5 Popular Medications You Won't Believe Mess With Your Brain

If you want to terrify yourself, go into your medicine cabinet and read all of the really weird side effects at the bottom of the label. Beyond the normal "headache" or "upset stomach," you get weird shit that reads like ironic punishments from a vengeful genie.

Sure, most users won't see this kind of black magic side effects, but that just means you're all the more surprised when you run into ...

#5. The Flu Medication That Can Cause Psychosis

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The Medication:

Tamiflu is a wildly popular treatment for the flu, frequently prescribed for parents to pump their children full of at the first sign of a sniffle. Which is about to get a bit terrifying, since Tamiflu ...

Media for Medical / UIG / Getty
This bullshit.

The Side Effect:

... can send you on a bad trip reminiscent of a ridiculous old-school anti-marijuana PSA. That's seriously the best way we can think of to accurately summarize the symptoms, which range from hallucinations to psychosis to impulsive behavior. Kids taking it have tried to dive out of the windows of moving cars. Dr. Lawrence G. Roberts, aka "the creator of the freaking Internet," blacked out and introduced a tree to the inner workings of his BMW after taking it, while other adults have just gone whole hog and committed suicide.

But instead of slamming that shit to bits with the ban hammer, the FDA has sort of gone in the exact opposite direction, approving Tamiflu for use with newborns and infants. Which we guess actually makes a twisted kind of sense -- being skin sacks full of Jell-O, infants literally can't chase the pretty colors, so running out into traffic isn't really a concern. Also, they lack the fine motor skills to properly operate a handgun.

"Don't make me take my hat off, old man. You know what happens when I'm on the wacky meds."

But the benefits are probably worth the possible side effects, right? After all, the flu is a really nasty, even potentially fatal virus that's implicated in thousands of deaths every year. So if Tamiflu can save people, maybe it's worth the risks. After all, a big-time medication like this wouldn't even be on the shelves if it hadn't been proven effective in numerous peer-reviewed double-blind scientific studies that -- wait, it hasn't? It doesn't seem to have any effect on the flu? Tamiflu, like most other flu medications, doesn't do anything (except maybe trigger a pseudo PCP freakout)?

Aaaaand, several of you are right now trying to think of how you can get your hands on some. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
Tamiflu: keeping you at the intersection of sickness and style.

#4. The Cholesterol Medication That Can Give You Amnesia

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The Medication:

Lipitor is an extremely mundane-sounding cholesterol medication that has become the world's top selling drug. The reason is pretty obvious: Everyone's worried about heart disease in the land of the fried and the home of the battered, and Lipitor promises to scare the heart disease gremlins away.

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Almost as well as not putting ridiculous amounts of it into your body in the first place.

The Side Effect:

Memory loss. And to be clear, we're not talking about the "Gosh, where did I leave my keys?" type of memory loss that even the most intellectually refined of us suffer from daily -- no, this is full-on "Where am I, who is this woman who says she's my wife, and why is there adamantium fused to my skeleton?" amnesia.

That's exactly what happened to 68-year-old Duane Graveline back in 1999 (minus the adamantium part ... as far as we know). One minute the guy was just your average, run-of-the-mill former NASA astronaut; the next, he completely forgot who he was, where he lived, and who he was married to. And that's a veritable tragedy because, while we acknowledge that every life is precious and all that jazz, we're pretty sure that a former astronaut's memories are objectively more valuable than the stupid shit that's filling most of the rest of our heads. Luckily Graveline's amnesia cleared up six hours later, and he stopped taking the drug immediately ... until his doctor convinced him to give it another shot a year later and, sure enough, he had a second episode of the who-the-hell-are-yous.

Via Wikipedia
Did we mention he was a flight surgeon and a colonel? Because he totally fucking was.

Graveline is just one of the hundreds who've reported similar side effects to the FDA, and the really weird part is that no one knows exactly why Lipitor (and other "statin" drugs) have this effect on some people -- partly because people who take heart disease medication tend to be older, and older people are already prone to dementia and other diseases that the memory loss might be mistaken for. But the leading theory is that cholesterol -- the stuff that you know from commercials as being your arteries' boogeyman -- is actually 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 fucking up your brain's capacity to remember stuff.

Of course, the FDA is nothing if not on the ball, and they jumped right on making the manufacturers of statin drugs add "Weapon X Syndrome" to their warning labels ... in 2012.

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
Maybe they were taking the drug and just forgot.

#3. The Anti-Malaria Medication That May Make You a Deranged Psychopath


The Medication:

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, which is a debilitating flu-like illness common in the kind of hot, muggy climates that always seem to be rife with debilitating flu-like illnesses.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Come for the beautiful weather -- stay because you've been quarantined.

The Side Effect:

Cambridge student Jessica Chapman is found unconscious from a drug overdose in some bushes near her home, one year after Irish student Malcolm Edge was found hanging in a Vietnam hotel room. Nightmares and constant anxiety drive lawyer Francis Macleod Matthews to jump from his London apartment. Four different soldiers return to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after tours of duty in Afghanistan and go full-on horror movie on their wives. What do all these stories have in common? Each of these people took Lariam while traveling abroad, and not one of them noticed "batshittedness" in the list of side effects (because it wasn't there).

To be fair, not everyone who suffers side effects from Lariam turns all suicidal and/or stabby. Some people just rip off all their clothes and run through the street screaming, while others rip off all their clothes and become convinced that their families are going to be slaughtered by shadow monsters -- like Jane Daehler, who, during a trip to Africa, had to be strapped to her seat with bedsheets and flown home, where she spent a solid month in a "Lariam-induced psychosis."

She couldn't even grocery shop without running over poor bastards GTA style.

Lariam freakouts are in fact so common that men and women in the service came up with slang terms for them: The days they took the medication were known as "Manic Mondays" or "Wild Wednesdays." Sort of like how college students have "Thirsty Thursdays," only with less shitty beer and more psychotic violence.

So how did this drug become so popular despite the fact that it's basically the Scarecrow's fear toxin from Batman Begins? Because 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 go a bit Mad Hatter, which would technically be a misnomer if it was labeled as a "serious" side effect, we guess.

"The trick is to keep your real life so surreal that you can't tell tripping from sobriety."

Hoffmann-La Roche stopped producing Lariam in the U.S. in 2009, the same year that the military switched back to their old anti-malaria drug, doxycycline. But there's good news for all you aspiring supervillains out there: Lariam, or mefloquine, is still widely available in its generic form.

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