The Death Pill


Isotretinoin, more commonly known as “Accutane” is used to treat severe forms of acne for decades, and despite the extreme amount of serious side effects and health risks, my experience on the medicine proves that the side effects are worth it.
This intense drug is prescribed as a last resort, and I know this from personal experience. It seemed that I went through every pill, cream and face wash on the market before my doctor gave me a five month prescription to Accutane.
Deciding to take the medicine is a big commitment. I dealt with most side effects that the medicine was known for causing, such as dry skin, dry lips, itching, nosebleeds, sun sensitivity and joint aches. 
I must have gone through at least twenty tubes of Chapstick by the end of my prescription, and I must have tried half of the moisturizers on the market. My friends swore that they could hear my skin “crackling” when I would reach for something. The medicine takes the word “dry” to the extreme.

Another unforgettable memory from Accutane is sitting on the beach during spring break, piling on spf 55 sunscreen and sporting layers of sun-blocking T-shirts and hats in order to avoid the world’s worst sunburn, while friends laid out working on their tans.

The back aches were a pain as well, but manageable. Perhaps the worst effect of all may have been dealing with random nosebleeds in the middle of class and trying to explain to classmates that my nose was bleeding due to my acne treatment. 
Another side effect that some credit to Accutane intake is general unhappiness, moodiness, or depression.

 Fortunately, I tend to be a generally happy person, so this never seemed to apply to me. Nonetheless, I remember being shocked when my doctor made me promise to tell her if I ever felt the need to “hurt myself or others” while on the medicine. Even though I was never affected by this, it’s still crazy to think that one pill a day can actually push a person’s mind to the point of extreme depression.

While these unpleasant side effects may already seem like too much to bear, the commitment of taking the medicine weighs even heavier upon females.  

Accutane is harmful to developing fetuses. The harsh ingredients in the medicine can cause a growing baby to experience serious birth defects, premature birth, or at worst, death. 
In order to deal with this, the Accutane distributors teamed up with Pregnancy Prevention Program, iPledge, and set strict precautions. 
Two negative pregnancy tests must be supplied before any medication is distributed, and the patient is required to supply two negative pregnancy tests each month while the medicine is being taken.

I had to take one pregnancy test at the doctor’s office and another at the lab each month. The lab test was much worse than the one at the doctor’s, because it involved needles and blood–  which isn’t my favorite thing.
Along with pregnancy tests, the patient must also promise to either be abstinent while on the medicine or use two forms of effective birth control, although one should hope this wouldn’t be a problem for high school females wishing to take the medicine. 
So after all this, one may ask, is it really worth it? In my opinion, yes. No more crazy creams, pills, gels, and most importantly no more pimples. I don’t have to coat on foundation in order to have flawless skin. The ten minutes in the morning that I used to spend putting on makeup is now spent sleeping.

Just five months on “the death pill,” and I was done for life. One of the best factors of the medicine is that it is completely permanent. Once your prescribed time is done, your acne is done too.


  1. This was so well written, Katy, really shows all the pros and cons of taking Accutane. Good for you for writing the article.


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