Prescription Drugs | 3 min read

Accutane and Alcohol: Safety Guidelines and Risks You Need To Know

Medically Reviewed

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

February 19, 2024

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On February 19, 2024

Accutane and Alcohol

What you will learn

  • Accutane is the brand name for isotretinoin, a popular acne treatment medication derived from vitamin A.
  • Isotretinoin can cause liver damage on its own, so it should not be combined with alcohol.
  • Accutane-alcohol interaction can cause other complications, including pancreatitis.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you’re taking Accutane, the brand name for isotretinoin, it’s important to avoid alcohol. Accutane (isotretinoin) and alcohol can have a significant interaction, increasing the risk of side effects like liver damage and elevated triglycerides. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to avoid alcohol during Accutane treatment.

Learn more about Accutane, how it works, medication safety, and why you should avoid mixing Accutane with alcohol or other substances.

What Is Accutane?

Accutane is the brand name for isotretinoin, an acne treatment drug used when acne is persistent and resistant to other treatment options. Though Accutane was taken off the market around 2009, it was a popular and widespread drug.[1] People often refer to the generic isotretinoin as Accutane.

It’s derived from vitamin A, but it’s a safer alternative to taking large amounts of vitamin A that can cause toxicity. Because of its potency, isotretinoin can be used to treat moderate to severe acne and different types of acne.

Isotretinoin (formerly known as Accutane) is highly effective for long-term remission of acne in many patients. [2] The remainder need longer treatment, sometimes up to a year, but may see a difference in four or five months.

What Happens When You Take Accutane?

Isotretinoin’s effectiveness in treating acne involves several understood mechanisms: it reduces sebum production, inhibits the growth of acne-causing bacteria, reduces inflammation, and normalizes skin cell shedding to prevent clogged pores.

Isotretinoin is effective where other treatments fail because of its concentration of retinoids, a class of chemicals derived from vitamin A. Retinoids are responsible for some side effects, including sun sensitivity, dry skin, and an increase in cholesterol.

Accutane has some side effects, including dry skin, headaches, itching, nosebleeds, birth defects in pregnant women, and liver damage. The last symptom is the primary concern with combining Accutane and alcohol consumption, as these two substances are processed by the liver.

Can You Drink Alcohol on Accutane?

Dangers of drinking Alcohol on Accutane

Alcohol and Accutane (isotretinoin) interaction can be significant, not just moderate. It is generally advised to avoid alcohol while taking Accutane due to the increased risk of liver damage and elevated triglyceride levels. Consultation with a healthcare provider is crucial to understand your specific risk factors. Otherwise, it’s important to avoid drinking alcohol or using products that contain alcohol, such as some mouthwashes or cough medicines.

If you do drink while taking Accutane, you may experience serious side effects like rapid heartbeat, warm or tingling skin, nausea, and vomiting. Taking Accutane alone can be hard on your liver, but when you combine it with alcohol, it can cause severe damage.[3] Some of the signs of liver damage may include:

  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting

Accutane also raises the levels of triglycerides in the blood, which can lead to painful and life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas – pancreatitis – with symptoms like severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, fluid buildup, fever, and low blood pressure.[4]

In some people, Accutane causes a decrease in night vision that can occur suddenly. For people with this side effect, driving can be hazardous. Combined with alcohol, there’s a serious risk of getting into an accident.

Other Risks of Accutane

Aside from avoiding alcohol on Accutane, there are other risks and complications associated with the drug.[5]
Isotretinoin can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy. It’s important to take two forms of effective birth control to avoid pregnancy. You also need to avoid giving blood while taking Accutane, as it can cause birth defects in a pregnant recipient.

Unless directed by a doctor, you shouldn’t take vitamin A or other vitamin supplements that contain vitamin A while on Accutane. This increases the risk of side effects. You should check with your doctor before taking any substances, including vitamins, herbal products, and prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Accutane can cause skin dryness and sunburn, as well as more serious skin reactions like Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis, a life-threatening disorder characterized by blistering and peeling skin. You should also avoid waxing or cosmetic procedures like dermabrasion or laser hair removal while using Accutane and for six months after stopping it because it increases the risk of scarring.

In rare cases, Accutane can cause mood and behavioral changes like irritability, agitation, and suicidal thoughts or actions.

Seek Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Abstaining from alcohol while taking isotretinoin can be tough, but it’s much harder if you binge drink or struggle with alcohol use disorder. If you have an alcohol use disorder, it’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals for safe withdrawal management, as abrupt cessation of alcohol can lead to potentially serious withdrawal symptoms.

If you’re considering taking Accutane and struggle with alcohol use, it’s crucial to seek detox and addiction treatment to avoid serious withdrawal symptoms or drug interactions. Once you complete an alcohol addiction treatment program, you can safely take Accutane with a lower risk of liver damage, pancreatitis, or other serious effects.

Frequently Asked Questions About Accutane and Alcohol

Why Was Accutane Banned?

Though the name is still widely recognized, Accutane was discontinued in 2009 because of lawsuits over its side effects and the availability of generic versions.

What Are the Negatives of Accutane?

Isotretinoin can be used to treat severe acne, but it has serious potential side effects and complications like birth defects, sun sensitivity, liver damage, and increased cholesterol levels. Doctors typically only prescribe isotretinoin when all other treatments have failed and for moderate to severe acne cases.

How Long After Taking Accutane Can I Drink Again?

It’s important to speak to your doctor about drinking alcohol after stopping isotretinoin, but the general recommendation is to wait at least one month after stopping the drug before drinking alcohol. This ensures it’s completely eliminated from your body and reduces the risk of negative effects.

What Should I Avoid on Accutane?

Isotretinoin has a lot of potential interactions. It’s important to avoid alcohol, other vitamin A supplements, and certain medications like tetracycline antibiotics, corticosteroids, and other acne treatments. You should also avoid strong sunlight or tanning beds and cosmetic skin procedures. Your doctor can inform you on what to avoid while taking isotretinoin.

What Organ Is Accutane Hard On?

Isotretinoin is hard on the liver. Liver test abnormalities occur in up to 15% of people taking isotretinoin, though excessive elevation is rare.[6] People on isotretinoin should have regular liver blood tests to monitor the effects and watch for signs of toxicity.

Can I Have a Glass of Wine on Accutane?

Mixing isotretinoin and alcohol is not recommended because of the risk of side effects and adverse reactions. In some people, even small amounts of alcohol can have a serious interaction. Always check with your doctor about possible interactions with Accutane and other substances.

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[1] Los Angeles Times. (2014, September 16). New study may deal final blow to Acne Drug Accutane. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from on 2023, December 21.

[2] Accutane – American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD). (n.d.-a). Retrieved from on 2023, December 21.

[3] Isotretinoin – livertox – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.). Retrieved from on 2023, December 21.

[4] Accutane and alcohol/food interactions. (n.d.). Retrieved from,accutane.html on 2023, December 21.

[5] Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2023, November 1). Isotretinoin (oral route) precautions. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from on 2023, December 21.

[6] Isotretinoin – livertox – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.). Retrieved from on 2023, December 21.