6 Popular Medications With Baffling Side Effects
Everyone who has ever seen a prescription drug ad is familiar with the many, many side effects they can potentially cause, because manufacturers are required to spit them all out at lightning speed to avoid a nasty lawsuit should their product happen to kill anyone. Most of those potential side effects are relatively standard, such as dizziness, diarrhea, or catastrophic organ failure.
However, as we've told you before, there is a subset of side effects that skip the whole "embarrassing rash" part and go straight to "body horror film," and they are all caused by fairly common medications.
Risperdal Might Give You Man-Boobs (And Diabetes)
Risperdal is a popular medication used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. However, because no drug used to treat depression would be complete unless its side effects were equally depressing, Risperdal also apparently has a knack for causing male users to suddenly grow breasts as if cursed by an angry sorceress.
According to a seemingly endless stream of lawsuits that has been trickling in from 2012 to the present, Risperdal carries a very real potential for a heaping side order of gynecomastia, aka swollen male breast tissue, a risk that was heroically downplayed by the drug's manufacturer.
In 2006, researchers studied the effects of the drug on a group of 10 adolescents, both male and female. Out of those 10, three boys developed breasts and two girls started randomly lactating. Even worse, a recent study showed that teenagers taking antipsychotic drugs (including Risperdal) tripled their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes within the first year of use.
Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of the drug, has allegedly been aware of these side effects since the 1990s, but decided to put the product on the market anyway, because you don't just let a touch of diabetes and clinical trials of 1,885 children that see 2 percent of them spontaneously grow boobs come between you and $24 billion.
A Cancer Drug Can Make Your Fingerprints Disappear
In 2009, U.S. immigration officials detained a 62-year-old man attempting to enter the country under the guise of "visiting" his "relatives," which is clearly terrorist-speak for "murdering the Great Satan America with a shoe bomb." Vigilant airport officials caught on to his nefarious plot after he failed a fingerprint test to verify his identity. However, it turned out that not only was the man completely innocent of any terrorist threat, he was actually exactly who he claimed to be -- an elderly cancer patient trying to visit his American relatives. He just happened to be taking a cancer medication that had inconveniently erased his fingerprints like he was Kevin Spacey in Se7en.
The drug, called Capecitabine, is used to treat a cache of cancers (breast, neck, head, colorectal, etc.), but carries the unfortunately common side effect known as hand-foot syndrome. This manifests itself through a host of terrifying symptoms including swelling, dysesthesia (when your nerves apply the incorrect sensation to a touch, e.g. feeling the sensation of pain or burning when your skin touches a regular surface), and hyperpigmentation (when your skin becomes dark and splotchy). Eventually, there will be blisters, and large portions of your skin may straight-up fall off your body. This includes the skin on your fingertips, which is a roundabout way of saying that Capecitabine can literally make you shed your fingerprints.
Apart from the obvious horrors listed above, the loss of your fingerprints is a serious handicap, particularly if you are an immigrant or someone who frequently travels to other countries. The U.S. has been fingerprinting travelers coming from foreign countries for years to make sure their fingers aren't attached to terrorist hands. Other countries use a biometric passport system that, among other things, includes fingerprint identification features.
Even if you never leave your home country, losing your prints might still leave you screwed. Biometric security is the hot new fad, sort of like the Hammer pants of the current decade. At least your fingerprint-scanning iPhone gives you an alternate method to unlock it ... for now.
Tetracycline Can Turn Your Smile Into A Discolored Nightmare
Your teenage years are some of the most awkward of your entire life. You start to notice people you find attractive, you grow hair in new and terrifying places, and you sprout enough acne to cosplay a Biblical plague. Luckily, every single medical researcher has gone through that phase too, which is why you have a host of acne medicines at your disposal.
That includes Tetracycline, a six-decade veteran of fighting acne with antibiotics in order to make emotionally vulnerable adolescents look more like human beings and less like Jim Henson creature effects. However, while Tetracycline may clear up your complexion in time for prom, it also has the unfortunate side effect of turning your mouth into a sack full of foul decay:
That spoiled grin occurs in roughly 3 to 4 percent of patients. It's a side effect we've known about since 1956, when the first reports of children winding up with old people teeth surfaced (since it occurs in any use of the antibiotic, whether it be for acne or anything else). Different derivatives of the drug were developed in an effort to eliminate the risk of mouth ruination, such as Minocycline ... which managed to increase the frequency of Tar Tooth in all users.
To make matters worse, the probability of your teeth turning into layer cake heavily increases if you take Tetracycline for an extended period of time, which is pretty much par for the course for acne medication, where a treatment can take as long as 12 weeks. Oh, and the discoloration can't be reversed. Unless you're prepared to invest in porcelain veneers or whatever, your brand-new licorice teeth are a permanent part of your identity, which is just what every teenager suffering from a huge acne problem wants to hear.
