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Isotretinoin and mood disorders?

Unfortunately depression and suicide are very common in western countries, including Australia.

It's understandable that young people with acne may feel unhappy and consequently may develop mood disorders, such as depression, because of their appearance. So, it's no surprise to find many studies that show acne can cause depression. As a result, it is very important that the effects of treatment on depression also be studied.

There are several comprehensive studies by scientific experts and worldwide regulatory authorities, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, that have not found a definite link between isotretinoin and depression or suicide.

In fact, studies suggest that the risk of depression is reduced in those with severe acne being treated with isotretinoin. This is because isotretinoin improves acne and can therefore improve an individual's overall feeling of well-being.

If you have a history of depression and/or a family member with depression and isotretinoin is being considered, make sure you discuss this with your doctor so they can monitor your mood more closely.

There have been reports of depression and suicide in people taking isotretinoin and there are many possible reasons for this.

Both severe acne and newly diagnosed depression particularly affect teenagers and young adults. Although studies suggest isotretinoin does not cause depression and there is no link it is very important to monitor all people on therapy for severe acne for depression and suicide risk, including those being treated with isotretinoin.

Therapy will usually be stopped due to the possibility of an idiosyncratic reaction or intolerance to isotretinoin. Idiosyncratic reactions to medications are usually rare and the reason for it occurring is not understood or predicted by pre-treatment investigation.


Depression - how to help

As a family member of someone who is depressed, it isn't easy to know what to say or do.

Family and friends should always be on the lookout for depressive symptoms in people.

People with depression often need considerable encouragement to seek professional help from a doctor or mental health worker so this is something you can try to encourage.

For more information, click here to order a beyondblue Information Pack for Carers, Families and Friends of those with Depression

The following organisations also provide counselling and/or information services

Beyond Blue


13 11 14

Kids Helpline

1800 55 1800


Last updated March 2016


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