5 Medications with Weird Side Effects

Nearly 9 out of every 10 Americans use over-the-counter (or “OTC”) medications, and about 7 out of 10 adults in the United States use prescription drugs regularly. While we all know these medications are used to help treat or manage symptoms, did you know they may also cause some bizarre side effects? Some side effects are common and minor, like an upset stomach, but what about blue urine? Or even sleep driving? Check out 5 bizarre side effects and answers to how to fix them.

Blue urine

You might wonder where the blue-green coloring came from when taking amitriptyline. Amitriptyline (Elavil) is an antidepressant, with some common side effects including increased blood sugar and increased susceptibility to sunburns. But one thing you may notice more is blue urine caused by the artificial blue coloring in the medication formula. Thankfully, this blue-green coloring is harmless to the body and is normal among other medications such as indomethacin and propofol.

Red urine/contact lenses

Getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) is not fun. It can make you urinate more often, cause a burning sensation while you urinate, or you may even see blood in your urine from the infection. To treat the infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic called nitrofurantoin (Macrobid). If you are experiencing pain from the UTI, doctors may also prescribe a short duration of phenazopyridine (Pyridium) to help manage the pain symptoms. But don’t be alarmed if both of these medications cause your urine to turn red or orange–it’s harmless. However, be aware if you use contact lenses. Phenazopyridine can stain your contact lenses, so it is recommended to avoid wearing them and instead use glasses.

Black/darkened tongue or stool

One time or another, we’ve all experienced unpleasant diarrhea. A common OTC medication to help manage this symptom is Pepto Bismol. You can find Pepto Bismol at most gas stations, grocery stores, and pharmacies in its iconic bright pink bottle and yellow logo. What you might not know about Pepto is that it may cause you to have a black or darkened tongue or grayish-black stools. If you’ve taken Pepto in the past, you’ll know these side effects are temporary, harmless, and will go away after discontinuation of the medication. If you do get diarrhea, just remember, it is important to drink clear water after each loose stool to stay hydrated.

Compulsive gambling and sex

Some medications can have an effect on your decision-making that you might regret later. Ropinirole (Requip)–a medication that treats Parkinson disease and restless leg syndrome (RLS)–is one of these. One reported side effect for ropinirole is uncontrollable strong urges that can include excessive eating, spending money, gambling, and sex. Other medications that also have this reported side effect are abilify and carbidopa-levodopa. When taking these medications, watch out for these signs and contact your primary care physician if the urges worsen.

Sleep eating, walking, & driving

Zolpidem (Ambien), a very common sleeping pill, can make you act as if you are living in a dream. You might wake up in the middle of the night to eat something or take a walk, but not remember the next morning. Even worse–although rare–is sleep driving, which can happen from taking zolpidem. If these side effects happen to you, immediately stop taking the medication and contact your primary care provider.

Are you taking any medication and experiencing a bizarre side effect? Our pharmacists can help you figure out if it’s normal or something to get checked-out. Give us a call at 833-466-3979 for a free consultation.

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Dr. Jessica Nouhavandi