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Ten of the Most Bizarre Side Effects of Prescription Medications

Updated on May 15, 2018
Theophanes profile image

Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.


I grew up in a strange time in the United States, when commercials for prescription pharmaceuticals were paraded on the the TV every evening, illustrated by depressed blobs and Lunar moths, all ending in a disturbing flurry of soft and fast spoken side effects, "May cause dry mouth [as every medication ever does,] loss of vision, aggressive moods, exploding kidney disorder, and sometimes death." This may have colored my view of pharmaceuticals a bit. But really it was the fact that through out my teenage years my doctors couldn't diagnose my own health issues and started to use me as their own personal guinea pig for off label drug usage. I was super sensitive to them all and spent most of these years as a hot mess but you know what? I can take one, or several dozen, for the team. Besides, now I have a delightfully dark sense of humor and no respect for medical authority but that's a story for another day.

This comic is sooo perfect...
This comic is sooo perfect...

Xeloda: The Other Drug You Don't Want to be on at Border Control...

Funny enough, in addition to having been used as a human guinea pig I've also had a number of run ins with border control. It's never pleasant, but at least I had my fingerprints! You might think everyone has fingerprints but then you'd be wrong. You see certain cancer patients taking capecitabine (Xeloda) can experience blisters which causes the skin on their fingers to slough off leaving no ridges behind. This was not even written down as a possible side effect until one poor man from Sinapore tried to enter the United States and was detained at the airport for four hours for not having any identifiable fingerprints! Tough break!

Is it a STD or Just Your Eye Drops?

Recently I saw a commercial for eye drops where one of the side effects listed were, "unusual tastes," which made me wonder if these people where drinking the eye drops and not using them to manufacturer's instruction. Little was I to know that side effect wasn't even that weird! In fact that seems like a walk in the park when compared to one rare and unusual side effect of Ofloxacin. Apparently in some very unfortunate individuals it can inspire a bout of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a painful condition that has among other things blisters on the genitals, which result in loss of skin, as one of it's symptoms. It's like getting Biblical crotch rot for eye drops.

But hey the fun doesn't stop there! Ofloxacin can cause temporary “confusion about identity, place, and time” which is probably caused by the other side effect that makes human language completely unintelligible. There were no studies I could find to see if dolphin clicks were any easier to understand.

Zoloft - You Won't Have Time to be Depressed with this List of Side Effects!

Ooooh Zoloft, one of my favorites. When I was sixteen or so I was put on Zoloft because my doctors felt I was depressed. I was not. Do you know what happens to not-depressed people put on Zoloft? Well, in my case it ended up with me eating one 25mg pill and falling asleep, for two weeks. My mother would wake me to eat, again when I fell asleep eating to go to the bathroom. Like Sleeping Beauty I was! I was supposed to be on it six weeks... but my mother lost her patience with me being in a pseudo-coma and I have lived a happily Zoloft free life ever since. As it turns out I am not the only one who can't handle it. In fact it has pages worth of side effects but some of the most fun are "overactive reflexes," which is great if you're a cat, sudden loss of consciousness (because who needs to be conscious?) and here's the killer: unusual secretion of milk in women. The latter makes me think, "Well, thank God it's not also in men" but then my mind devolves into, "but then again what is unusual secretion of milk?! I'm sincerely hoping it's still coming out of that poor woman's tits!"

Propecia - You Will have Hair and Some Other Things...

And since we're already in the gutter talking about various bodily fluids why not take a gander at the popular hair loss drug Propecia... one of it's most lovable side effects is this cryptically worded warning, "abnormal ejaculation." Suddenly I need to know what constitutes abnormal! Are these men shooting baby batter from their eyes like lizards?! Or are they just walking around randomly wetting themselves like women of a certain age? Or maybe, just maybe, they've found themselves the creators of a series of unnatural colors like our next side effect...

There's  never an inappropriate time to share a photo of my former hairless rat Godiva.
There's never an inappropriate time to share a photo of my former hairless rat Godiva.

Drugs that Could Make Water Sports a Hell of a Lot More Interesting....

