Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol While On Accutane?

Accutane is a strong prescription medication used to treat severe acne, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD). It is a concentrated form of vitamin A, which provides the benefit of clearing up acne when taken in high doses. It should be noted that the amount of vitamin A present in the drug can have toxic effects on the body, including birth defects in pregnant women, which is why it is only typically prescribed for four-to-six months at a time.

Accutane essentially works by ceasing oil production in the glands of the skin (via AOCD). When taken in large doses, this can cause a few unpleasant side effects. These most notably include excessive drying of the skin, chapped lips, mild nosebleeds, and general skin irritation. Non-skin-related side effects can include intestinal discomfort, pain in the joints and muscles, headaches, depression, and increased sensitivity to sunlight.

In some people, Accutane has been known to cause liver problems. One 2014 study published in Cutis found that the medication increased liver enzymes and lipids in acne patients. The Advanced Acne Institute points out that the effect of Accutane on the liver can be monitored with blood tests and mitigated with lower doses. However, due to the potential for liver toxicity while taking Accutane, you may be wondering whether it is safe to drink alcohol. Here's what we know.

Be very cautious with alcohol while taking Accutane

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Adam Mamelak warns his patients not to drink alcohol if they've been prescribed Accutane. If drinking alcohol is necessary, it should be done in "extreme moderation," he adds. The reason for this comes back to the effects of Accutane on the liver. In short, adding alcohol into the mix can increase the chances of liver damage — alcohol can contribute to an increase in blood cholesterol and triglycerides.

Mamelak notes that the question of whether or not drinking alcohol is safe while taking Accutane also depends on the individual patient. If an individual has a pre-existing liver condition or a history of liver disease, alcohol is strictly forbidden, for example. Those who take other prescription medications that can interfere with alcohol, in addition to Accutane, should also avoid drinking.

The Recovery Village points out that mixing alcohol and Accutane can have other secondary effects aside from potentially causing issues for the liver. These include nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate, and discomfort in the belly. To be on the safe side, you should discuss your individual situation with your doctor. They can help you determine if you're someone who can drink alcohol in moderation while taking Accutane or if you should avoid it altogether.