A side effect is an unattended result produced by a drug.
Side effects can be useful in some instances, like medications that may have a side effect like sedation, which can be given to people who are suffering from delirium. Side effects can also be detrimental.
The most common side effects of medications are typically physical effects, such as nausea, dizziness, and changes in blood pressure.
There are some medications that produce very extraordinary side effects in a small percentage of people who take them. These include hallucinogens, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and z-drugs.
There is a classification of drugs — hallucinogens — where the intended effect of the drug is to produce hallucinations. Some of the more well-known hallucinogens are LSD, mescaline, and magic mushrooms. However, some prescription medications may also produce hallucinations as a side effect.
The drug Mirapex, which is primarily used to treat Parkinson’s disease or restless legs syndrome, can produce the unwanted side effect of visual hallucinations in some people. The hallucinations are typically very strange, like seeing people hiding in your closet or seeing large snakes.
Visual hallucinations and severe psychosis can be side effects of other drugs, including Lariam, a drug used to treat malaria.
Compulsive Behaviors or Addiction
A very odd side effect of some drugs is a loss of impulse control that occurs in a small percentage of people.
Mirapex (pramipexole), a drug that increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, has been reputed to produce compulsive gambling, compulsive shopping, and even alcoholism in people who are taking it. It may also increase sexual urges in some people (which might be a desired side effect in some cases). These reputed side effects have been verified in legal battles from patients who have experienced them and resulted in lawsuits that have been successful for the patients.
Other drugs that increase dopamine levels, like the drug Requip or the antidepressant Abilify, have been known to result in loss of impulse control. They can lead to compulsive gambling, compulsive shopping, binge eating, or compulsive sex.
Peeling Hands and Feet
Xeloda (capecitabine), a medication that may be used to treat breast cancer or colorectal cancer, may produce a rare side effect known as hand-foot syndrome. The syndrome produces chronic inflammation of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet that results in skin peeling off these areas. You may ultimately develop ulcers or blisters, and this can lead to a loss of your fingerprints.
One well-known case involved the detention of a man from Singapore who was trying to enter the U.S. He was detained because he had no fingerprints as result of using the drug.
Loss of Smell
Anosmia, a loss of smell, is a crazy side effect of several medications.
Antipsychotic medications like chlorpromazine, antihypertensive medications like enalapril, and even prolonged use of Sudafed can lead to a loss of smell, which can also affect your appetite. People who have a chronic loss of smell may lose a significant amount of weight due to decreased appetite.
Crawling Out of Your Skin
Akathisia is a condition that involves significant restlessness and uneasiness that results in severe fidgeting. For people with akathisia, the uneasiness becomes so unbearable that they actually want to leave their bodies or “crawl out of their own skin.”
This crazy side effect can occur as a result of using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac or Zoloft for depression, the anti-anxiety medication buspirone, or some medications to treat nausea. When the effects of the medication wear off, the side effect usually dissipates.
Nails That Fall Off
Onycholysis occurs when the nails on the hands and feet separate from their nailbed and falloff. This can be very painful and lead to infections.
It is a rare side effect of several different antibiotics, the drug tetracycline that is used to treat acne, chemotherapy, and some types of oral contraceptives.
Perhaps the drug that should take the prize for producing one of the craziest side effects is the sedative Ambien.
Some people who use Ambien to help them sleep also develop parasomnias, or the performance of certain behaviors while asleep, such as driving, eating, cooking, having sex, or having conversations while asleep.
When people wake up, they have no memory of performing these behaviors. In some cases, people who take Ambien have engaged in very strange behaviors like eating cigarettes or eggshells.
The street term Ambien zombie is used to describe individuals who perform bizarre behaviors while asleep and then have no memory of the behavior when they wake up. Obviously, this can be dangerous side effect, as in the case of driving while asleep.
The FDA has mandated a warning label on Ambien regarding the development of parasomnias. Now, people who use Ambien should understand this risk.