A series of prescription drug bottles, fanned out on a tabletop.
Prescription drugs: Medical aid and menace. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Thirteen of Clubs/Flickr)

If you’ve ever seen or heard a prescription drug commercial, you know that the list of possible side effects can be lengthy and frightening. Some of the most commonly prescribed medications can produce unintended side effects that can place the user in danger or deride quality of life.

Read the fine print on prescription drugs

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 1991 and 2010, the number of prescriptions written for stimulants in the United States increased nine-fold. Instances of prescriptions for opioid analgesics increased six-fold over the same period. Easy availability and misconceptions regarding safety have made prescription drugs a dangerous way for the disinterested and the distraught to tune out the static.

Addiction, heightened risk of HIV infection, toxic shock and overdose rank among the most catastrophic outcomes of abusing prescription medication. When used as directed, however, doctors claim the drugs can be safe. Here are some other unintended side effects of prescription drug use.


Drugs like Mirapex, which was developed to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and Restless Leg Syndrome, can cause amnesia. Studies have shown that short-term memory loss can result from Mirapex use. Cholesterol-reducing statins like Lipitor can have the same effect. It has been theorized that Lipitor blocks cholesterol so well that in inhibits the creation of cholesterol needed for neurological function.

Body aches and loss of muscle control

Antihistamines like Allegra fight hay fever and allergies, but improper use can result in muscle pain and backaches. Pain, stiffness and a loss of muscle control can also result from the use of Lipitor. Drug maker Pfizer has been sued by some patients who claim Lipitor caused permanent muscle and nerve damage.

Blurring of the senses

Vasotec treats high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, but it can cause users to lose their sense of smell and taste, develop tinnitus and experience blurred vision. Erectile dysfunction medication Viagra can also blur vision, cause the user to see everything in a bluish tint and cause inability to tell the difference between blue and green.

Hallucinations and terror

Mirapex has been known to produce hallucinations that can increase tremors in Parkinson’s sufferers. A U.S. Army study found that Lariam, an anti-malaria drug, can also cause hallucinations and violent psychotic behavior. The anti-smoking drug Chantix can cause nightmares and night terrors. Sleep-inducing drugs like Lunestra and Ambien have also been known to provoke violent sleepwalking behavior.


Mirapex returns, this time due to cases of heavy drinking and compulsive gambling. Hypersexuality and food binging are other observed side effects. Lariam, Chantix and the anti-depressant Paxil have also led to suicidal thoughts, according to the FDA.

Birth defects

Between 1956 and 1962, nearly 10,000 pregnant women who took prescription Thalidomide as a sleeping aid and anti-nausea pill gave birth to babies whose limbs were extremely short or missing. After being off the market for some time, Thalidomide recently returned with strict controls as a treatment for leprosy and multiple myeloma cancer.

‘Whatever you need a pill for, it’s there’


CNN Money: http://money.cnn.com/2006/06/08/news/companies/lipitor/index.htm

Discovery Fit & Health: http://bit.ly/oB349s

Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/22034.php

National Institute on Drug Abuse: http://www.nida.nih.gov/tib/prescription.html

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