The Dangerous Side Effects of These Common Rx Meds Will Freak You Out

For most of us, taking prescription drugs is as routine as taking a shower. Today a whopping 60% of Americans pop pills for various ailments, according to The Washington Post.

Though getting a prescription from a doctor is commonplace, we should carefully consider what we put in our bodies. Here are 20 prescription medications with dangerous side effects. Both adults and children take a common drug that can impact sexual health (page 9). 

1. Vasotec

Man covers his mouth with his hand

Your lips and tongue may swell up while taking Vasotec. | Source: iStock

Prescribed for: high blood pressure

Who has it: 75 million Americans have high blood pressure.

As an ACE inhibitor, Vasotec relaxes your arteries, which prevents them from getting too narrow and raising your blood pressure. It can also be the difference between life and death for those struggling with heart failure. However, you may experience low blood pressure and liver dysfunction, as well as the swelling of your lips, face, or tongue.

Next: Your pee might turn purple if you take this Rx med.

2. Rifadin

Closeup photo of woman sitting on toilet and using toilet paper

We all use it, and we all know the bizarre ads that sell it. | Artfoliophoto/iStock/Getty Images

Prescribed for: treating infections

Who has it: 9,272 Americans got tuberculosis in 2016.

Rifadin can help fight an infection like tuberculosis by stopping bacteria from spreading throughout your body. But it can also form a byproduct that can stain your bodily fluids. So you might starting crying, sweating, or urinating purple — pretty scary, but it’s not dangerous. (And it only occurs for about half of the people who take Rifadin.)

Next: Hard time concentrating? It could be your anxiety medication.

3. Xanax

Man looks out window

Addiction isn’t out of the question with Xanax. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: anxiety

Who has it: 40 million Americans have anxiety.

Also called alprazolam, Xanax helps treat those suffering from anxiety and panic disorders, giving them much-needed relief. At its best, this well-known drug affects the chemicals in your brain to help balance your anxiety. At its worst, Xanax can be habit-forming, resulting in addiction, overdose, or death.

Next: Even quitting this habit can be dangerous.

4. Chantix

Woman tosses and turns in bed

Scary nightmares may be in your future. | Demaerre/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Prescribed for: quitting smoking

Who does it: Approximately 37.8 million adults smoke. (About 70% want to quit.)

Few things are more life-altering than this terrible habit. However, quitting smoking with help from this popular drug can result in intense side effects. Chantix, also known as varenicline, can cause psychiatric disturbances, such as suicidal thoughts, as well as vivid nightmares and intense withdrawals. Be sure to ask for input from your doctor.

Next: Helpful in the bedroom, not so great elsewhere

5. Viagra

young man lying in bed

Viagra can mess with your vision. | Klebercordeiro/iStock/Getty Images

Prescribed for: erectile dysfunction

Who has it: As many as 52% of men experience erectile dysfunction.

Many men take Viagra (also known as sildenafil); there were 1.7 million prescriptions for sildenafil in 2014. Although this prescription can be helpful in the bedroom, it can really hurt you too. Don’t combine Viagra with nitrate drugs used for chest pain or heart problems; you could have a stroke or heart attack.

Other side effects mess with your vision. You could experience bleeding of the eyes, double vision, or temporary vision loss. Another potential side effect: a painful erection that lasts for more than four hours.

Next: This prescription med could mess up your insides bad.

6. Nexium

Image of beautiful young woman sitting on toilet.

Nexium can hurt your insides. | iStock.com/vadimguzhva

Prescribed for: excessive stomach acid and stomach ulcers

Who has it: About 4 million Americans have peptic ulcer disease.

Excess acid production in your stomach can be painful — it makes sense that you’d want to avoid it. Nexium, also known as esomeprazole, treats conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), erosive esophagitis, and more. Just watch out for side effects like severe diarrhea, inflammation of your kidneys, and vitamin deficiencies.

Next: A serious heart problem needs serious Rx meds.