Osteoporosis Medication May Break Your Strongest Bones
You may recognize osteoporosis as the disease that causes old people's bones to shatter for the slightest fucking reason available, such as a nudge from a kitten or a gentle afternoon breeze. So it would be reasonable to expect that a medicine prescribed to treat osteoporosis, such as Fosamax, wouldn't include "snapping your femurs" in its list of potential side effects. But you would be wrong -- Fosamax, a drug administered to treat bone loss, may actually cause your bones to shatter.
A little background: Fosamax was long considered the Rolls-Royce of bone-loss treatment, thanks to creative marketing and doctors' willingness to prescribe it for people suffering from any bone-loss issues at all, regardless of the seriousness of their condition. It became so popular that it racked up $3 billion a year in sales before its patent expired in 2008 and competitors began to hit the market. However, in what was presumably the result of a grievous confusion of the words "treat" and "cause," Fosamax can weaken your thigh bones (which you may recognize as the strongest damn bones in the human body) until they become susceptible to absurd, snap-like-a-twig-style fractures that are traditionally limited to cartoon characters. One woman broke her femur while skipping rope with some kids, while another snapped hers just stepping backward.
To be fair, the cases are relatively rare and, for the most part, only befall post-menopausal women. That said, thousands of Fosamax users were prickly enough over their broken legs to file lawsuits against the drug's manufacturer, because the absolute last thing you want your anti-bone-snapping medication to do is snap your goddamned bones.
Abilify Can Give You The Dancing Plague
Abilify is a drug originally prescribed for schizophrenia that is now one of the most popular treatments for bipolar disorder and other depressive disorders, because its manufacturers apparently realized that there is very little money in treating schizophrenia. Since it was approved for expanded use by the FDA in 2005, Abilify's sales have doubled, and the drug has become the first line of treatment for a whole bunch of psychiatrists.
"I began to pace and was unable to sit still. I literally walked the halls for three days straight. I was desperate for relief and felt in order to keep myself safe I needed to be hospitalized during that time."
Basically, it's a medically induced version of the Dancing Plague. Luckily, you can put an end to this nonstop disco by quitting Abilify ... except, of course, for the cases in which akathisia continues along undaunted even after Abilify is no longer in your system. Abilify's commercials carefully dance around the whole "you may suddenly be unable to stop moving" thing, but do urge you to "talk to your doctor about uncontrollable muscle movements, as these could become permanent." That's right -- not only might you be unable to stay still, that shit might go on forever.
What's worse, Abilify isn't even very good at treating bipolar disorder. During the study that eventually led to the drug being approved by the FDA, less than a fifth of the participants actually finished their medication course. Furthermore, the study was funded by the drug's manufacturer and its marketing counterpart. Psychiatrist and Harvard researcher Alexander C. Tsai even referred to the drug's expanded use as "an embarrassment to the profession." So, you may still be depressed, but at least you'll have a neurological inability to stop moving.
Mirapex Can Basically Turn Your World Into A Horror Movie
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disease that we still know very little about as far as its exact cause, despite the fact that it has effectively stolen our chances at ever seeing another Back To The Future sequel where an aging Marty and Doc have to go on an elderly adventure. However, science has taken huge strides in trying to control Parkinson's, one of which is a drug called Mirapex, meant to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's. Unfortunately, Mirapex has a second, completely unintended function, and that is to cast its users into an alternate Hell dimension where reality is a figment of someone else's imagination.
Basically, the paddleboat scene from Willy Wonka.
Mirapex can cause vividly real hallucinations that vary greatly from user to user. Some people see weird things out of the corner of their eye, while others describe seeing two-dimensional beings and human shapes made entirely out of shadows. Still others get into arguments with miniature humans that are harassing them. And those are just the hallucinations. Mirapex carries a litany of terrifying side effects that read like the shooting schedule for a David Cronenberg film, including: nausea, sweating, light-headedness, fainting, pain, tremors, twitching, uncontrolled movements of various appendages (a symptom you may recognize as being one from the disease this drug is meant to control), and weirdly colored urine (because at this point, why not?)
With all those potential side effects stalking your ass, you could hallucinate some nightmare beast leaping out of your closet and beating you until your piss turns brown, and you'd feel pain. Then, you'd pass out in a wave of nausea, only to wake up later and repeat the process with a different hallucination. It'd be a carousel of nonstop terror.
Parkinson's is a pretty terrible disease, so we suppose that all these potential risks are at least somewhat justifiable in exchange for experiencing some relief. However, Mirapex is also prescribed to treat restless leg syndrome, a comparatively harmless condition that affects up to 10 percent of American adults. This seems to suggest that Mirapex's formulation and distribution is being masterminded by the goddamned Scarecrow.
Also be sure to check out 6 Medication Side Effects Straight Out Of A Horror Movie and The 6 Most Unsettling Medication Side Effects.