidal thoughts. Told my parents, immediately went off the meds, and the thoughts went away. Crazy stuff.

Ellie

A friend of mine killed himself in 2007 while taking Accutane. One of my favorite people I have ever known and I think about him pretty much every day. He had also been prescribed three other depression/anxiety medications by his school's student health services in the previous few months and so was on the four medications. His father brought a lawsuit against his school but I have never been able to figure out how it was settled. I wonder if he will become involved in the Accutane suit as well.

whereismyrobot

I find it a bit presumptuous of the doctor to think I could get any with this horrible stuff all over my face.

the other lisa

I am also in the Accutane 2 Round club. It was definitely a treatment of last resort for me. My derm had me trying out quite the variety of oral antibiotics and topical meds for years before suggesting Accutane. I took it for 4 months each time, first in 1998 then in 2002. It did yield very good results for me each time, and the results lasted even longer the second time. I am now starting to get the cystic acne again, but it is much easier to live with at 31 than it was as a teenager. Plus, I'm hoping to have babies soon so I am willing to suffer to avoid putting chemicals in my body.

The dry skin and lips were worse the first time, but it was winter in the midwest. The backs of my hands even broke out into a rash from my sleeves rubbing against the skin. I carried a tube of moisturizer a small sample tube of Aquaphor for my hands and lips at all times.

Fasting for the blood tests was difficult the second time around because I was in college and couldn't get to the lab until around 4 pm. I was always starving by the time I could finally eat. Only once did the doctor have a concern about my liver enzymes and had me stop taking any pain relievers that month and they returned to acceptable levels.

Thankfully those are my only complaints and never had any of the more serious side effects.

the other lisa

@the other lisa
First world problem- annoyed to have to fast all day only once a month for a blood test for a very expensive acne medication that my parents insurance covered.

yourfriendlyneighbortothenorth

GUYS. Accutane or other prescription meds are not the only choice for acne. I started getting acne when I was 9 and it developed into a serious case of bumpy red face. My dermatologist kept pushing Accutane on me as the last resort, but I knew a guy who took it and his family says he's never been the same, psychologically. I did my own research in medical journals and the possible side effects are SERIOUS diseases, not just dry skin!

So I went to my local health store and began naturally healing myself and haven't looked back. I can go on beach holidays and not wear foundation the entire time! Any of the following gel tablets are worth trying before using Accutane:

-Vitamin A
-Vitamin E
-Royal Jelly
-Evening Primrose Oil
-Omega 3

Everyone's skin is different, but natural remedies will always be easier on the system and more, well...natural!

contactallergy

@yourfriendlyneighbortothenorth Not to be bitchy, but what exactly does natural mean? Botox is natural (naturally produced from the bacterial Clostridium botulinum), the chemotherapy Taxol is natural (from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree), and so is the Digitalis you give to heart failure patients -- you could grow it in your yard. It is just a special pet peeve of mine when people say that natural remedies are safer, better for you, etc. Just because it came from a tree or a root or a berry doesn't mean it is good for you.

- From a friendly dermatologist who has to argue all day with patients about how natural ≠ better

priscillamalarky

@contactallergy Thank you, thank you. I'm not a dermatologist, but this is a huge pet peeve of mine as well. I was talking to someone recently (a friend of mine who NEVER HAD PAINFUL, DISFIGURING CYSTIC ACNE) and she just did NOT believe that Accutane was the only thing that would have worked. She was like, "I doubt you tried *everything.* I'm sure there are some 'natural' remedies out there that would have worked that wouldn't have put you at such high risk for liver damage."

Well, yeah, I'm sure I didn't trying EVERYTHING. But presumably, the reason I was even seeing a dermatologist is because he/she knows more about skin remedies than I do, because of that whole he/she-went-to-med-school-and-did-a-derm-residency-and-I-didn't thing. So when my dermatologist said, "Hey, I know it's extreme, but I really think Accutane is appropriate here. We've tried the other go-tos, and you're going to start scarring," and answered all my questions about the risks, I didn't go, "Oh man, what a drug pusher! Natural remedies are better!" I said, "Word, you know best. If it'll fix my face and my life, give it to me." It really bugs me when people with no medical training think they know more than docs who, ultimately, are doing what they do because they want to help, not because there's something in it for them if they prescribe a certain drug.

