Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Accutane

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Health experts and institutions generally do not recommend drinking alcohol while using Accutane. Researchers have known for decades that alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of certain medications, including Accutane. (1) Additionally, alcohol use, especially binge drinking or drinking heavily, can increase the risk of adverse health effects. Alcohol and Accutane have a few possible side effects in common, and using them together might increase the risk of these effects or their intensity.

If you’ve been drinking while taking Accutane, you are advised to discontinue use until your Accutane treatment has ended. If you’ve tried to control your drinking and been unsuccessful, you are encouraged to seek a professional opinion to find out if you need help.

Guardian Recovery offers a free assessment and a no-obligation benefits check to those seeking help for alcohol or drug addiction. You will be put in touch with an addiction treatment advisor who can explain your options and get you started through our streamlined admission process. We can help you determine the level of care right for you and devise an effective treatment plan customized to meet your unique circumstances. If you are ready to begin your recovery journey, contact us today!

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What Is Accutane?

Accutane (isotretinoin) is a prescription drug used to treat severe forms of acne. (2) It is taken orally and can only be prescribed by a licensed health provider or dermatologist. It is typically prescribed for extreme acne cases that other, less intensive treatments have not managed. It typically clears up acne within 4-5 months in most people when used as directed. For others, it usually clears after a more prolonged treatment regimen as long as a year. Accutane’s results tend to be long-lasting because a complete course of treatment will permanently alter how skin produces oil. 

How Accutane Works 

Accutane works by shrinking sebaceous (oil) glands that create sebum and moisturize the skin. In severe cases, these oil glands overproduce, resulting in clogged pores and leading to long-term breakouts and acne problems. 

Accutane Side Effects

As noted, Accutane does come with the potential for mild-severe side effects. (3) Higher doses may be more effective but can also increase the risk of side effects and their severity.

Side Effects May Include:

  • Skin dryness and sensitivity.
  • Itching.
  • Headache.
  • Increased light sensitivity.
  • Joint and muscle pain.
  • Nosebleeds.
  • Irritation of the eyes and eyelids.
  • Low red and white blood cells, weakened immunity, and ability to fight infection.

Side effects of Accutane that overlap with those of alcohol include a weakened immune system, headache, and increased light sensitivity, especially during a hangover.

Risks of Mixing Alcohol & Accutane

Drinking while using Accutane comes with a few potentially severe risks. In addition to the development of an alcohol use disorder, these include the following:

Cardiovascular Risks

Numerous studies have examined the safety and effectiveness of isotretinoin in treating moderate-severe acne. According to reports, isotretinoin therapy can lead to cardiac side effects, such as atrial and sinus tachycardia, cardiac remodeling, (4) and congenital heart disease in fetuses. (5) Alcohol has also been associated with many cardiovascular health risks, including hypertension and heart disease.(6)

Increased Risk of Hyperglyceridemia & Acute Pancreatitis

One of the significant threats of alcohol misuse with Accutane is the potential for increased serum triglycerides (lipids), which in mild cases can cause side effects such as red and hot skin and vomiting, skin redness, and, in extreme cases, acute and potentially lethal pancreatitis. (7) Pancreatitis is relatively uncommon but is more likely to occur when excessive amounts of alcohol and Accutane interact in the body. Persons at a higher risk of hypertriglyceridemia (8) during Accutane therapy include those consuming a high amount of alcohol. (9)

Possible Increased Risk of Liver Damage

Alcohol is notorious for causing severe, potentially life-threatening liver damage. (10) Also, some research has suggested Accutane can be linked to abnormalities in liver enzymes. (11) (12) Most of these cases appear to be minor and temporary, but others can be persistent. Moreover, some health providers might be wary of prescribing Accutane to people with a history of liver disease or other renal issues. 

Excessive alcohol use can have devastating effects on the liver, even without Accutane. As a result, the combination might be more likely to yield adverse renal effects.

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Possible Increased Risk of Depression & Mood Changes

Research findings regarding Accutane’s effects on mood have been mixed, but many people have reported experiencing new or increased mental health symptoms, such as depression. According to a 2015 peer-reviewed study, research has demonstrated that following isotretinoin treatment, individuals had a higher risk of “depression, attempted suicide, and suicide following isotretinoin treatment.” (13)

Furthermore, people with bipolar disorder had an increased risk for “a clinical exacerbation of symptoms” while undergoing isotretinoin treatment.” A few studies also suggested a possible link between isotretinoin and psychosis.” (14) (15)

Understanding that Accutane could contribute to mental health issues is important because alcohol has long been associated with increased symptoms of depression, suicidality, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and other conditions. (16) Moreover, these overlapping risks might be magnified for some heavy drinkers who also use Accutane.

Congenital Disabilities in Fetuses

Accutane has been known to cause severe congenital disabilities if used during pregnancy. It is estimated that about one-quarter of newborns exposed to Accutane in the womb exhibit “major congenital deformities.” Others are born with “severe learning disabilities” (17), and “0% are miscarried and do not survive pregnancy. (18)

The most common problems, however, are brain abnormalities. In fact, even babies without a congenital deformity may have low IQ scores. Other issues include underdevelopment of facial bones and cartilage and life-threatening heart defects. (19)(20) 

Alcohol has also been known to cause many congenital deformities and disabilities, including fetal alcohol syndrome, which can also adversely affect facial features and cognitive abilities. Drinking alcohol, with or without Accutane, can result in “birth defects and neurodevelopmental abnormalities and “a range of developmental, cognitive, and behavioral problems, which can appear at any time during childhood and last a lifetime.” (21)

Alcohol Misuse & Dependence

Although Accutane is not believed to be habit-forming or has any significant potential for misuse, the same can not be said for alcohol. Binge drinking regularly or engaging in heavy alcohol use is the most critical factor in determining whether a person will become addicted.

As people are generally advised to quit drinking while on Accutane, failure to quit after attempts to do so may suggest that an alcohol addiction may be developing. This can lead to a wide array of health complications, social and familial adversities, and even considerable financial and legal consequences. Alcohol misuse needs to be addressed, so if you find yourself in these situations, professional help can be your best option for a full recovery.

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Effective Treatment is Available for Alcohol Addiction

If you’re struggling with alcohol use and believe you may have a drinking problem, you are urged to seek professional treatment as soon as possible. Guardian Recovery offers a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to addiction treatment. Our integrated programs are designed to treat alcohol use disorder and address the underlying physical, psychological, and social factors that contribute to it.

A massive body of scientific research on addiction treatment has led to many evidence-based methods that help individuals recover and reengage in healthy, fulfilling lives. We understand that by using these methods, such as behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment, we can ensure our clients have access to the most effective care and support available.

If you’ve been struggling with alcohol misuse, there is professional help available. Contact us today to learn more about our program options and individualized treatment plans.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1) https://www.drugs.com/food-interactions/isotretinoin,accutane.html

(2) (3) https://www.drugs.com/accutane.html

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728597

(5) https://www.medicinesfaq.com/brand/acnetane

(6) (7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513687/

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7372240/

(9) https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23942-hypertriglyceridemia

(10) https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/alcohol-related-liver-disease

(11) https://www.drugs.com/disease-interactions/isotretinoin.html

(12) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09546634.2019.1662882?cookieSet=1

(13) (14) (15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4473493

(16) https://www.drinkiq.com/en-us/drinking-and-your-mind/what-are-the-effects-of-drinking-on-mental-health/

(17) (19 (20) https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/8963867/Green.html?sequence=2

(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK582775/

(21) https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/fetal-alcohol-exposure

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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