woman screaming from a nightmare

Drug-Induced Nightmares

Have you ever awakened in the middle of a nightmare? On the one hand it can be an enormous relief to realize that you are dreaming rather than actually be attacked by monsters or falling down a well. On the other hand, it can be very hard to fall asleep again after a really bad dream.
A surprising number of medications can cause nightmares. This is not the kind of side effect that is frequently mentioned when a physician writes a prescription. Nor is your pharmacist likely to mention this kind of drug-induced adverse effect. That’s because nightmares are not generally considered that serious. We would disagree.
For some people regular nightmares can be extremely disturbing. Not only are they very scary but they can also disrupt sleep and make it very hard to get the rest you need for good health.
A wide variety of medications can precipitate drug-induced nightmares. They include:
Amphetamine, prescribed for ADD or narcolepsy
• Beta Blockers such as atenolol, bisoprolol, labetalol and propranolol prescribed for high blood pressure or heart problems.
Chantix (varenicline) to stop smoking
Levodopa for Parkinsons’s disease.
We have also heard from visitors to this site that certain kinds of antibiotics such as clindamycin and quinolone antibiotics (Cipro and Levaquin) can cause nasty dreams.
Interestingly, some people also note that when they are switched from a brand name antidepressant to a generic (Wellbutrin to bupropion, for example) they have experienced nightmares.
Here are some stories to ponder. NEVER stop taking your medicine abruptly without medical supervision. In the case of beta blockers that could bring on a heart attack.
If you have experienced drug-induced nightmares, we would appreciate your comments added to this list.


I first took Chantix about 3 years ago. The drug itself was great for the purpose taken, I was able to stop smoking. However, the side effects that I experienced that I attributed to taking the medication were unbearable. I had horrible nightmares, felt very agitated and a had constant uneasy feeling. It also caused me to have horrible stomach issues. Every time I would eat a meal, I would have sudden and painful diarrhea.

I also started taking Chantix despite the warnings of side effects. Not only have I had the insomnia, nightmares, and nausea, but I am becoming severely depressed and irritable thanks to Chantix. And it hasn’t made me not want to smoke, either.

I started Chantix after many unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking over the last year or so. I took the first pill from the starter kit the evening of the day my physician prescribed it. Wow, that night I had the most vivid, colorful, interactive dreams I could ever remember. When I got up the next morning I commented to my partner that this drug was great and quitting smoking will be fun and the dreams would be a great reward. But something was a little bit off. When I took my morning shower I couldn’t remember which washcloth was mine and what to do next after I washed my hair. The whole day was a little off.
By night three the dreams had turned into nightmares from which I awoke angry and agitated. I found it hard to function, kind of disconnect from my normal conscious self. I rationalized it away as getting used to the drug, which is something my physician warned me about. I awoke the morning of the 4th day after another dream/nightmare. My partner was snoring which agitated me to the point where I thought a bullet would certainly solve this problem. The shock of such a thought, which is so far removed from the way I normally feel, scared me and I was only 4 days into the regime.

I got many Kenalog (a corticosteroid) injections for bursitis. It helped the pain but increased my appetite and made me have nightmares. I am not a fan of steroids and will avoid them if possible. Pam

My husband and I were very healthy marathon-running 35 year olds. 2 months previous to this we had both just qualified for the cheapest life insurance for the healthiest groups. My husband and I were prescribed Cipro (for him) and Levaquin (for me) for a stomach bug they couldn’t diagnose. My MD said to me when I questioned whether or not I had to take it “well if its a virus, nothing bad will happen.”
Within half an hour after talking it we both had severe anxiety, insomnia, nightmares and diarrhea. Six months later the symptoms are starting to subside although my husband still has tingling and weird nightmares and I have it occasionally.
We have seen 9 doctors and they either outright deny or have not admitted that the Cipro or Levaquin could have anything to do with it. We finally saw an infectious disease doctor at a major hospital who said he had had 3 other patients who felt they had the same long lasting effects from either Cipro or Levaquin, but he couldn’t find any evidence to support it.
We finally just decided we just had to help ourselves to get better and we started to eat a lot of live sauerkraut (which seems to have helped get our digestion somewhat back) and eat very healthfully (lots of greens and brown rice) and get a lot of rest. Seems to be the only thing that has helped. I will not take a fluoroquinalone antibiotics again. J&G

I took Levaquin for a prostate infection. About 2 weeks after I started taking it I began to suffer from extreme anxiety and horrific nightmares. I thought I was loosing my mind. It never occurred to me that the medication could have been the culprit; my Doctor even said that it wasn’t the Levaquin. So I decided to search the internet for myself and found that I was not alone. My time in hell lasted for 6 months but there was an end to this and I did come out. Bill P.

