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Psychological problems with acne therapy ‘linked with disease itself’



By Lilian Anekwe

The suggested link between isotretinoin and suicidal ideation in adolescents could be better explained by acne severity, suggest Norwegian researchers.

Their study of 3775 adolescents showed than 25.5% of girls and 22.6% of boys 18 or 19 years of age with severe acne considered suicide, compared with 11.9% of girls and 6.3% of boys with little or no evidence of the disease.

They suggest that suicidal thoughts and depression that have previously been linked to acne medication, specifically isotretinoin, might in fact be due to disease severity and its subsequent psychological toll.

Findings from studies looking at the association between isotretinoin therapy and increased risk for depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide have been conflicting, and ‘results from controlled studies are lacking’ they say.

Study leader Dr Lars Lien, a psychioatrist at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of Oslo said: ‘Acne is frequently found in late adolescence and is associated with social and psychological problems. Adverse events, including suicidal ideation and depression, that have been associated with therapies for acne may reflect the burden of substantial acne rather than the effects of medication.’

J Invest Dermatol. online 26 September 2010.

Acne