A pilot study evaluating anxiety and depressive scores in acne patients treated with isotretinoin

J Dermatolog Treat. 2004 Jun;15(3):153-7. doi: 10.1080/09546630410027472.


Background: Isotretinoin therapy and its alleged adverse psychiatric effects have received considerable media attention during the past years. The aim of this pilot study was to investigate whether there was any association between isotretinoin therapy and anxiety, depression or suicidal ideation.

Methods: Forty-five patients with severe recalcitrant acne were enrolled in this study. Isotretinoin was administered at a dose of 0.5-1 mg/kg per day in two divided doses with food for 16 weeks. All patients received a complete dermatological examination and the severity levels of their acne were scored according to the Leeds Revised Acne Grading system at baseline (before isotretinoin treatment) and follow-up assessments at weeks 4, 8 and 16 of the treatment. Severity of anxiety and depressive symptoms were assessed with the Clinical Anxiety Scale and Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale before and upon completion of the 16-week isotretinoin treatment.

Results: Twenty-three patients completed the final assessment. There was a statistically significant decrease in anxiety scores. Depression scores also decreased but were not statistically significant. No patient committed or attempted suicide.

Conclusions: This pilot study was unable to detect an association between the use of isotretinoin and an increased risk for anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / blood
  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Acne Vulgaris / pathology
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Anxiety / chemically induced
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isotretinoin / administration & dosage
  • Isotretinoin / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Manifest Anxiety Scale
  • Pilot Projects
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Isotretinoin