The world of bizarre side effects written in fine print on medicine warning labels is a terrifying place. Though the vast majority of medicine users can comfort themselves with the thought that they will remain unaffected, they have probably had the good fortune to never come across the widely-used drugs in this list. Their side effects are a combination of strange, horrifying, and, worst of all, remarkably common.



Accutane box


Accutane pills

#5. Accutane: Making Your Brain Think It Has a Tumor

Accutane is one of the strongest acne medications available. The drug works in the bloodstream, shutting down the production of sebum, the oils produced by the face. This has the tendency to dry out the skin quite a lot, but this is better than a very bad case of acne. The other side effects maybe aren’t better than any amount of acne.

The Side Effects:

One of its creepier side effects is making your brain think that it has a tumor. The medical term for this condition is pseudotumor cerebri, and it's a disorder with all the symptoms of a brain tumor: dizziness, nausea, headaches, and hearing which is when you hear whooshing or sloshing in your head (also known as pulsating intracranial noises). This is only the weirdest of the side effects, the list of things Accutane might do to you is long and grim. The really bizarre stuff can be found in the personal anecdotes of people who have used the drug. In addition to suicide and aggression, Accutane can "make hair grow on the side of [your] nose" and can also cause the opposite: long lasting or even permanent hair loss (a side effect which is actually very common). Naturally the company that makes Accutane, Hoffmann-La Roche, has stopped selling it, partly because of the decline in sales, but also because of the numerous personal injury lawsuits from people whose lives have been ruined by their acne medication. Of course, generic versions of the drug are still available.



#4. Lipitor: Giving You Amnesia

Lipitor is a cholesterol medication that has become the world's top selling drug. The reason for this is simple: everyone's deathly afraid of heart and Lipitor promises to prevent it.

The Side Effect:

Lipitor’s downside is that it can cause severe amnesia, i.e. memory loss so bad that you forget where you are and the name of your wife. In 1999 that is exactly what happened to 68-year-old Duane Graveline, a former NASA astronaut who forgot who he was, where he lived, and who he was married to. Luckily Graveline's amnesia cleared up six hours later, and he stopped taking the drug immediately. A year later his doctor convinced him to give it another shot and he had a second episode of serious memory loss.  This is just one of the hundreds who've reported similar side effects to the FDA. This is strange because no one knows exactly why Lipitor (and other "statin" drugs) have this effect on some people.

It is believed that the amnesia is partly due to the fact that people who take heart disease medication tend to be older, and therefore already prone to dementia and other diseases which involve memory loss. However, the leading theory is that the much feared cholesterol is in reality vital for your brain to function properly because it insulates nerve cells. So while Lipitor is stripping the inside of your arteries, it might also be stripping those nerves and destroying your brain's capacity to form memories. The FDA reacted with sluggishness, only making the manufacturers of statin drugs add warnings to their labels 13 years later, in 2012.




#3. Mirapex: Turning Sex and Gambling Addict

Mirapex (or pramipexole) is a drug that, like marijuana, is prescribed to treat absolutely everything from cluster headaches to restless leg syndrome to bipolar disorder to, most commonly, Parkinson's disease.

The Side Effects:

Mirapex will turn you into an addict of pretty much any enjoyable activity. For example, in one case a 52-year-old Parkinson's sufferer  blew $100,000 gambling before his wife, understandably concerned at this radical change in behaviour, dragged him back to his. Another 62-year-old found himself hopelessly addicted to blackjack tables and tequila after being prescribed Mirapex. Indeed “ 58 percent of incidents of [prescription-related] gambling reported to the FDA" involve use of Mirapex.  People have of course also gotten addicted to things other than gambling, including pornography, Internet sex, shopping, and binge eating.

 Mirapex, however, is not the only Parkinson's medication to carry this side effect. That's because the most common and effective way to treat the disease is through dopamine agonists, which are medications that work by stimulating dopamine, the chemical in your brain closely related to being both happy (and thereby developing addictions). So when you're on these medications, the pleasure center of your brain responds much more strongly to all the same activities it always has. This makes any impulses a lot harder to stop indulging. Of course, one must remember that these side effects are considerably better than Parkinson’s disease.




#2. Tamiflu: Making you Psychotic

Tamiflu is a wildly popular treatment for the flu, frequently prescribed for parents to dose their children at the first sign of a cold, which is concerning when one considers the side effects.

The Side Effects:

This flu medication can cause all the effects commonly associated with a bad trip; symptoms range from hallucinations to psychosis to impulsive behavior. Kids taking it have tried to dive out of the windows of moving cars. Adults have blacked out and crashed their cars, while others have committed suicide. Yet instead of banning Tamiflu, the FDA has instead approved its  use with newborns and infants. Though infants possess neither the strength to jump out of cars or run out into traffic, nor enough motor skills to shoot themselves, this is still a cause for grave concern. The worst part of it is that Tamiflu (like every other flu medication) doesn’t have any effect on the flu, since viruses can’t be cured. (for more on viruses, please see



#1. Lariam: Turning you into a Raving Psychopath

Lariam is the anti-malaria drug that, at least until 2009, was commonly prescribed to tourists, as well as being the standard go-to of the American Armed Forces for preventing malaria.

The Side Effects:

Lariam’s side effects include murderous impulses, suicides, and mental illness. Cases include that of Malcolm Edge, who was found hanging in a Vietnam hotel room, and lawyer Francis Macleod Matthews, who suffered nightmares and constant anxiety which drove him to jump from the window of his London apartment. After returning to their homes in North Carolina after tours of duty in Afghanistan, four different soldiers mutilated and killed their wives. Each of these people took Lariam while traveling abroad, and the side effects they experienced were not listed on the warning label. Not everyone who suffers side effects from Lariam turns murderous or suicidal. Some people just rip off their clothing and run through the streets screaming, while others become convinced that their families are going to be slaughtered by shadow monsters.

The drug only became so popular since the drug company that marketed it, Hoffmann-La Roche, claimed that only 1 in 10,000 users suffered serious side effects, which was completely true, when your definition of serious is "fatal or resulting in long term hospitalization." Independent studies, however, found that 1 in 140 people who took Lariam tended to experience some level of psychosis. Lariam fits are in fact so common soldiers have come up with slang terms for the days on which they took the medication, names like "Manic Mondays" or "Wild Wednesdays." Thankfully, in 2009 the American military switched back to their old anti-malaria drug, doxycycline, and Hoffmann-La Roche stopped producing Lariam in the U.S. Yet Lariam, or mefloquine, is still widely available in its generic form.


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