A new study says the risk of attempting suicide is higher among people who suffer from severe acne.

The study published in bmj.com calls for monitoring of depression and suicidal thoughts in men and women acne patients treated with isotretinoin.

Dr Anders Sundstrom and colleagues from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden tested the hypothesis that associated a higher suicide risk in acne patients irrespective of whether they were receiving or not receiving isotretinoin treatment for severe acne. To include for the additional risks as well, they took into account attempts to suicide before, during and after treatment of severe acne.

Data on 5,756 individuals taking the drug for nine years ( 1980 - 1989 ) was correlated with record of hospital discharge and cause of death registers maintained from 1980-2001. 128 patients had committed suicide. This is really a huge number because attempted suicide is an uncommon event. In fact, the effect of one first suicide attempt is enough to negate the positive effect of isotretinoin in 2,300 acne patients. The risk prone time was identified as one to three years before treatment and six months after treatment. The risk was highest post treatment and attributed to feelings of distraught in patients for want of social life.

Isotretinoin has been previously linked to depression and suicidal behavior. However, authors of this study clear the drug from being the reason for the observed additional post treatment suicidal risk. They acknowledge exposure to drug could be a factor contributing to increased risk but maintain that the best cause of the raised risk is the underlying severe acne itself.

The authors emphasize the need for psychological intervention in acne patients whether they are getting treated or not. A group of Australian researchers have also published their findings linking acne to psychiatric morbidity in the same journal.

Isotretinoin is a 30 year old drug used to treat acne since 1980. It is marketed in the form of drugs Roaccutane, Accutane, Amnesteem, Claravis, Clarus or Decutan.