Michael was overprescribed Accutane in his teens. Instead of taking just a six-month treatment, his doctor had Michael on the med for almost two years. Twelve years ago the only concern was liver damage: Michael had blood tests every few months. But his skin wasn’t clearing up so he was referred to a dermatologist.
“The dermatologist told me that I should never have taken Accutane in the first place and he would never prescribe it because it is too hard on your system,” says Michael. As it turns out, Accutane could be hard on your psychological system too.
By the time Michael was in his late teens, he started to get OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) along with anxiety and depression. “It got progressively worse as time went on,” says Michael. “This was strange because anyone who knows me would describe me as very extroverted with a positive mind-set. I always think of the cup half full and there is no history of mental illness or depression in my family.
“It was my mum who caught it. She asked if everything was OK; she asked why I kept washing my hands, turning the light switch on and off all the time and many other OCD incidents. I never had those compulsions until I started taking Accutane.”
When Michael got to university, the problems escalated. He saw a GP who prescribed antidepressants, which Michael took for a few months. “It seemed to help at the time, but looking back, it was just masking the symptoms,” he says. “I attempted suicide in 2007 and lost so much weight I was a bone rack. I saw a psychiatrist and was put on disability, another antidepressant med and an oral steroid.
“He asked what other meds I was on or had taken in the past few years. I told him about the antidepressants and steroid - I didn’t think about Accutane. And I got fired from my job when my employer read the psychiatrist’s report that I was unstable.”
Michael sued his employer for wrongful dismissal and won, moved to Vancouver to start a new life and bounced around from one job to another. He saw the family doctor who wanted to review Michael’s medical history before prescribing any more meds.
“He said, ‘You never told me you took Accutane and for such a helluva long time.’ I asked why he brought up Accutane,” says Michael. “That is when I found out about the link to Accutane and depression and not only gastro-intestinal problems. He couldn’t prescribe another antidepressant because it could have an adverse effect due to being on Accutane for so long.”
Michael searched online for Accutane side effects - he was shocked. Then he reached out to some law firms that were accepting Accutane depression claims. And he asked the doctor for something to help with the OCD and anxiety.
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“Looking back, my dermatologist wouldn’t prescribe Accutane so why wasn’t the rest of the medical community aware of Accutane dangers? That really pisses me off. My boyfriend says pills like this damage people all the time. I don’t know if I have any recourse against Roche but it would make a lot of sense if this was the tipping point for my mental health.”