I’ve taken brand name Wellbutrin several times during the past years for seasonal depression. This time around I was given the generic Teva brand for Wellbutrin XL. I had to stop taking it after one month due to severe insomnia, worsening depression, mood swings, constipation, & nightmares.
I took a ‘drug holiday for a week then went back on the brand name Wellbutrin. After about 3 weeks I was back to normal and living life again. JD

I was put on atenolol as needed for shaking during social events. No problems then, as I only used one pill about once a week, if that. Then my blood pressure went through the roof from severe anxiety. I was put on atenolol daily and all hell broke loose. Made my anxiety worse, and caused horrible nightmares and insomnia. S.


Join Over 65,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Lisa
    United States

    I take Lisinopril for BP & recently was given a scrip for Ciprofloxacin 500 mg 2 times a day to treat a Urinary Tract infection. The portals of hell were opened last night with awful nightmares beyond belief. So I look up other ppls side effects and the side effects listed by the manufacturer…holy cow! This drug can effectively kill someone. I will research other ways to get a grip on my UTI, this drug is not good for anyone. In the dream I was being pursued and taken over by aliens, evil spirits, my husband turned into a troll doll! Who doesn’t hate the troll doll face?? I kept trying to wake up and couldn’t, this drug can make someone psycho! I’m not taking it again! The Lisinopril i’ve been taking for months did not have any effect as far as nightmares, so of course I’ll continue it. Good luck out there!

  2. SinusSick

    I’ve had a terrible sinus infection this week. Clarithromycin wasn’t showing any improvements so I was put on levofloxacin (levaquin) since I’ve had a fever for 5 days. I was told to start it last night right away, so I did. I’ve always been a wild dreamer, but I knew right away this night was something else. Every dream revolved around death and haunted apartments and demons murdering roommates, zombies…. just ridiculous. Asking the pharmacist, “sleep disturbances” is all she said. I guess I understand not explicitly stating that disturbing dreams are side effects, people might have anxiety that leads to the dreams.

    But please know if you’ve taken levofloxacin and had disturbing dreams, you are not alone. Thank you for this website. Now I need to rest and hopefully nothing dead crawls into bed with me this time.

  3. Kreg

    A bit of background on me is in order here because it is relevant and may help others that find themselves in an unfortunate situation that is similar. I have a lifelong history of parasomnias. In a nutshell, that means (in my case), I suffered night terrors as a child, but I did not grow out of them like most kids do. That’s how it started.

    At age 15 I was given Prozac and started experiencing sleep paralysis with both hypnopompic and hypnogogic hallucinations at different times. Years later I was given Ambien and that made the hallucinations horrifically vivid and more intense.

    Years later…diagnosed with mild sleep apnea. Can’t keep the mask on… I just tear it off in my sleep. Especially when next, my “night terrors” -though less frequent -had become more violent.

    I was given Nortryptaline for sleep about a year ago. The first night I took it… let’s just say the police were called and I woke up wandering three blocks away from home. Barefoot. Disoriented. Terrified. Unable to unlock my phone and convinced the FBI had locked me out of it so the cops could track me. My girlfriend calls and she is crying. I had woken up out of a dead sleep, started calling her names and accusing her of bizarre things, and eventually got in her face and told her I’d kill her if _______ (I have no memory of it, and she was already calling 911). She had not seen that happen to me before. I went to a neurologist again and he told me to take 1 clonazapam at night and to consider sleeping alone.

    I do. both. And while my wonderful lady did not press charges, the city prosecutor did… but threw it out ultimately based on my girlfriend refusing to cooperate and my neurologist writing a note explaining my condition.

  4. Shelby

    I haven’t had to take any of the medications listed here (though I did have a friend who experienced the Chantix nightmares), but I have dreams every once in awhile about finding a cache of the meds I am on (50mcg Fentanyl patches QiD 48 hours, 350mg Soma 4x daily and 5-325mg Norco also 4x daily) and while they aren’t considered nightmares, it does bother me. The dreams are so vivid that when I wake up I SWEAR it actually happened! The most recent one was just a few hours ago during a nap. I dreamed that my mom gave me a 50mcg Fentanyl patch when she got home from work. Coincidentally I was sleeping to pass the time waiting for my mom to call me to pick her up from work. I’ve read that drug addicts can have dreams about finding their drug of choice in random places, but I’m not a drug addict…. just dependent on my pain meds because of failed back surgery and Fibromyalgia. I’m just glad I don’t have these dreams all the time. Also, I had started on Bupropion recently, but decided not to continue with it, not because of the nightmare side effects, but because I felt they just weren’t working for my depression. I know this is slightly off topic, but I just wanted to share my own experience.

