Mnemonics for Drug Side Effects

Mnemonics for Drug Side Effects Video

Pharmacology can be overwhelming, so we’re going to look at some mnemonics to help with remembering the side effects of a few drugs.


Morphine is an opioid analgesic (narcotic) that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. It has several side effects & can cause addiction, overdose, or death if misused. Remember the following common side effects of morphine:

Miosis (constriction of the pupil)
Out of it (sedation)
Respiratory depression
Pruritus (common) & Pneumonia
Hypotension & Headache
Infrequency (referring to urinary retention or constipation)



Many women experience side effects from birth control pills such as irregular periods, nausea, or weight change. However, if any of these more serious side effects occur, emergency care is recommended as they may signify a serious condition.

Remember “ACHES” for the complications of oral birth control pills:

Abdominal pain
Chest pain – shortness of breath
Headaches (sudden/severe/persistent) – possibly caused by CVA or increase BP
Eye problems – stemming from an increase in BP or vascular accident
Severe leg pain – thromboembolism



Lidocaine is an antiarrhythmic used in the acute management of ventricular arrhythmias and acute MI. Lidocaine can be toxic if administered inappropriately and in some cases may cause adverse reactions even when administered properly.

Remember “SAMS” for signs and symptoms of lidocaine toxicity:

Slurred or difficult speech – paresthesias, numbness of lips/tongue
Altered CNS – drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness, confusion, arrhythmias
Muscle twitching – tremors
Seizures – convulsions, respiratory depression, respiratory and cardiac arrest


Atropine Overdose

Atropine is an anticholinergic that is used to treat bradycardia, reduce salivation and bronchial secretions before surgery, and as an antidote for overdose of cholinergic drugs or mushroom poisoning.

Watch for signs and symptoms of overdose to include the following:

Hot as a hare – increased body temperature
Blind as a bat – dilated pupils and blurry vision
Dry as a bone – dry mouth, dry skin, dry eyes
Red as a beet – flushed face, lightheadedness, or fainting
Mad as a hatter – confusion, anxiety, rapid HR, headache



Corticosteroids are a class of steroid hormones that are used to suppress an overactive and unwanted immune response—decreasing swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions. However, they also have side effects that can be very serious, typically presenting as drug-induced Cushing’s syndrome.

Striae, skin thinning
Hypertension / Hirsutism / buffalo Hump
Immunosuppression, infections
Necrosis of femoral heads (death of bone tissue due to lack of blood supply)
Glucose elevation
Osteoporosis, obesity (including classic ‘moon face’)
Impaired wound healing
Diabetes, depression/mood changes


These numerous side effects of corticosteroids are the result of their diverse effects on numerous organ systems.


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: August 2, 2023