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.


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.


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.


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.



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  1. Emmy

    On Atenolol and Adalat was added. It’s been over 3 years of nightmares every night. Either I lay awake exhausted or I fall into nightmares. My family can wake me up up to 5 times a week because I am vocalizing horrible things. I feel this is doing as much damage as my hypertension would if unmedicated. I wake with dilated pupils on many occasions. I tried Prazosin twice with no change. My mornings are write offs. I have to keep at my doc, he doesn’t get how bad this is.

  2. Krystle
    New York City

    I have never really had a nightmare before until the last four days of me taking the medication cipro. I was prescribed cipro for a bladder infection and thought nothing of it, I would wake up shaking every night with terrible nightmares usually of me witnessing someone’s death. And it is nearly impossible to fall back to sleep. I can’t just stop my meds but I’m so scared to continue taking them.

  3. Marc
    Houston, TX

    Two weeks ago I started Orencia for rheumatoid arthritis. Almost immediately, I noticed some pretty vivid dreams. These dreams have become progressively more intense. They involve frustrations and inability to complete simple to complex tasks. Each night they are more intense and frightening. I am not seeing this as a side effect on any other site, yet I am convinced this is a side effect for me.

  4. Lisa

    I hadn’t dreamed in years. The day I started taking a beta blocker, lopressor, the dreams have not stopped. They are very intense, vivid, disturbing. I feel like I don’t get a good sleep. The dreams wake me up frequently. Wondering if the benefits of the medicine outweigh the side effects of the non stop dreams…
    Lisa B

  5. Gene

    Carvidelol Blood Pressure med has caused vivqid nightmares again after stopping it for six months the dreams went away, but, when I went back on it , ihey returned, vivid, and, in spades, after one week. Now i know I must stop

  6. Robert
    Bristol, Tn

    If a drug is giving you nightmares, does the affect get hard wired in the brain? That is, if you stop taking the drug will the nightmares go away? Is there any lasting damage?

  7. Gregor

    The very worst (or best, should your dreams be sweet or interesting) in my experience are antihistamines. I try not to take cold medicine two nights in a row, but the flu was another matter. By day three of five or six, I was half-awake for long stretches seeing dim images, mostly of everyday matters, some farther out there but never frightening. I knew at the time that this was not real. It lacked the breakneck speed and antic content of hypopompic imagery, which I thoroughly enjoyed as a kid but which happens to me seldom now.

  8. kirk
    south carolina

    Have been on Kepra for 1 year after life-altering dbl seizures 3 yrs ago. Have experienced dual personalities and that RAGE you get with that epilepsy meds. Was switched to Trileptal, Zoloft, and Parozin. For 5 hours each day I am okay. Forget about the rest of the day. If I fall asleep, anywhere, I have several dreams at a time: stupid dreams, I mean. Some are violent, some sickening. The first dream state has me doing whatever, and I wake up as if I am still dreaming the dream. Pretty sick, huh? how bout falling off a ship, nobody knows it has happened, and you slowly drown. Life’s horrors are like a tape player. These drugs are not what I want. I don’t like being told not to stop taking them or I will die.

  9. Lisa

    I have taken only 3 doses (1 1/2 days) of the 7 day prescription of Cipro. Last night I spent most of the night awake and what time I did sleep was filled with vivid bad dreams. I know it is the Cipro causing the dreams and I can’t take another night like that. This is the second time I have been prescribed Cipro and the first time I was not bothered with dreams. I have taken Levaquin many times over the years without problem.

  10. Rebecca

    I have been on clindamycine hcl for about a month. Began having mild hallucinations. Last night I stayed up late, took the Meds and had 3 vivid, gory, violent dreams in a row. I take it fir MRSA so I don’t feel I have a choice.

  11. Sarah

    I have been on Buproprian XL (Wellbutrin) for about 6 days now. I’ve been paying close attention to the side effects and, well, early early this morning, I woke up twice sweating like crazy (mainly on my legs) and I’ve been having very vivid dreams. Not necessarily nightmares but intense and definitely reducing the quality of sleep I get.