  5. melody

    I started taking leflunomide (avara) for my ankylosing spondylitis because I was taken off of methotrexate due to elevated liver enzymes and other side effects. Since switching to the new meds I have been waking up almost every night with nightmares. I usually didn’t even remember dreaming at all and now waking up heart pounding, sweating and it takes a few moments to realize it was indeed just a dream. Then I have a hard time falling back to sleep. Don’t know if I’m going to stay on it or not because I really need a good nights sleep due to the fatigue I suffer from already.

  6. tomi

    Yes I take bupropion and generic form of Wellbutrin and when I switched to 300 milligrams I now have terrible nightmares every night that are very violent and I feel them physically. Yuck.

  7. tomi

    Yes I take bupropion and generic form of Wellbutrin and we will get to 300 milligrams I have terrible nightmares every night that are very violent and I feel them physically. Yuck

  8. Steve

    I see a lot of people on here that suffer a lot of the things I have gone through, and I know for a fact that a lot can benefit from cannabis, I know because I have been there…

  9. VES

    I’ve always had fairly vivid dreams and nightmares since I was a kid but I recently started taking Venlafaxine (generic for Effexor) for severe depression and anxiety and it has amped up how vivid and realistic my dreams are in a scary way. The terrible part about it is that for the first time in what feels like my whole life I know what its like to not hate myself and want to die every moment of the day but the dreams are unbearable. In the dreams I can feel and taste and smell things as though it’s my real waking life and when I wake up I’m dizzy and disoriented, not certain if I’m awake and where I am. I can barely get more than 3 hours of sleep at a time but I’m going to stick with the medication and hope it subsides because I’ve never had something work so well for my depression and anxiety before. I just wish they would tell you that things like this are a very common side effect before you take it. Just because dreams aren’t as serious as bleeding and death doesn’t mean it’s not life altering.

  10. William

    I have been taking Bupropion (the generic for the anti-depressant Welbutrin) and have been experiencing disturbing dreams in which extreme violence occurs, such as people getting killed. (In one case I was the killer.) I have never experienced anything remotely similar and have no violent tendencies in my waking life. The medicine also has a strong effect on my sleeping pattern in that I cannot get to sleep until just before dawn no matter what time I go to bed. I plan to switch medications as soon as possible.

  11. Joe

    I had a bit of eczema on my neck and the dermatologist prescribed Fluocinonide gel .05%. It was hard to control how much came out since it was a gel and one time I had more than I needed and just decided to rub it into my skin. I rarely ever have dreams at all and that night I had the worst nightmare ever, very vivid… involving kidnapping and babies and murder! Yikes. Then insomnia the rest of the night. No more steroids for me!

  12. J

    I was prescribed propanolol for akathesia. Sometimes when I take it I have very vivid dreams, sometimes I am half awake at the time, that come with an extremely eerie feeling and usually occur just before dawn. I remember watching a movie in one and the faces would become like ghosts and just stare at me. The scary part was I remembered who was acting in it and checked the guide, only to find that the movie I remembered was actually playing during that time.
    On the one hand it’s nice not to have much time to wait for the harsh light of day to make me feel more normal, but it also means that by the time I feel well enough to go back to sleep (often I can’t bring myself to enter the room for a while) the birds are chirping.

  13. Eli

    Three nights into Cipro. The first night I dreamed the equivalent of an entire mini-series featuring myself and my daughters in a prisoner-of-war camp. It had sweet scenes, poignant scenes, and lots of really tense and terrifying scenes involving chases, hiding, and guns, complex story arcs and sophisticated character development. I had no idea I was so clever! Couldn’t think about much else that day. The second night the dream was an extended movie featuring rectangular crystals moving individually and in groups. Huh? Now it is 3 a.m. on night three and I am hugely comforted by this website after my terrifying dream of large malevolent chicken heads and a landscape of geometric shapes moving in meaningful patterns. I had to be awake for quite awhile to get rid of the sense of pervasive evil.
    One side note: during the past two days I have been very witty, making people laugh. I’ve also felt a little disconnected, just a little, sort of like I’m on a low dose of Valium. So the mental effects aren’t limited to sleep, and aren’t all bad. I’m glad it’s just five days.

  14. Mike

    I was on Lisinopril for a while and experienced very vivid dreams, which I was acting out in my sleep, hitting walls, kicking, punching, as well as hearing strange sounds when semi-asleep. I suspected the drug may be the cause, and suggested to my physician that I would like to try another BP medication, and opted for Losartam Potassium. Since switching, the frequency of the dreams, the intensity, and the sound have subsided. I have also noticed that drinking caffeine late in the afternoon seems to have a negative impact and seems to bring on dream experiences. Don’t know if it’s the caffeine or a mixture of the caffeine with medication. I also take Fenofibrate for Triglycerides, and Lovastatin for Cholesterol.