MostlyNorma

Ok, are you ready for this?

I took THREE AND A HALF courses of that shit.

Sometimes people have to take two 6-month courses of Accutane to treat acne. I started a course as a young teenager and had to stop because of the side effects (the half course); then I did the full course. In college the acne came back, and I had to do another two courses, albeit at a low dose.

Seven years since my last course, I still have acne, but topical medications (Retin-A currently) finally help.

The serious side effect that lasted post-Accutane was loss of night vision in one eye.

It's hard to know how to feel about the drug. On one hand, holy shit! That stuff is awful! On the other, my acne was painful and disfiguring, and Accutane made it almost completely disappear.

apple

I got off in June. And now I have, like, two pimples on my lip and one on my cheek and am FREAKING OUT slash imagining a second course in my future, which is hilarious because a year ago, I would have been all "three pimples??? really?????". Aside from dryness blah blah, my skin got so fragile I once cut myself on a bagel. It was toasted, but still! It drew blood!

LilyMarlene

@apple I feel your new pimple pain, but have to admit that I cackled wildly at the image of you being sliced by a bagel rather than the other way around. :P

Oranges!

Sorry I'm in tears right now thinking about my acne. 2 years of every antibiotic on the planet did nothing. I'm allergic to Retinols (this was in HS when Retinols did such a number on my skin it never recovered) In college my skin freaked. Open sores Vaseline every night. Do you people who bullshit that antibiotics are the cure all actually understand what it means to not be able to sit in class because the acne sores have opened and the metal touches the skin and causes extreme pain? Accutane is the only thing that helped. I had no side effects and truthfully my mental health improved because I wasn't crying every day because my skin was in pain. Before you tell anyone not use Accutane understand that for some people this is a miracle drug.

Terrifying Wife-Avatar

I took Accutane as a teen in the late 80s after going through prescription benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, topical retinols, the full gamut. I remember the blood draws for liver function tests but only ever had one pregnancy test, at the time I started the prescription (I was 13 or 14 and it was my dad who had taken me to the appointment--we were both pretty shocked when the doctor nonchalantly brought it up). While taking it I had the super-dry skin, and I'm still addicted to Carmex, but no other side effects and for me it was SO worth it. In retrospect, knowing how harsh it is, I'm surprised that the doctor prescribed it to someone whose body was still developing. I feel lucky to have had such a good outcome.

Leanne

Miracle for me. I woke up one morning when I was 23 covered in painful cystic acne on my cheeks, neck, and jawline. It was basically overnight. Nothing worked for months and I was in pain, didn't want to leave the house, looked like I had the mumps. Accutane (well, Sotret) was a lifesaver for me. I would recommend it without hesitation to anyone who has tried oral antibiotics (um, constant YIs? No thank you) and topical treatments without success.
I would do it again in a heartbeat if my acne returned. I feel very grateful that I had such a positive experience with a risky drug.

giantpanda

I just finished a course of Clarvalis at the age of 26. So far, it seems to have done the trick. I had some joint pain and extremely dry lips but my takes-the-cake side effect was definitely (drumroll please)...bloody vagina! Like I used to bleed like a stuck pig every time I had sex. I had just started seeing someone new and I really liked him and I honestly thought for several months that it was an issue with size or, uh, exuberance and that I would have to stop seeing him or ruin all my sheets for the foreseeable future. That said, it is a miracle drug (and the bleeding eventually stopped). Acne is the pits; it's hard enough to feel like an adult as it is, let alone with giant pus-ing sores all over your face and back.

Gems

I'm so excited that most of you are remaining acne-free so long after taking this. I just finished last year and I was wondering how long until I hated my face again. I love it now, and those who knew me pre-Accutane are always so amazed when they see my face now. The treatment was CRAZY, but so so necessary. I will always trade 8 months of cracked lips and hyper-sunscreening and less liquor for years and years of not having to wear make up everyday. Yes, please.

Also, if anyone is in the MD/DC/VA area, Dr. Peck is right here in NW DC. Why not take Accutane under the supervision of the person who knows it best? I felt a lot better going to him plus all of the people in his office are nice beyond belief. Just sayin..

priscillamalarky

@Gems Accutane has been pulled! It's not available anymore. :( Kind of not cool. I get that Roche was trying to cut its losses, but it was such an important drug for me that I really feel for kids who will have acne as bad as mine was and won't be able to take it if nothing else works.