7. Lipitor

Man stretches at work

Your muscles may stop working properly. | Source: iStock

Prescribed for: heart health

Who has it: More than 102 million Americans have high cholesterol.

Two types of cholesterol exist: LDL, which is bad for your heart, and HDL, which is is known as the good cholesterol. Lipitor lowers the former and elevates the latter, which can be lifesaving for those struggling with heart health. Unfortunately, this common drug has made headlines many times for its ability to cause long-lasting muscle and nerve problems.

One Atlanta man filed a lawsuit claiming that even three years after ceasing his Lipitor use, he still experiences a lack of balance, a burning sensation in his feet and hands, and bouts of memory loss. Another lawsuit alleges that a New York man experienced extensive muscle damage and debilitating memory loss.

Next: A heart attack is a wake-up call to consider meds.

8. Plavix

Heart Pain

Chest pain should be taken seriously. | TeoLazarev/iStock/Getty Images

Prescribed for: preventing blood clots

Who has it: About 900,000 people die from blood clots each year.

Many people are tempted to ignore heart problems until it’s too late. But Plavix can treat your blood vessels so they don’t clot by preventing the platelets in your blood from coagulating. Unfortunately, it can also cause users to cough up blood or discover blood in their urine. Some people experience chest pain that spreads through their arms and shoulders.

Next: Both children and adults use this med with scary side effects.

9. Risperdal

Upset couple

Sexual dysfunction is one side effect. | Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images

Prescribed for: schizophrenia

Who has it: About 3.2 million Americans have schizophrenia.

As an antipsychotic, Risperdal can prevent the hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking associated with schizophrenia. The drug actually rebalances the brain’s serotonin and dopamine levels, helping the user lead a happier life. But treating this debilitating disease with Risperdal can also cause side effects like low blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, muscle tremors, and uncontrolled movements.

Next: This hair loss medication might hurt your sex life.

10. Propecia

bald man at work

Propecia can cause sexual dysfunction. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: male-pattern baldness

Who has it: This condition affects over 50% of men over the age of 50.

Propecia can give men a better head of hair and a lot more confidence. But one user, Kevin Malley, had no sex drive after taking the drug for six months. ABC reported Malley’s “body changed, even his genitals shrank, and he slipped into a mental fog.”

Unfortunately, a study by the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that Propecia’s side effects, including sexual dysfunction and loss of libido, may last for months or even years after ceasing drug use.

Next: This Rx med can do positive things, but it can also hurt you.

11. Cardura

Sick man with fever coughing

Trouble breathing could indicate a side effect of Cardura. | iStock.com/Alen-D

Prescribed for: relaxing the prostate muscles and treating hypertension

Who has it: 75 million Americans have high blood pressure.

Cardura, or doxazosin, blocks specific chemicals, which relaxes the prostate muscles and bladder. It also widens blood vessels, which helps with hypertension. Some people who use this prescription drug experience breathing problems, a painful erection, or an irregular heartbeat.

Next: It may help your blood sugar but hurt your heart.

12. Actos and Avandia

Middle-aged businessman suffering chest pains

Take chest pain seriously if you’re on this medication. | iStock.com/mheim3011

Prescribed for: controlling blood sugar

Who has it: 30.3 million Americans have diabetes.

Diabetics may take either Actos or Avandia to lower the sugar in their blood. How? These prescription drugs make your tissues “more sensitive to insulin, the hormone that regulates the absorption of sugar into your cells,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately, Actos and Avandia users may be at an increased risk of heart failure, heart attack, and bladder cancer.

Next: Imagine waking up in your car and not knowing how you got there.

13. Ambien

woman pulled over by police

It would be terrifying to drive with no memory of it. | bmcent1/iStock/Getty Images

Prescribed for: insomnia

Who has it: 60 million Americans have insomnia.

Not being able to sleep can be torturous, making for drowsy days and anxiety-filled nights. When Ambien improves unbalanced brain chemicals, users can experience relief. But the sedative has been known to cause impaired thinking; some people completely forget they’ve done an activity like driving a car, making a phone call, or having sex.