    • Steve

      I have high BP taking simvastatin and lisinopril, I found that smoking cannabis helped in keeping my BP down and also got rid of the bad dreams, But as fate would have it I got busted, and can’t smoke anymore, had to go to the ER, because my BP skyrocketed, Now I wake up my lips are swollen I feel like crap and have awful dreams, the government doesn’t care about us that need cannabis…since I live in the most backward state in America, Kentucky I know it will never be legalized here, something has got to give…

  15. H.M.

    I started taking Buproprion for anxiety, depression and PTSD. Only 2 days later I started having extreme nightmares in which gun violence and fighting were always involved. I am now scared to go to sleep and even when I return to sleep my previous dreams are continued. A lot of my dreams stem from my military service. I am frightened…

  16. Nicholas S.

    I have an auto-immune deficiency which puts me at higher risk to disease, illness, etc.. It seems every 5 years I get an abscess of larger than usual size anywhere on my body. Last week I happened to get a real doozy and was prescribed Bactrum.
    The very first night I took my 2 doses I had VIVID dreams. Nightmares that almost felt like they were real. I’ve never had a bacterial infection this bad before so I’ve never really dealt with an antibiotic this strong & well.. let’s just say this better be worth it.

  17. S.A.D.

    ~ I’ve been put on Labetalol, 200 mg./daily, since 2010 because my BP skyrocketed almost overnight, and doctors haven’t found out WHY yet. I’ve even lost weight to lower it, but still no luck, its still high. It has been 199/108 at least once a year, for the last 3 yrs., even though I’m on meds to keep it stabilized. Puzzles doctors. Anyway, I’ve been having weird dreams. Not really night terrors, just WEIRD! I almost dread going to bed. If I could give up my meds, I would! What a nuisance!! ~

  18. Jason G.

    Taking bactrim. Have had crazy strange dreams every time I sleep since I began taking bactrim. Not scary fearful dreams, but I believe that is because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, so nothing ever terrifies me whether sleeping or waking. Like if my death is part of the dream, I know I’m going to heaven so that is never a scare for me. I can only wonder what the dreams must be like for those who do not have a relationship with the creator. I feel bad for them more than anything.

  19. LLP

    I have had insomnia for years and have tried several different meds to control it. Ambien CR is the only one I will take. Melatonin, Lunestra, and several others gave me the most horrible nightmares. I mean they would make Steven King shudder! Even the generic of Ambien CR did that. Now I am very assertive (verging on aggressive) about my sleep aid when the doc tries to change it or the pharmacist offers the generic. I would rather not wake screaming and crying. The nightmares were so terrible I had a hard time letting go of the images even after my husband would fully wake me and convince me it was all a dream. I would want to call family members in the middle of the night to make sure they were ok and would be preoccupied by the horror of the dreams for days.
    Now my pharmacist and my doctor both know not to mess with what is working. It seems strange to me that sleep aids could do that to a person and stranger that someone seeking help for sleep would not be warned about that possible side affect. A night like that does not make for a restful night, a peaceful morning, or a productive day. Thank goodness I found one that works.


    A little history: I had a mini Stroke & a Blood clot to my lung in Oct. 2013, my GP has sent me to have a work up by a Neurologist, he told me I’ve not had any strokes & he thinks I’m having Seizures so I have been put on LAMOTRIGINE 25MG for possible Seizure activity. I was to start taking 2 per day (1 in the morning & 1 at bedtime) once a week I was told to add 1 pill per day which would be ( 1st wk 2 pills a day, 2nd wk 3 pills per day & so forth) up until I was taking 8 pills per day (4 in the am & 4 at night).
    Keeping in mind that before starting this medication I went back to my GP & told her what he had said. What he told me & what he told my GP was two different story’s, his reports to her was that I have been having TIA’S for a long period of time & suspects more to come if not controlled. Having said that, I am on blood thinners for the clot’s so my GP will keep me on this med till we can resolve the TIA’S. I started the seizure meds, I was doing fine until the end of the wk while taking 4 per day. I have had bad dreams off & on throughout my young years but they got better as I got older. For the past week I have had the worst experience with night mares or terrors you could imagine. I don’t even know how to describe how awful they were.
    For the last two days I have not taken this medication & the terrors continues but with a little change. I would like to know if any one has had this happen to them after taking this medication. Just a little note: I even started having what appears to be some sort of seizure activity, off balance & a few other things going on but only after starting this medication. Can anyone shed any light on this for me. So sorry for the history but I thought having history would shed better light on my problem. Thank you

  21. cat

    Years ago I was started on Propanolol 40mg/day, which is now 160mg/day to maintain a regular heart beat. Always had vivid and unpleasant dreams since being on this drug, and occasional really bad night mares … I trained myself how to redirect my dream’s outcome during dreaming … works most of the time.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.