Suicidal Thoughts

It’s ironic that antidepressants might raise the risk of suicide in children and teenagers with major depression, since one of the main reasons these kids are under medication is to reduce the possibility of suicide attempts. This reminds me of my own experience with drugs that cause depression.

I went to a skin specialist to treat my acne problem when I was in secondary school. However, I was unresponsive to various drugs and antibiotics commonly used for acne treatment. The doctor then suggested Accutane as a possible treatment, which was not suggested before because of its high cost ($5 per capsule).

My parents weren’t as concerned about the treatment costs as the possible side effects of Accutane, and the doctor assured us that the side effects were minimal; the only significant side effect was its risk of birth defects which only affects pregnant females. He wasn’t exaggerating when he claimed Accutane was the best available drug to treat acne; its performance was simply amazing.

However, there was a problem. Unlike most people who usually recover from their acne problems fully after taking Accutane for a couple of months, my skin condition can only be kept under control by continual Accutane intake. This led me to have taken a much higher Accutane dosage than others.

I stopped going to my doctor after 3 years of treatment because I was frustrated about not being able to cure my acne problem after spending so much money. He was a good doctor; my acne problem was just too severe and unique to be cured by conventional means.

I didn’t realise serious psychiatric disorders were associated with Accutane until 1999 when I went to National Skin Centre for a medical checkup during NS. After the doctor found out that I had taken Accutane without knowledge of its possible side effects, he started listing them out. I was very surprised to know that depression, suicidal ideation and aggressive behaviour were among the possible side effects. Suddenly I found an explanation for my behaviour during my adolescence years.

I’ve always attributed my suicidal thoughts during my secondary school days as part of growing up. I guess some of us must’ve thought about attempting suicide, but usually as a passing thought when faced with serious personal problems. However, I had suicidal thoughts all the time. It didn’t matter whether I was chilling out at home or completely stressed out by exams, I was always thinking about killing myself.

The only reason why I didn’t attempt suicide was to know how heartbroken my family would be if I were to kill myself. I even thought about ways to die without hurting my family; none was really satisfactory.

My mother would be able to testify that I was a difficult teenager to handle when I was about 15 years old. I was emotionally unstable and was susceptible to anger fits. I really meant it when I told my friends I had a dark side.

Once again I attributed my behavioural change to hormonal changes during puberty. I used to be a sweet little kid that everyone loves; I was the easiest child to bring up among us 3 siblings. And when I became an extremely optimistic and cheerful person when I entered the army, which was unusual for a guy who was conscripted, I thought it was a sign of maturity.

I can’t be certain that Accutane is the main cause for my suicidal ideation or mood swings, but it’s too much of a coincidence that my behavioural changes coincided nicely with when I was taking Accutane. My belief was further confirmed by the fact that there’re now over 500 formal adverse reaction reports of suicide, suicide attempt and suicide ideation recorded by national and international health agencies for Accutane. It has the fourth highest record of adverse reaction reports in the US where more than 500,000 prescription medications are sold.

I started taking Nimegen, which is a generic form of Accutane, about 2 months ago and guess what, my suicidal thoughts are back. It’s not as serious as it used to be, maybe because the doctor has prescribed me with a lighter dosage this time.

There should be no cause for concern since I’m in control of my condition. Coincidentally, the results of the personality test I took for my organisational behaviour course showed that I am very emotionally unstable but have a very high self-monitor, which in layman’s term means I’ve a poker face.

Being a guy who daydreams a lot, I’m capable of distinguishing between irrational and logical thoughts.

28 October 2003 · Health, My Life

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