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Periodic Graphics

Periodic Graphics: 6 unusual side effects of medicines

Chemical educator and Compound Interest blogger Andy Brunning looks at the compounds behind some strange side effects.

by Andy Brunning, special to C&EN
July 2, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 21


Infographic detailing six unusual side effects of some medications and how they arise. The six side effects are compulsive behaviors, caused by some medicines that treat Parkinson’s disease symptoms; light sensitivity, caused by medicines including tetracyclines; sleep disorders, which are caused by some sleeping pills; changes to stool or urine color, such as from Pepto-Bismol; tooth staining, which can occur with tetracycline antibiotics; and vanishing fingerprints, a side effect of the chemotherapy drug capecitabine.

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References used to create this graphic:

Bostwick, J. Michael, Kathleen A. Hecksel, Susanna R. Stevens, James H. Bower, and J. Eric Ahlskog. “Frequency of New-Onset Pathologic Compulsive Gambling or Hypersexuality after Drug Treatment of Idiopathic Parkinson Disease.” Mayo Clin. Proc. (2009). DOI: 10.1016/S0025-6196(11)60538-7.

Hofmann, Georg Amun, and Benedikt Weber. “Drug-Induced Photosensitivity: Culprit Drugs, Potential Mechanisms and Clinical Consequences.” J. Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft (2021). DOI: 10.1111/ddg.14314.

Hoque, Romy, and Andrew L. Chesson. “Zolpidem-Induced Sleepwalking, Sleep Related Eating Disorder, and Sleep-Driving: Fluorine-18-Flourodeoxyglucose Positron Emission Tomography Analysis, and a Literature Review of Other Unexpected Clinical Effects of Zolpidem.” J. Clin. Sleep Med. (2009). DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.27605.

Lightowlers, Sara, and Rubin Soomal. “Loss of Fingerprints Secondary to Palmoplantar Erythrodysesthesia in a Patient on Capecitabine Chemotherapy.” BMJ (2015). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.h6023.

Sanchez, Andrés R., Roy S. Rogers III, and Phillip J. Sheridan. “Tetracycline and Other Tetracycline-Derivative Staining of the Teeth and Oral Cavity.” Int. J. Dermatol. (2004). DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2004.02108.x

A collaboration between C&EN and Andy Brunning, author of the popular graphics blog Compound Interest

To see more of Brunning’s work, go to To see all of C&EN’s Periodic Graphics, visit



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