The Dangerous Side Effects of These Commons 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 your doctor for the pharmacy to fill commonplace, we should carefully consider what we put in our bodies. Here are 20 prescription medications with their fair share of dangerous side effects. Both adults and children take a common drug that can impact their sexual health (page 9). 

1. Vasotec

man clutching his heart in pain

Vasotec may affect your liver. | iStock.com

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

2. Xanax

Woman taking pills

Xanax can be addictive. | iStock.com/CentralITAlliance

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

3. Viekira Pak

emergency room entrance

Viekira Pak can lead to liver failure. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: 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.

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

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: This addiction treatment can cause breathing problems.

5. Methadone

doctor handing out medication

Methadone is highly addictive for some. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: relief from extreme pain and withdrawal symptoms

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: This prescription med could mess up your insides bad.

6. Nexium

Closeup photo of woman reaching for toilet paper

Watch out for the side effects of Nexium. | Artfoliophoto/iStock/Getty Images

Prescribed for: excessive stomach acid and stomach ulcers

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

Doctor and patient

Lipitor can help your heart but hurt your memory. | iStock.com/AlexRaths

Prescribed for: heart health

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

man coughing as he stands outside

Coughing might look a lot different on Plavix. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: preventing blood clots

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 prescription with scary side effects.

9. Risperdal

older couple in an argument

Risperdal can cause some very undesirable side effects in men and women. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: 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: Experiencing sexual dysfunction? This hair loss medication might be the culprit.

10. Propecia

bald man at work

Propecia can cause sexual dysfunction. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: male-pattern baldness

Propecia can give men a better head of hair and a lot more confidence. But one user, Kevin Malley, had absolutely no sex drive after taking the drug for six months. ABC reported that 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

a female nurse in blue scrubs

A nurse takes notes. | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Prescribed for: relaxing the prostate muscles and treating hypertension

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

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: Experiencing gaps in your memory? It could be your sleep aid.

13. Ambien

confuse woman in driver's seat

Some Ambien users don’t remember getting in their cars and driving. | Getty Images

Prescribed for: 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: Suddenly faint? This Parkinson’s medication can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

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

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 coughing

This antibiotic for chronic bronchitis could be harmful. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: bacterial infections

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: Facial swelling? It could be an effect of this medication commonly prescribed for panic disorders.

16. Klonopin

man lost in depression

Klonopin can make depression symptoms worse. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: panic attacks and seizures

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

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? It could be your epilepsy medication.

18. Lamictal

Woman scratching her arm

Lamictal can cause a severe rash. | iStock.com/Tharakorn

Prescribed for: 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: Do not get pregnant while taking this medication. 

19. Accutane

Beautiful woman in a bathrobe applying skin moisturizer

Accutane comes with a variety of risks. | iStock.com/Dejan_Dundjerski

Prescribed for: acne

Living with skin problems is terrible, and Accutane can provide relief to frustrated teens and adults by treating severe cystic acne that hasn’t responded to other treatments.

However, doctors stress how crucial it is for female users to avoid getting pregnant. Many studies link Accutane to serious birth defects, so “women of childbearing age are required to enroll in a special pregnancy prevention program before beginning Accutane treatment,” according to DrugWatch. Other side effects include liver damage, depression, and bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease.

Next: Sudden leg pain? It might be your birth control.

20. Yaz

three types of birth control

Yaz may be more dangerous than other types of birth control. | iStock.com

Prescribed for: preventing pregnancy, hormonal acne, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Yaz is a rather dynamic prescription drug recommended for women 14 and older. It can treat PMDD, a severe form of PMS, and clear up moderate acne. Although women rely on it for these reasons — and to prevent pregnancy — they may be at an increased risk of blood clots, which could travel to the brain, heart, or lungs. Studies also link Yaz to high cholesterol, high potassium levels, and gallbladder disease.

Additional reporting by Sarah Kaye Santos and Ali Harrison.

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