    Just last night, I went to a place I had been before in a dream, which is why I found the mention of reoccurring dreams and PTSD so interesting. I was on a very low does of Celexa for depression but it made me gain a lot of weight and after a very brutal attack while away at school, my depression worsened, so I gave it a switch to Wellbutrin. I really enjoy my sleep, so I hope this side effect goes away!

  12. Richard

    OMG, I’ve been diagnosed with A.D.D., PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression. The doctor put me on Wellbutrin xl 300 mg 3 weeks ago and Mirtazapine 15 mg last week. I just had the most vividly realistic dream that I have ever had in my life! So real that I woke up balling because in my dream my best friend was murdered. It’s 4 am and I had to call him to make sure it wasn’t real. When he answered to my relief (mad because I woke him up) I really couldn’t compose myself to explain why I was calling at this hour. It took me a minute or two to control the crying and the anxiety to explain myself. When we hung up, I cried uncontrollable for another five minutes or so because of the realism. I don’t think I can handle this! I hate pills! I won’t even take aspirin because of my disliking for pills and they got me on this crap! I don’t ever want to have a dream like this again! I’m calling the doctor as soon as he get to work.

  13. Kathryn

    June 26,2016
    I have been taking Cipro for 5 day for a urinary tract infection. I have 2 days left.
    I just experienced a terrifying nightmare that was so real I woke thinking it really happened ? I woke at least 4 times during the night in a panic sweating and dizzy . Each time I fell back to sleep I returned to the dream ?
    After reading all the comments on this site I’m calling my dr to discuss this. I don’t want to take the remainder of the prescription. I was afraid of the risk of tendon injury but this is horrible too . I haven’t taken any antibiotics in over 10 yrs but I never knew it cause a nightmare . Terrifying !!!!!

  14. Aimee

    I used to be on Keppra and on occasion I would have bad dreams. Some of them felt like premonitions of up coming events. I was taken off of it because it wasn’t fully helping my seizures.

  15. Liz
    Leeds, UK

    I just woke up after the first time of taking propranolol 2x 10mg for migraine prevention. Took them at night “as it could cause drowsiness”. Wish I’d have waited until morning. Had the most vivid dream of a huge group of thugs outside my house, trying to get in and threaten me and my partner. Never had any trouble around here so it’s literally come from nowhere. But now it’s 5am and I’m scared to go back to sleep in case it continues.

  16. Kerry

    I am currently taking cipro and have been experiencing vivid dreams that aren’t 100% nightmares but are dreams about things that I’ve had negative issues with in my past life. I never thought the two could be connected until I looked it up and found this site. I have been having the exact same dream sequence ever since I started taking this round. (Started on 5/18/16)

  17. SMV

    years ago I started taking Perempanel which made me very tired, it gave me dreams but not any horrors. I had to get used to it because at first it annoyed my stomach.
    Then about a year ago Lacosamide helped.
    I still dream but nothing is scary.

  18. Alisha
    Sierra Vista, Arizona

    I just had foot surgery on February 12, 2016 and was prescribed percocet for my pain management. Ever since I started taking it, I’ve been having some very disturbing nightmares where I wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare sweating. I’ve even grabbed my mother in the middle of the night screaming and crying for one of my nightmares…. Now I’m afraid to go to sleep because of it..

  19. Karen

    I just had hip surgery 5 days ago and I am taking hydromorfone 2 mg for pain . It is 1:20 am & I just woke up crying & shaking & sweating from the most bizarre dream I’ve ever had! I think it scared my husband of 38 years , he has never seen me like that. I kept saying in my dream….maybe I’m dreaming but dreams don’t last this long , do they?? It was so freaking Wierd I am now watching tv. I had a similar dream with my last hip surgery…same medication and I went back in time, well that’s what it was like & very realistic…..It’s like you can’t get out of these dreams, maybe it has something to with these support hose as well trying to suck the life out of your brain!! Thanks for letting me rant because I’m not going to sleep for awhile ….
    Also wearing nicotine patch.