Next: A dangerous drop in blood pressure could land you in the hospital.

14. Mirapex

young man massaging his nose and keeping eyes closed

It may be hard to stay awake while using Mirapex. | iStock.com/g-stockstudio

Prescribed for: Parkinson’s disease

Who has it: About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year.

Also known as pramipexole, Mirapex can help someone suffering from Parkinson’s disease to move better and shake less. Decreasing stiffness and unsteadiness can dramatically help those who need the drug. Unfortunately, it can also cause them to hallucinate and experience low blood pressure and sudden sleepiness.

Next: These common antibiotics can cause nerve damage.

15. Levaquin or Cipro

Woman gets her arm checked out

You may experience some funky joint issues. | Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/ iStock/Getty Images Plus

Prescribed for: bacterial infections

Who has it: Each year 2 million Americans get infections that antibiotics can’t cure.

Both Levaquin and Cipro can remedy serious bacterial infections like urinary tract infections, chronic bronchitis, and anthrax. The antibiotics can also disable tendons, muscles, and joints, however, and they’ve been discovered to cause irreversible nerve damage in some users, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Next: It’s easy to abuse this drug.

16. Klonopin

This drug can help and hurt. | Source: iStock

Prescribed for: panic attacks and seizures

Who has it: One in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy.

Klonopin, also known as clonazepam, increases the effects of a neurotransmitter that moderates the brain’s nerve signals. This can be invaluable to those suffering from panic attacks or seizures.

As a controlled substance, the drug can be abused by users, who can overdose with grave side effects. Emergency room visits due to clonazepam abuse grew by 122% from 2004 to 2011. Other side effects include suicidal thoughts and chest pain.

Next: A common heart disease prescription

17. Brilinta

Hand of a blood donor squeezing a medical rubber ball

Brilinta can cause dangerously heavy bleeding. | iStock.com/roibu

Prescribed for: heart disease

Who has it: Heart disease causes one in four U.S. deaths annually.

Despite the fact that Brilinta can cause dizziness, nausea, and severe bleeding, the drug is used by many to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people with heart disease. Doctors may recommend using Brilinta along with low-dose aspirin, and they’ll stress not to take it too often because those side effects may increase.

Next: Unexplained rashes are embarrassing.

18. Lamictal

Woman scratching her itchy back

Epilepsy treatments are important, but rashes could follow suit. | iStock.com/Voyagerix

Prescribed for: epilepsy

Who has it: One in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy.

Both adults and children can use Lamictal to manage this neurological disorder involving sudden convulsions and loss of consciousness. Unfortunately, this drug can cause serious rashes requiring hospitalization. Suicidal thoughts are also a side effect of this anti-epileptic.

Next: This addiction treatment can cause breathing problems.

19. Methadone

doctor handing out medication

Methadone is highly addictive for some. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: relief from extreme pain and withdrawal symptoms

Who has it: More than 115 Americans die of opioid overdoses every day.

Opiate addiction is a severe problem in the U.S., and many doctors rely on Methadone to treat patients in withdrawal. Known as an opiate analgesic, the drug alters the way the nervous system and brain respond to pain. Although this drug can aid an addict with their recovery, it can also cause life-threatening breathing problems, hallucinations, nausea, agitation, fever, intense muscle stiffness, and more.

Next: Treatment for an incurable disease can cause liver failure.

20. Viekira Pak

Doctor and nurses wheeling patient

Monitor your condition closely while taking Viekira Pak. | iStock.com/ Sam Edwards

Prescribed for: hepatitis C

Who has it: About 3.5 million Americans currently live with hepatitis C.

Those suffering from hepatitis C certainly need help treating it. And Viekira Pak can help. However, it also has terrible side effects for those with underlying advanced liver disease. Taking Viekira Pak can lead to liver injury and failure, which can result in death.

Additional reporting by Sarah Kaye Santos and Ali Harrison.