‘I’d Rather Have Malaria’: The Worst Side Effects Medical Science Has Ever Achieved

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‘I’d Rather Have Malaria’: The Worst Side Effects Medical Science Has Ever Achieved

“The side effects are worse than the disease!” Its a classic comedic chestnut walked out across the ages, especially in reference to a motor-mouthed voiceover at the end of a medication commercial. Its earned, and genuinely alarming, as anyone whos watched over-the-air television in the last few years can attest. They know the only people still paying for cable are your parents, and theyre trying to fill them with pills until they sound like an elderly maraca. Among all these highly concerning side effects, though, there are some that are unsettling in a much less medical and more “okay, how do bodies even work” way.

Here are five of the most bizarre effects drugs have ever managed to pull off as a side hustle…

Sleepwalking

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By far the most well-known of these, but also definitely one of the weirdest, is the sleepwalking that can come with Ambien. The term “sleepwalking” being maybe overly charitable here, given that the worst sufferers end up living basically a strange little second life while asleep. This isnt your dog adorably pumping its front legs running through a dream field. This is people being both completely unconscious, yet somehow functional enough to do everything from cooking to driving cars on autopilot. A drowsy spouse sitting in an armchair, thinking hes in a car is one thing. Someone who is turned off being able to find and successfully insert a pair of car keys? A hundred years ago, that's an exorcism.

No Fingerprints

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Okay team, heres my master plan for the perfect heist. First, we all contract cancer in our head and neck. Wait, wheres everybody going? I thought you guys were tough! In what has to be one of the most excruciating ways to avoid identification, even in a realm that includes going full Se7en on all 10 fingers, one cancer medication has the side effect of possibly removing your fingerprints. It’s real enough that a Cambodian man who was on capecitabine for his cancer treatment was detained at the airport when he showed up without fingerprints.

Tendon Rupture

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Speaking of side effects pulled straight out of a horror movie, lets head over to Pet Sematary. Unfortunately, its not the “pet coming back to life” part that would provide you with one last hug, even if it got a little bloody. Its the other thing, the one the movie is arguably better known for: severed achilles tendons (I could YouTube link here, but Ill save us all the nausea). Japanese researchers found a link between fluoroquinolone antibiotics and “tendon rupture,” which is to say, they found 504 patients in a Japanese prefecture whose Achilles tendons had ripped after going on the antibiotics.

A Gambling Problem

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Abilify is a drug with a rather flowery name, given that its an anti-psychotic used to treat schizophrenia. Unfortunately, patients started to discover that as it quieted some voices, it amplified others — most notably, ones having to do with impulse control, with compulsive gambling being a particularly financially devastating bugaboo. One that occurred often enough that it had to be given its own specific callout on the drug's label. They say this particular side effect is uncommon, but I like my chances.

Murder

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The inspiration for the article title is a particular anti-malarial drug, mefloquine. Apparently, the trade-off for no mosquito disease is, occasionally, full-blown psychosis. No half-measures here, with one sufferer recalling that he “felt he knew God, and that he was his second son. I began writing a new religion.” You could see how we're already one bad trip away from disaster. Well, that horrible possibility may have come to pass in a shooting committed by Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood. Its far from confirmed, but its also not the first murder spree speculated to be caused by the drug, with three killings at Fort Bragg also floated as a possible result of mefloquine-related psychosis.

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