The generic, Claravis, is available but in my experience it's not as good.

Gems

Sidenote: The possiblity of coneheaded, one-eyed babies freaked me out.

saythisword

Late to the convo, but sign me up for team "Maybe it changed a few things about my digestion, but I am still grateful that I got to take 1.5 courses of Accutane".

It was a last resort for me as well-- especially because it turns out I'm allergic to Benzoyl Peroxide. Before Accutane happened, I decided to try Proactiv, and when the first few days left my face red and bumpy, I foolishly thought "maybe this is the skin purging the poisons out! Maybe this means it is working!"

Cue me, two days later, walking down a NYC street weeping from the pain of AIR touching my face.

Anyway, ACCUTANE! People now give me compliments on my skin-- and I took it eight years ago. Lifechanging.

NirvanahCrane

I'm dealing with a mystery digestive issue that has been plaguing me for 2 months and I had 3 courses of Accutane. I'd hate to jump to conclusions about what my mystery illness is but I have to admit this article has raised an eyebrow. Hmmmm.

However going back and being that zitty teen, I'm not sure I would have made a different decision.

Ilea Jones@facebook

I'm one of the people who ended up with Crohn's disease after accutane AND I still get pimples on my chin. Definitely not worth it.

Annie.Bart

I say miracle drug. I did two rounds and endured monthly pregnancy and blood tests. My worst side effect was being achy, especially if I ate anything with Vitamin A. Definitely worth being able to wear short sleeves and to be able to open my mouth wide enough to eat and talk without painfully stretching the cystic pimples around my mouth and on my chin or lean in a chair without my back itching and hurting like crazy. Definitely not just a cosmetic/vanity issue.

carolita

I took it for two years back in the 90s for a case of painful adult acne, and it sure did work. However, I have developed a tendency to get one or two little bald spots whenever I get really really stressed (aka Alopecia Areata), which is apparently a well-documented side effect of Accutane (which I'd never realized till, uh, about twenty minutes ago after reading this article?). Luckily I have a LOT of hair to work with, and it can't be seen while I deal with it and get past the episodes. But. Hmmm. This is something to think about.

arah0kay

Has anyone had the colon-related side effects? I had some weird case 4 years after taking accutane where I thought I had e coli or something. My doc never figured it out, and I continue(d) to have problems for years...Never thought about a connection until those commercials.
Fun memories though.I was a few months in to my accutane treatment when I finally got a boy to hang out with me. we were watching tv with my head in his lap, he stroking my hair, when he looked down to see a NEST of hair in his lap. almost as traumatizing as being called a pizza face.

gringa

i took two rounds, back to back, in 1999 or so. i never had cystic acne, but always, always, had 10-20 zits on my face (yeah, i counted) and back. 12 or 13 years later, i am starting to get some hormonal acne and blackheads (part of that fun post-30 hormonal change that no one told me about), but i still get compliments on my skin. at the time, i remember nosebleeds, insanely dry lips and eyes so dry i couldn't wear my contacts. i was already depressed and all eating-disorded at the time and i don't remember accutane making it any worse. however, reading this, i do wonder if my digestive issues, which i've always blamed on the aforementioned eating disorder, are somehow related. dunno. so i give a cautious thumbs up - i was able to talk to people without that internal dialogue wondering about how shiny/zitty i looked to the other person. and one time, years later, i met a guy at a party who was taking it and we had a fun convo about our experiences. social!

Cal
Cal

Accutane cleared up my Acne when I was in high school, but about seven years later I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. And it has not been a bouquet of dandelions.

Ulcers got so bad that I eventually had to get my large intestine removed. I'm on surgery two of three to get my small intestine hooked up the tiny bit of what's left of my colon, in and out of the hospital and wearing one of them iliostomy bags in the meantime. I'm a five foot eleven, 25 year-old guy, and by the time I got out of the first surgery I was down to 110 pounds from dang fool digestive system no longer working right.

You better believe I'm suing these people when I can function on the day to day again.