I remember when I was growing up there was this rumor going around that if you pissed in the swimming pool it'd turn blue and everyone would know what you'd done. Who knew there was perhaps a tiny bit of truth to this! Not in the magical piss-detecting swimming pools but in blue pee. Because who doesn't want to pee like a Smurf? Disturbingly there are several medications that can do this, among them: amitriptyline, indomethacin (Indocin, Tivorbex) and propofol (Diprivan.) And hey, if you'd rather fill your toilet bowl with black squid ink then the common antibiotic Flagyl is the drug for you!

More Funny Colors Where they Oughtn't Be..

OK, so we've moved on from unusually colored bodily fluids to just unusual colors. One of the side effects of Viagra is blue or green tinted vision. I guess it's good it's not rose-tinted?

Prednisone - How to Disappear

If you're short and would like to keep every godforsaken inch of your height then you might not want to take the common allergy medication Prednisone. It's normally a pretty safe drug but in some people it can cause a decrease in height. No explanation. Who needs one of those?

Larium - You Won't Die of Malaria but You Might Murder Your Entire Family

There's been a disturbing amount of drugs that list suicidal thoughts, suicide, and vibrant hallucinations, as part of their more delightful effects. Larium is just one of those. It's a bit of a super drug to prevent malaria which kills more people every year than almost any other disease. So if you want to travel to some mosquito-addled country Larium is likely your friend. On the other hand it frequently causes "uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea" (I'd hate to think what controlled diarrhea would be like, just whhhy?) and if that's not enough to earn you some shits and giggles it also has, "confusion, extreme fear, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior;" also cryptically stated, "Lariam can cause neuropsychiatric adverse events." Basically it can make you go completely bonkers in a Shining sorta way. How do we know? Well... we give it to our troops routinely and after a rash of wife murders (that took the lives of four separate wives, married to four separate soldiers) we started to investigate why this might be. Two of the murderers committed suicide as well so this wasn't going to be a terribly long lasted investigation. In a decidedly disturbing twist local doctors in these countries had been diagnosing "Larium-induced psychosis" for years. It was a particularly nasty 'bout of paranoid delusions and aggressive behavior in otherwise healthy people that could last up to two months after the drug was taken. And if you think these side effects are rare a recent British study suggest these alarming reactions showed up in one of every one hundred and forty patients. To add insult to injury there are other anti-malaria drugs out there which could be taken in its place...

Ambien - For People Who Like to Do Things When They're Unconscious

Ambien is a common sleep prescription that a lot of people are on. It's supposed to work well and not be addictive as many other sleeping medications. Still, I couldn't quite pin down why I when I was at a friend's house she was up at three in the morning blending mashed yams and peanut butter in a Bullet blender. This could explain that sudden weight gain... and why she woke up the next morning glued to her bed. She wasn't unusual. One of the better known side effects of Ambien is severe sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep driving, sleep nymphomania.... The latter of which can be really hard to explain! I recall a story of a woman whose ex husband lived in an apartment across the hall and kept accusing her of giving him mixed messages about their split. Apparently she'd been taking Ambien, getting up in the middle of the night, wandering across the hall, and banging him every night. Props to her for divorcing him - considering he didn't know anything was off with her... Seriously dude?! WOW.

Credit for this delightful comic goes to
Credit for this delightful comic goes to

Who Knew Parkinson's Disease Came with Gambling Addiction and Nymphomania!

OK, Parkinson's Disease is a very serious condition and does not come with gambling addiction and nymphomania, however one of the most common families of drugs used to treat it, called dopamine agonists, which are also used to treat Restless Leg Syndrome, can cause an increase of risky behaviors including but not limited to compulsive gambling, excessive alcohol consumption, hypersexuality, binge eating, becoming a shopaholic... or really anything else that'll end a marriage fast. You know what they say, what happens in Vegas was probably caused by dopamine agonists.


There are a lot of crazy prescription drugs out there with wild and bizarre side effects. If you feel you may be experiencing one or more of them please consult your doctor, or at least lock yourself in your room so you can't continue sleep banging your ex. Cheers!


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