10 Strangest Medicine Side Effects
Many often remark in amusement at the lengthy list of side effects rattled off in medicine commercials, making the prescriptions themselves sound incredibly unpleasant. But even these litanies of common side effects – diarrhea, depression, dizziness – are nothing compared to the rare and strange side effects of certain medications.
Medicine can do some strange things to a human body. These off-putting side effects are rare enough that they often don’t make it into the commercial. However, despite their rarity, occasionally a person is unfortunate enough to discover these unsettling results.
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Here are 10 of the strangest side effects and the drugs that cause them. If you find yourself needing to take any of the medicines listed below, we hope that you’re not one of the unlucky few who experience anything more than dry mouth or a headache.
1. Blue Urine
Usually when a doctor tells you to keep an eye out for urine discoloration, they have blood in mind. Now, imagine heading to the toilet and seeing blue instead. Certain drugs, such as the painkiller Indocin and anesthetic Diprivan, have been known to turn urine this strange color.
The artificial dye in these medications is what causes your urine to change colors, so there’s no reason to fret. Plus, blue urine isn’t even the worst of it. The antibiotic Flagyl, for instance, has been known to turn urine black. That’s enough to scare the … you know … out of you.
2. No More Fingerprints
In 2008, a cancer patient from Singapore arrived at an airport in the United States to visit relatives, only to find himself detained by immigration officials. The reason for his detainment was that when officials tried to take his fingerprints, nothing showed up. His fingerprints had simply vanished.
It turns out he had been recently prescribed a cancer drug called Capecitabine. This medication was discovered to cause hand-foot syndrome – a side effect where a person’s palms and soles inflame and peel, resulting in blisters and the loss of fingerprints.
3. Yawn-Induced Climaxes
Lots of different things help people achieve orgasms, but usually they aren’t as simple as a yawn. However, some patients have found that an antidepressant called Clomipramine caused them to climax whenever they did this very thing.
This antidepressant can cause such a strange – and stimulating – reaction because not only does the drug affect serotonin and norepinephrine receptors, which help regulate mood, but also other receptors in the human body.
It turns out that Clomipramine affects adrenergic receptors, which are located in several different places, one being the genitalia. For a small percentage of those taking this medicine, it results in climaxes every time they let out a big, tired yawn.
4. Terrible Sunburns
Antibiotics are known for having some unpleasant side effects. Some are worse than others, and the antibiotic Levaquin boasts some particularly nasty ones – one being an extreme sensitivity to sunlight.
Individuals taking Levaquin for their infections might experience what is known as “phototoxicity,” or severe skin irritation in reaction to sunlight. Even minimal amounts of sunlight can cause blistering and second-degree burns that may look like a bad rash at first. If you find yourself prescribed this medicine, be sure to avoid even brief sun exposure.
Levaquin has another strange side effect as well that’s worth mentioning: tendon ruptures. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Some people taking this medicine may experience tearing in their tendons. This happens specifically in the hands or ankles, but can happen in other parts of the body. At this point, it might be better to just ask for an alternative antibiotic.
5. Sleep Eating
Sleepwalking is one of the strangest phenomena. However, it gets a little odder when an individual begins doing other activities in their sleep besides just walking. The drug Ambien, a popular prescription for people with insomnia, is effective when it comes to helping induce sleep. However, sometimes it does a little more than that.
Some people that were prescribed Ambien have reported waking up in the morning to find ingredients left out on their kitchen counters and a full stomach. It turns out one side effect is sleep eating – essentially sleepwalking with an added step. When these people wake up in the morning, they have no recollection of walking to the kitchen and making a sandwich.
Certain individuals were even found to perform other activities in their sleep that they didn’t remember the next day while on Ambien. Some examples include talking on the phone, being intimate with someone, and even driving a car.
6. Black Tongue
Pepto-Bismol is probably the most popular medicine for treating heartburn and upset stomach. The bright pink bottle is iconic for providing relief, so who would have thought it could turn your tongue black?
A black furry tongue is a bizarre and, thankfully, rare side effect of this medication. Sometimes, this is also coupled with black bowel movements as well. The reason for this strange phenomenon is because Pepto-Bismol contains bismuth as an active ingredient. Occasionally, bismuth will combine with sulfur in your saliva and intestines to create black-tinted bismuth sulfide.
Although this is rare, black tongue happens enough that Pepto-Bismol addressed this side effect on their website, assuring everyone that it is temporary and harmless.
7. Gambling Addiction
Some people are, unfortunately, predisposed to gambling addictions. Others may form one after taking medicine. The developers of Mirapex, a drug that is prescribed to treat both Parkinson’s disease and restless legs syndrome (RLS), were subject to multiple lawsuits after patients suddenly developed gambling addictions after taking the medicine.
Mirapex treats Parkinson’s and RLS by activating dopamine receptors that affect movement. However, the same receptors also influence mood and pleasure, which results in impulsive urges for up to 10% of patients prescribed the drug. These urges can manifest in the form of a gambling addiction, and even other dangerous addictions in some cases.
8. Brain Zaps
Imagine you are sitting on your couch, watching television – suddenly, a jolt zaps through your brain. It feels almost as if someone shocked the inside of your skull. These strange feelings are called brain zaps, and they are a side effect of certain antidepressants and anti-anxieties.
Brain zaps can result from Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, and Ativan, just to name a few. The specific cause is not entirely understood, but as all of these medications influence brain neurons and electro-chemicals, it’s believed the drugs may cause certain reactions as your brain adjusts to and from the medication. Luckily, they are usually temporary and only last until your body adjusts.
9. Losing Your Senses
Some medicine makes you lose your senses as a side effect – literally. The drug Vasotec, used to treat high blood pressure, has the chance of affecting more than one of your senses. Patients on this medication have been known to lose their sense of smell, taste, and vision, all of which can be pretty alarming on their own.
The antibiotic Cipro and nasal spray Flonase have also caused some people to lose their sense of smell. While this may be useful in some scenarios, like when taking out the garbage, this sense will be sorely missed during a delicious cooked meal. Generally, your senses will return once you stop taking the medication.
10. Coughing Up Coffee Grounds
Of course, you’re not coughing up literal coffee grounds – but it certainly does look like it. Throwing up is bad enough, and this side effect makes it even worse, especially since the situation is severe enough that you should call a doctor immediately after it happens.
The medicine that causes this side effect is Plavix, an anti-coagulant that treats certain heart conditions. The nature of this drug makes it easier to bleed, and occasionally a user may develop bleeding in their stomach or intestines. When this happens, blood coughed up will often have the texture and look of coffee grounds.