Nicholas James English@facebook

In Australia we call it Roaccutane for whatever reason, and that shit is the bomb. Totally reupholsters your system, I had to get the blood tests every week, my skin was red and would come off if I rubbed it too hard, and I spent two days in high school without any skin on my lips at all because of it, but as awful as the drug sounds, I don't even have to wash my face now. I do nothing at all for my skin and it's perfect 99% of the time. Very interesting drug...

Sabrina Peterson@facebook

I get sick of all the accutane ambulance chasers. I took accutane twice and at least for a couple years after, my skin was much improved. I will say that it has kind of come back and that was a disapointment, I don't think I'll do a third run as I dislike all the blood tests and also hated Ipledge. I also have many friends who have taken it with no problems. Yes, any drug you take comes with risks. New research even says benzoyle peroxide has problems. Taking too much Tylenol or too many vitamins will even do something to you. So we should just all freak out and blame our problems on tylenol and st johns wart too!!!,!

Interestingly, they've never proven that accutane actually causes depression in any clinical trials (paid for by the congressman you mention above, by the way, so pretty surprising thinking about all that bias!). Not sure about the ulcerative colitis etc, but still just sounds like a bunch of deplorable ambulance chasers to me.

James Mack@facebook

Hello to every one out here, am here to share the unexpected miracle that happened to me three days ago, My name is James mack i live in United State,and I`m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she did not love me anymore So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.(bravespellcaster@gmail.com}, So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day what an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who did not call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster . So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {bravespellcaster@gmail.com},i f you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to "bringing your ex back. So thanks to Dr Brave for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again.bravespellcaster@gmail.com, Thanks..

James Mack@facebook

Hello to every one out here, am here to share the unexpected miracle that happened to me three days ago, My name is James mack i live in United State,and I`m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she did not love me anymore So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.(bravespellcaster@gmail.com}, So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day what an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who did not call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster . So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {bravespellcaster@gmail.com},i f you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to "bringing your ex back. So thanks to Dr Brave for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again.bravespellcaster@gmail.com, Thanks..

Nora Warland@facebook

I just lost my man about five months ago though he is back again full of love and passion with the help of great man Dr oshogum. i norah warland from norway, have been into relationship with daniel moork since i was 22 years old and i am 28 now. i so much love him but i could not show the love, it was very deficult for me to prove my realness to him because i thought proving my love to him might make him look down on me and go after other girls. for over six years dan have give me all that i ask of him. i was always trenthened him with break up each time i want to see his level of love for me because i was told if i threntened him, he will propose to me and then will get married to him before i can show my love despite his complains of him not sure of my love i was respond to him with negative words. though i was suspecting he have another girl in his life, i did not border to ask him about that because i was so sure of his love despite my attitude. on the 8th of september a day to my birthday he came and gave me so many lovely gift like never before claiming to wish me a happy birthday in advance with his words and behaviour i expected him to propose to me on my birthday night then i will also tell him of my pregnacy for him. i wait for him on my birthday he did not show up not even a call, i tried his number and it was not going through i refuse to go check on him because the anger in me six days later i went to his house and i found nothing not even a sign of my dan once live there. i was disappointed, faustrated, confuse with so many thought on my mind like hang my self if i did not see him again because i can not my parent about the pregnancy when the man responsible for it had disappear. our religion it's against that, my family will be disappointed in me, i have brought them shame. i look for dan every where till i could chart with him on social network, he warned me never to desturb him again because he already had find another girl that he want to live his life with, after a while he block me from all access then i could not tell him of my pregnancy for him. so, i needed a help from all coners of life, i decide to check google my self or read some write up on site on how to coup with my pain because i could not tell any body about it not even my friends were aware of my pregnancy. i keep reading to cancel my self till i find how Dr OSHOGUM help so many persons from different walls of life with their testimonies. then i decide to also contact him with oshogumspelltemple@live.com. Because i do not know much about contacting a spell caster, i was not sure he can bring my Dan back but i decide to give him a try though his requirement was another problem i meet with a friend for help because i could not the items that he needed i have to plead with dr oshogum to help me get the items because really need my man back to take away my shame. just two days after i send him the requirement Daniel call me, pleade for forgiveness. just yeterday he propose to me and i am so happy. you can also contact him with OSHOGUMSPELLTEMPLE@LIVE.COM

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