Fighting the Red Army

Student shares experience on Accutane and subsequent health problems

Story by Addison Cross, news editor

Fifth grade was the first time I saw a cluster of those Godforsaken face demons attack my cheek. I wanted to die at the sight, but I was hoping that being good and washing my face would send them away as quickly as they invaded. Despite my valiant efforts, their forces grew and soon enough, no weapon formed against them prospered. Not for long at least.

My war with acne was five long years of topical treatments, dermatologist appointments and pills that never worked longer than a month. The end of the battle included monthly blood drawings and signing a weird contract that made me swear to be celibate while on Accutane, which is known for causing life threatening birth defects of babies conceived while their mothers are on it. I tried every trick in the book ー toothpaste, tea tree oil, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide ー nothing worked. These soldiers were tough and my face was their breeding ground.

As with most teenagers suffering this affliction, my self esteem quickly dropped as I observed my friends go to school without makeup on and have skin like Snow White’s. I began wearing makeup daily in the sixth grade, and from then until sophomore year I never left my house without it.

It wasn’t until recently that I had the confidence to go out of my house without makeup on and not want to melt into myself.   ”

— Addison Cross

After going through five excruciating years, I finally decided to try Accutane, the end-all cure-all of acne medications. I started the summer before my sophomore year and, despite the fact that most people complete six to eight months of treatment, I had to stop at five.

Now, I’m not bashing Accutane ability to rid someone of face demons, because it definitely did that, but the medical issues that came along with the medicine still affect me a year later. I have an autoimmune disorder that affects my joints and muscles called Raynaud’s Syndrome, which already causes plenty of problems, but it wasn’t until I got on Accutane that it got really bad.

In November of 2017, I had my first “episode”. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. Pain came over my body and I felt like I was on fire. I had strange convulsions and my family almost thought I was having a seizure, but an ER trip, some IV fluid and a couple hours had me feeling better.

The episodes continued sporadically, even after I quit the drug in early December, each slightly different from the last. Accutane may not have directly caused my spurts of painful hospital visits, but it definitely increased their frequency. Every doctor I saw advised me to stop taking it, and when I did, the time between episodes decreased by months.

Although Accutane did miracles for my skin and ended the five year face war, people should definitely be better informed on the possible lasting effects.