Drugs, Not the Way to Go

If you are like most people who have dealt with acne, you have probably tried tons of drugs that did more harm than good and yet still have acne. Just looking at the side effects of some acne medications make them unappealing. A brief synopsis of common prescriptions and their side effects is given below:

Accutane or Isotretinoin:

This drug is used to treat severe acne that is resistant to more conservative treatments such as creams, drying agents, and topical or oral antibiotics. Complete remission or prolonged improvement may be witnessed after 15 to 20 weeks of treatment.

This medication is so harsh on the body, both physically and emotionally, that it is only used for severe cases of acne. Folks, if there was ever a time that you should not shoot butterflies with a bazooka, this is it. Accutane can cost over $300 per month. Its side effects are numerous. And, after completing use of the drug, symptoms may return.

For example, author James C. Shaw, MD noted, in an article published by the Archives of Dermatology, that recurrence of acne in adult women after using isotretinoin is between 15% and 30%.

Side effect may include but are not limited to:

Dry skin, itching, dry nose, nosebleeds, cracks in the corners of the lips, dry mouth, joint aches and inflammation of the whites of the eyes. Increase in blood cholesterol and triglycerides. Depression, hallucinations and suicidal behavior. Rare side effects include skin infections, peeling, sun sensitivity, hearing impairment and hepatitis.

In a few cases, isotretinoin can cause brain swelling (pseudo tumor cerebri or intracranial hypertension), which can lead to nausea, vomiting, headache, and changes in vision.

Oral Antibiotics:

Oral antibiotics prescribed for acne include tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline. Other antibiotics prescribed for acne prevention are cefadroxil, amoxicillin, and sulfa drugs.

Side effect may include but are not limited to:

Constipation. Sensitivity to the sun.

If there was ever a time when the medicine was worse than the cure here it comes. Did you know that these “cyclines” could kill the beneficial bacterial in you intestines like the acidophilus and lead to constipation?

That’s the last thing you want when you are trying to resolve an acne issue. And according to many holistic health professionals such as Dr. Bernard Jenson, constipation is the root of practically all health ailments- but more on that later.

Plus, once you have nice glowing skin, aren’t you going to want to show it off in a nice bathing suit in the sunshine? I realize there’s a serious need to be concerned about skin cancer, but we put enough carcinogens in our body on a daily basis to make us like nuclear reactors. Moreover, antibiotics are losing their effectiveness, which requires prescribing the drugs in greater quantities.

Dr. Joseph Pace of the University of Malta Medical School states that the antibiotics once prescribed for acne are “becoming increasingly unsuccessful and causing widespread antibiotic resistance.” He also adds that he has had to double antibiotic prescriptions for them to be effective.

Instead of using antibiotics, Dr. Pace advises using external treatments such as benzoyl peroxide and retinoic preparations. But benzoyl peroxide and retinoic preparations also make the skin sensitive to the sun.

Similarly, doctors reporting in the British Journal of Dermatology on their findings of the effectiveness of antibiotic treatments for women with acne over the age of 25, noted that 82% of the participants failed to respond to multiple courses of antibiotics.

Oral contraceptives (Birth Control Pills)

Contraceptives that are low in estrogen5 for safety purposes have little effect on acne. Ortho Tri-Cyclen has helped relieve acne symptoms in some patients but its effectiveness is modest.

Side effect may include but are not limited to:

Hormone imbalances, blood-clotting problems, heart attack, stroke, gallbladder disease, and benign liver tumors. Less severe effects include: weight gain, depression, lower sex drive, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and bloating. Use of oral contraceptives can lead to deficiencies of riboflavin, folate and vitamins B-6, B-12 and C.

None of these side effects are appealing. Moreover, in a country where the obesity rate is knocking on 70%, I can safely say that this weight gain is probably most unwelcome.

Also, I have spoken with several women who were on birth control for 1-5 years. They all had the same complaint- once they were off the pill, it took them over a year to loose the additional weight gained from birth control pill usage. No matter what they tried or how much they exercised, the weight stayed.

The reason for this is simple and it will serve to re-emphasize the importance of messages. When you introduce extra estrogen or progestin6 into the bloodstream of a woman, her body says: “I must be pregnant. Let me store some extra fat so that I can make sure my baby will always have the nutrients it needs.”

So, imagine if you take the pill for years, all this time your body thinks, “gee, I’m still pregnant, I better maintain the fat levels to keep the baby safe.” Again, the body is wise, but drugs are used to confuse it. Even after you stop taking the pill the estrogen is still in your body and it could take months or years for your estrogen levels to return to normal for your age and weight.

Birth control pills that use synthetic progestins such as Norplant and Depo-Provera can actually cause acne. Likewise, too much progestin in the body can cause a range of problems that include: increased appetite, fatigue, irritability, depression and hair loss. The key is to health is to keep your hormones in balance.