The Tangential Thinker

Do you have restless leg syndrome, or do you suffer from seasonal allergies? Are you trying to lose weight or quit smoking? Is you hairline receding? Are you having trouble falling asleep? Are your eyelashes too short? I have good news. There’s a pill for that. I also have bad news: Side effects may vary.

    Last week I was flipping through the New England Journal of Medicine—OK, it was Us Weekly—and I came across an ad for a medication to treat an oddly specific non-life threatening ailment. One side effect stood out: sudden death. I found the word ‘sudden’ profoundly disturbing, and I’m assuming they don’t mean whoever scores next wins. You don’t even get a couple of weeks to realize you don’t feel that hot and decide to stop taking it. That hardly seems fair. So anyway, I did a little digging and found that there are some very interesting, and slightly off-putting side effects reported from a wide variety of fairly common medications. Many, as you can well imagine, are not PG-rated.

    The first one that caught my eye was ‘compulsive behavior.’ We’ve all heard the stories about sleep eating and the psychedelic dreams, but I can do you one better: The drug commonly prescribed to treat restless leg syndrome, a.k.a. the jimmy leg, has a side effect of compulsive behavior like sex and gambling. And if you’re picturing a sexy Lothario in a white dinner jacket in the high rollers’ room at the Wynn, think again.

Next we have grey skin syndrome. I think that is as self-explanatory as it is bizarre. While we are on color change, a lash-lengthening product has a possible side effect of permanently changing your eye color. Oddly enough, longer eyelashes were a side effect of the drug’s original purpose, treating glaucoma. So the pharmaceutical company smartly invented ‘short eyelash-itis’ and voila, but the eye-color thing is still there, regardless. My question is, what color do they turn? Do they go bright red, Black Swan style? The answer, incidentally, is brown.

    According to a pop culture website, the laundry list of side effects of a popular sleep aid is so strange people have started taking it recreationally. They include hallucinations, memory loss, drowsiness and mood swings. People tell stories of waking up to discover they have driven to the store, bought cake mix, baked a cake and eaten it all while randomly calling inmates at Joliet.

    Modern science is full of miracles, to be sure. Occasionally those miracles may make your palms hairy or make you grow horns, but they warn you ahead of time, usually. I guess we all just have to decide which is worse—the disease or the cure.  LN

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