  20. Marilyn

    1/27/16- I took the generic Levaquin yesterday at 8p for the first time, for a sinus infection. I went to bed at 2a, and OMG. I had epic dreams that were vivid and terrifying. In one, I was taking my son on a cruise, and it was a Titanic / Poseidon Adventure combo- extremely real feeling. We got rescued from that and were being taken to stay with some people who lived on a farm. as we walked down the path towards their (dark, scary looking) house, two gigantic dogs came at us with teeth bared, slobbering and snarling. I grabbed my son (who is now 27 but in the dream was a kid, about 8) and put him out of harms way. I felt the sharp edges of the dogs’ teeth actually baring down on my right jugular. They held there, just about to puncture.

    I said over and over…”it’s okay… it’s okay…it’s okay puppy. ” Gradually, which ever dog it was released my throat. I woke up then, and the weirdest thing is that I was looking at the mirror over the dresser- and the wood frame was blood red, like red roses. That faded away, but it was very bizarre and I did not really sleep after that. I don’t think. The strange thing is, although I had a hard time getting out of bed, I didn’t feel tired once I was up. I cruised through the work day in fine shape.

    I thought about waiting until tomorrow morning at 6a to take my second pill but I don’t want to get off schedule with the antibiotic and don’t want to develop a superbug. So, I just took it- day number 2. If it happens again tonight though, I’m getting a different drug. I’ve had those kind of epic bad dreams taking melatonin too, so don’t touch those anymore. You could write a novel from the dreams, but I really don’t feel like I’m getting rest. What a thing!

  21. Angela

    On very very high doses for Clindamycin and Cipro for 3 months for a severe bone infection. After the IV doses in hospital I swear I hallucinated as I never even fell asleep and had the strangest “visions”. Now on the oral doses I have gone from never remembering my dreams to having the most hyper realistic anxiety driven nightmares. I’ve never had a dream look or feel so real. Waking up about 10x a night and falling right back into them. I need to start right this stuff Down!

    • Tony

      I just started 300mg of clindamycid 5 days ago and I NEVER look into side effects or have issues with any medication but this drug is causing EXTREMELY vivid dreams / nightmares. Just as you said, I am waking 10x + per night and averaging 45 minutes at a time of sleep before I wake again. I usually do not remember dreams but these are so vivid that I recall all of my dreams since I have been on this drug. This actually caused me to research it now since I am getting little sleep anymore and I am finding we are not alone with the side effects.

  22. Dina
    Ridgefield, CT

    Was taking Percoset for pain after surgery… OMG! I’ll take Tylenol from now on. I had the worst nightmares I’ve ever had in my life. I’d rather live with the pain then have those nightmares…

    • Alisha

      I just started taking percocet on the 12th after my foot surgery and I’m having the same problem. Terrible nightmares…

  23. Len
    Carson City, NV

    I take Losartan and Atenolol, both of which appear to be associated with abnormal/violent dreams. I also take Atorvastatin and Hydrochlorothiazide.

    Over the past year or so I have had probably 6-8 violent dreams. In one, I was being attacked from behind and woke up to the pain of my hand punching the attacker (the wall). In three dreams I violently threw myself out of bed, in one case striking my head on my nightstand and another flinging my shin against the knob on a dresser which is still discolored from a deep bruise. Just the other night I had a vivid dream where I was disoriented and laboring to move my legs which felt wobbly and weighted down. I woke falling forward and banging my head against the wall.

    I mentioned this to my doctor (VA) but he didn’t seem to concerned. I’m bringing it up again before I seriously injure myself!

  24. Udofia, E.

    I have taken ciprofloaxacin several times in the last 5 years. Just recently, I started having nightmares right after taking first dose. My children had complained of nightmares, very scary nightmares, earlier but I didn’t understand. Now I understand better. The nightmares go a few days after completing the dosage. Is it safe to stay with this drug.

  25. sarah

    i cant believe i found clindamycine in this list. i am the type of person always remember his dreams and have quite vivid dreaming not that often. surprisingly as soon as i started taking clindamycine dreams just enhanced like from SD/HD quality of normal to 4K DISPLAY! 120% resolution and details. sometimes it is like living inside a 3D movie of future, aliens, space, etc sometimes very nostalgic locations totally reinvented! with unknown people! i even dont know i am dreaming! i went to butchery and bought meat then the man in the shop became crazy then i woke up! that would be interesting to know which part drug is messing with? any study? hope that this effect is temporary unless i go mad seeing these dreams every day!

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