Acne, Accutane, and Cannabis: Exploring the Intersection

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Written by Jonathan Hutchinson on 05/20/2024.
Data Last Updated: 07/22/2024.

Chromometer 6 min

Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide, with the American Academy of Dermatology Association estimating that up to 50 million Americans experience acne each year. For some individuals with severe, persistent acne, the prescription medication Accutane (isotretinoin) can be a game-changer. However, for those who also use cannabis, the question arises: Is it safe to smoke weed while taking Accutane? Let’s explore this complex issue.

The Power of Accutane: A Last-Resort Acne Treatment 

The Power of Accutane: A Last-Resort Acne Treatment 

Accutane is a potent oral medication that falls under the class of drugs known as retinoids. It is typically prescribed as a last resort for individuals with severe cystic acne that has not responded to other treatments, such as topical creams or antibiotics.

Accutane works by targeting the sebaceous glands, which are responsible for producing sebum, the oily substance that can clog pores and contribute to acne. By reducing the size and output of these glands, Accutane effectively diminishes the primary cause of acne formation.

However, this powerful medication also comes with a range of potential side effects, including:

  1. Dry skin, lips, and eyes
  2. Joint and muscle pain
  3. Headaches and fatigue
  4. Gastrointestinal issues
  5. Mood changes and depression

Due to these risks, patients must be closely monitored by their dermatologist and undergo regular blood tests while taking Accutane.

Cannabis and Acne: A Complicated Relationship 

Cannabis and Acne: A Complicated Relationship 

The relationship between cannabis and acne is multifaceted and not yet fully understood. While some anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis may help alleviate acne symptoms, there is limited scientific research to support these claims.

One potential concern is that smoking cannabis could exacerbate certain skin conditions, including acne. The act of smoking itself can introduce bacteria and other irritants to the skin, which may contribute to the development or worsening of acne.

However, it’s essential to note that the method of consumption may play a role in how cannabis affects the skin. Some individuals may find that alternative methods, such as edibles or topicals, have less of an impact on their acne compared to smoking.

Mixing Accutane and Cannabis: Weighing the Risks and Benefits 

Mixing Accutane and Cannabis: Weighing the Risks and Benefits

When it comes to combining Accutane and cannabis, the available research is limited, and the potential risks and benefits are not yet fully understood. It can be presumed that using cannabis while taking Accutane might potentially worsen certain side effects, such as mood changes or impaired judgment.

Potential Risk


Increased anxiety

THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, may exacerbate anxiety and paranoia in some individuals.

Mood instability

Regular cannabis use could contribute to emotional ups and downs, which may be amplified by Accutane’s potential impact on mood.

Impaired cognitive function

The combination of Accutane and cannabis may lead to decreased attention, memory, and decision-making abilities.

However, online you can find claims that certain compounds in medical cannabis, such as CBD, may help alleviate some side effects associated with Accutane, such as pain or inflammation. Additionally, for individuals who use cannabis to manage other health conditions, discontinuing use while on Accutane may not be feasible or advisable.

Ultimately, the decision to use cannabis while taking Accutane should be made in close consultation with a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about both substances. They can help weigh the potential risks and benefits and develop a personalized treatment plan that prioritizes overall health and well-being.

Alternative Cannabis Consumption Methods to Consider While on Accutane

Alternative Cannabis Consumption Methods to Consider While on Accutane

For individuals who choose to use cannabis while on Accutane, exploring alternative consumption methods may be worth considering. These methods may have less of an impact on the skin and lungs compared to smoking.

Some options include:

  1. Edibles: Cannabis-infused foods and beverages offer a smoke-free option, but it’s crucial to be mindful of dosing, as the effects can be more potent and long-lasting compared to other methods.
  2. Tinctures: These liquid cannabis extracts can be taken sublingually (under the tongue) for fast absorption without involving the lungs.
  3. Topicals: Cannabinoid-infused creams, balms, and lotions can be applied directly to the skin for localized relief of pain or inflammation, without the psychoactive effects associated with other consumption methods.

As with any cannabis product, it’s essential to obtain these items from a reputable, licensed source to ensure quality, purity, and safety.

The Bottom Line: Prioritizing Health and Safety 

In conclusion, the intersection of acne, Accutane, and cannabis is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and individualized guidance from healthcare professionals. While some individuals may find that cannabis helps manage certain side effects of Accutane, others may experience worsening symptoms or be at higher risk for complications.

The most important step is to have an open, honest conversation with your dermatologist and any other relevant healthcare providers about your cannabis use. They can help you navigate the potential risks and benefits, monitor for any concerning symptoms, and adjust your treatment plan as needed.

If you do choose to use cannabis while taking Accutane, consider opting for alternative consumption methods, starting with low doses, and always sourcing your products from reputable, licensed providers.

Remember, your health and safety should always be the top priority. By staying informed, communicating openly with your healthcare team, and making cautious, well-informed decisions, you can effectively manage your acne treatment while minimizing potential risks associated with combining Accutane and cannabis.

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