3The Anti-Malaria Medication That May Make You a Deranged 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, 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.
2The Acne Medication That Can Make Your Brain Think It Has a Tumor
Accutane is the Special Forces of acne medications. While topical creams bang on acne's door and flash their stupid little badges, Accutane sneaks in through the bloodstream and assassinates the shit out of acne by shutting down the production of sebum, the oils your face produces. Sure, there are some civilian casualties (your face dries right the hell out), but if they didn't want to be accidentally murdered in the pursuit of the greater good, they shouldn't have been called sebum. And besides, Accutane is only used when we're dealing with, like, the Vietnam War of acne.
"Goddammit, prom is coming up! Does anyone have a bazooka?"
The Side Effect:
If serious acne is Vietnam, Accutane might just be its Agent Orange. One of its weirder side effects is giving you a brain tumor ... or at least making your brain pretty damn sure that's what's happened. It's called pseudotumor cerebri (because "phantom brain tumor" was already the name of a goth band), and it's a disorder with all the symptoms of a brain tumor: dizziness, nausea, headaches, and "pulsating intracranial noises," which is when you hear "whooshing" or "sloshing" inside your head.
But really, that's only the creepiest side effect associated with Accutane. The list of things this drug will do to you is like the War and Peace of shitty drug side effects, but the personal anecdotes are where you'll find the really twisted stuff. In addition to suicide (boring, we've already covered that a couple times now) and aggression (hell, good whiskey does that), Accutane will, and we're quoting an actual user here, "make hair grow on the side of [your] nose, what the hell." On the other hand, some people have suffered the opposite: long lasting or even permanent hair loss. In fact, the hair loss thing is so common that there's a WikiHow specifically about trying to prevent it from happening.
Step 1: Cut off your face and set aside. We'll be using it again in future steps.
So naturally, Hoffmann-La Roche (the company that makes Accutane) has stopped selling it, partly because of the decline in sales, but also because of the numerous personal injury lawsuits from people pissed off that their acne medication has (again, quoting an actual Accutane user) "ruined [their] life." Generic versions of the drug are still available, though, in case you happen to have both a serious acne problem and a serious self-loathing problem.