Suicide prevention websites like Suicide.org have been vocally declaring that teens should avoid taking acne several medications that treat the most severe acne around. This issue came up because of the unfortunate suicide of U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak’s son. The young man was taking isotretinoin to treat his severe acne. The incident occurred after an all-night alcohol party. While just about anyone who commits suicide is medically considered a victim, usually of depression, the presence of this drug is not the culprit. A study came out that found the presence of this drug in a large percentage of suicidal teens who had acne. The problem is, as it is the drug tasked with succeeding against acne when all others have failed, it is only natural that it would be present. The real culprit may be the acne itself, as a more recent study has found. Doctors have argued that the situation is similar to the stigma penicillin once suffered. Many people thought it caused a severe rash. The FDA even made it come with a warning. Later studies found that it was the infection penicillin treated that caused the rash. Now, of course, we all know penicillin to be a miraculous antibiotic that only causes a rash in the small percentage who are allergic. But this hasn’t stopped cable news and internet “journalism” from attacking the drugs. Suicide.org articles attacking isotretinoin and its peers are not based on scientific reasoning or fact. Take this one for instance: Never use Accutane; it can Kill You is simply an argument based on purely anecdotal evidence. An author, not a doctor, received emails from parents’ whose teens have committed suicide. While this is tragic, it does not qualify them to specify the cause. Teens have been committed suicide long before this drug was around – they were and are doing it because of their embarrassment as a result of acne and the treatment they receive at their schools. It is even possible that, rather than help children by withholding a potent acne remedy, parents could increase their child’s depression and risk of suicide by sentencing them to a life riddled by acne and abuse from their peers. As people grow older and cope with acne problems, they develop the ability to withstand social stigma and perhaps even realize that it doesn’t matter. Adults are less abusive about acne. And, not surprisingly, nobody is accusing Accutane of causing adult suicide. Teens are especially vulnerable to social pressures and have naturally unstable brain chemistry, leaving them exposed to dangers like depression and suicide. Numerous statements from dermatologists provide more credible anecdotal evidence. They say that they have seen their teen patients transformed by the medication. With their acne gone, they often cut off their bangs and wear new confident faces, full of the joys of life that teenagers should enjoy. Acne should not carry the stigma it does and people with acne should never suffer ridicule, but that isn’t the reality our teens live with. Don’t force them to live with the reality of the stigma. We should be educating our teens about depression and teaching them to resist social pressures and treating their acne.
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