HomeA man "heard God" after taking commonly prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia

A man “heard God” after taking commonly prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia

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We rarely read the information that comes with the drug or the mentioned side effects. However, one patient who received antibiotics experienced a terrifying psychotic episode.

When a doctor suggests and prescribes a prescription medicine, most people take it. They don’t normally worry about side effects, but there are a few odd ones. This article was published in the journal BMC Psychiatry and details a highly uncommon example of a man who “heard God” in response to his antibiotics.

A 50-year-old man was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and given amoxicillin and clavulanic acid, a combination antibiotic known as Augmentin, which is routinely used to treat bacterial infections. He was discharged, but when his respiratory problems persisted, he returned to the ER and was administered clarithromycin, an antibiotic that is effective against a range of bacteria and can be used to treat pneumonia or severe bronchitis, among other things.

Two days after receiving the second antibiotic prescription, his family noticed a marked change in his behavior, dubbed aberrant logorrhea. He was impatient, always moving about, and jittery. His most obvious symptom was that he believed God was speaking to him.

The patient had never taken antibiotics previously and had no history of psychiatric disease, drug use, or alcohol misuse. He told the physicians he felt like he was dying the first night he took the antibiotic and began to have hallucinations in which he “heard God speak to him and say he was chosen for a special mission.”

The symptoms described by family members were validated by a mental assessment. Instead of immediately commencing antipsychotic treatment because the patient was aware that the sounds he was hearing were hallucinatory, the team decided to stop taking clarithromycin, knowing that if that didn’t work, antipsychotic medication would be required. When he stopped taking clarithromycin, his symptoms went away within 12 hours, and he became more aware that he wasn’t selected by God.

According to the experts, the manic episode was definitely caused by the medicine because the patient was 50 years old and had no mental history, given the proximity of his taking clarithromycin and the manic episode, as well as the rapid improvement after ceasing clarithromycin.

The patient was re-admitted to the hospital. As a treatment for his pneumonia, he was given the initial antibiotic – amoxicillin and clavulanic acid. His psychotic symptoms reappeared almost quickly, and he began hearing voices again at midnight, prompting him to return to the hospital the next day.

According to the researchers, hallucinations are typical after taking gamma-aminobutyric acid acid-lowering medications (Non-proteinaceous amino acid). The doctors couldn’t tell if the hallucinations were caused by a reaction between the two types of medicines or if the man had two psychotic reactions to the two medications he was prescribed.

The team concluded that it’s difficult to distinguish between the effects of different antibiotics because the patient had hallucinations after taking amoxicillin, which continued with clarithromycin and amoxicillin, along with manic clinical symptoms. However, considering both antibiotics are known to produce such an incident, it’s safe to believe that this is a medication interaction between them.

“The patient is likely to experience psychiatric symptoms on two occasions, with two different types of antibiotics, which emphasizes the relevance of knowing each patient’s individual biological sensitivity,” they added.

Source: 10.1186/s12888-021-03397-7

Image Credit: Getty

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