Isotretinoin and the risk of psychiatric disturbances: A global study shedding new light on a debatable story

Khalaf Kridin*, Ralf J. Ludwig

*Corresponding author for this work
8 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Isotretinoin-related risk of depression and suicidal behavior is a topic of inconclusiveness. A crucial knowledge gap exists in defining the association of isotretinoin with other psychiatric comorbidities. Objective: To evaluate the risk of psychiatric outcomes among patients with acne treated with isotretinoin versus oral antibiotics. Methods: A global population-based retrospective cohort study enrolled 2 groups of patients with acne managed by isotretinoin (n = 75,708) and oral antibiotics (n = 75,708). Patients were compared regarding the risk of 9 psychiatric outcomes. Results: Relative to those treated with oral antibiotics, patients prescribed isotretinoin experienced lower risk of depression (hazard ratio [HR], 0.90; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.87-0.93; P <.001), but comparable risk of major depressive disorder (HR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.92-1.03; P =.318). Risk of suicidal attempts was comparable between groups (HR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.85-1.11; P =.663), despite the elevated risk of suicidal ideation in those under isotretinoin (HR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.32-1.50; P <.001). Patients under isotretinoin had lower risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (HR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.68-0.82; P <.001), anxiety (HR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.82-0.87; P <.001), bipolar disorder (HR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.59-0.72; P <.001), schizophrenia (HR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.48-0.76; P <.001), and adjustment disorder (HR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.77-0.87; P <.001). Limitations: Retrospective data collection. Conclusion: Isotretinoin confers lower risk of 6 psychiatric comorbidities and comparable risk of suicidal attempts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)388-394
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 02.2023

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)
  • Centers: Center for Research on Inflammation of the Skin (CRIS)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 205-19 Dermatology
  • 205-09 Pharmacology

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