Wednesday, June 06, 2018 by Isabelle Z.
Roseanne Barr might be a polarizing figure, but if anything good has come from the recent Twitter fiasco that culminated in the cancellation of her TV show, it’s the fact that the sleeping drug Ambien has been thrust into the spotlight and people are talking about just how crazy it can make them act.
In case you’re not familiar with the story, the comedienne sent out a Tweet in which she made some tasteless comments about Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett’s appearance, saying she looked like “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby.”
ABC responded swiftly by canceling her popular TV show; Barr claimed she made the comments while under the influence of Ambien. While many of those offended by her comment felt the Ambien mention was little more than a silly excuse, those who have taken the drug know it’s a real possibility. In fact, this story pales in comparison to some of the other Ambien horror tales users have shared online.
Ambien maker Sanofi was quick to Tweet that “racism is not a known side effect” of the med, which was a clever way to divert attention away from the actual known side effects of the drug – effects that are so serious and frequent that they appear in the pamphlet that comes with the pills.
In fact, according to News.com.au, the drug’s warning reads that side effects include:
Unexpected changes in behaviour. These have included rage reactions, confusion and other forms of unwanted behaviour. Sleep walking, driving motor vehicles and other unusual, and on some occasions dangerous, behaviours while apparently asleep.
These have also included preparing and eating food, making phone calls or having sexual intercourse. People experiencing these effects have had no memory of the events.
Here’s a look at some of the disturbing behaviors this drug causes. (Related: Are you riding the sleeping pill death-train?)
We’ll start with what has put the sleeping pill in the news lately: Ambien texting. While it might not excuse Barr’s behavior, she’d hardly be the first one to send such messages while taking Ambien. One user messaged friends about men in masks carrying him away on his bed in a Louisiana swamp; he had no idea until a concerned friend showed him a printout of the messages the next day and said he almost called 911. Others have sent embarrassing messages to friends, family members, co-workers and strangers – sometimes with cringe-worthy photos attached.
Some users harm themselves while taking the drug, and this is often connected to the hallucinations it causes. One user reported waking up with a gritty feeling in his mouth and then discovering he had ground down his teeth, leaving them flat. Another user woke up to find blood splattered all over their bathroom, something they later pieced together was the result of a bloody nose from smashing their face on the bathroom counter when passing out from the drug. Another person found their roommate covered in blood, removing chunks of her skin with fingernail clippers and talking nonsense.
Some of the most frightening Ambien-related stories involve people on the drug getting behind the wheel because of the potential to hurt so many other people. Many users have reported waking up to find their car parked somewhere else or missing entirely, indicating they “sleep drove.” Some users have awakened to find themselves in a jail cell after being picked up for driving under the influence – something they have absolutely no recollection of doing – earning them a criminal record and possibly losing their job or professional license.
Lots of users have found evidence of going on strange food binges in their sleep. One woman reported to News.com.au that she would consume huge amounts of food while on Ambien, both cooked and uncooked, and have no recollection of it later. She would eat whole loaves of bread, uncooked rice and raw eggs, and her husband would sometimes find her in her bed with food stuffed inside her mouth. One sleep researcher told the publication that people have eaten salt sandwiches and buttered cigarettes while under the influence of the drug.
Some users have made excessive or simply bizarre purchases while on Ambien. Sometimes it’s as harmless as waking up to a fridge full of food you don’t remember buying, only to find the receipt and realizing that you did, in fact, go to the store and stock up. People have reported buying things like live lobsters for ex-girlfriends, items they have no interest in, and even animals.
One person woke up to discover they had urinated all over their computer in an Ambien-induced haze, while another user remembers believing there were pirates in his room but wasn’t sure why he woke up to find his coffee table overturned and the remains of a small fire on his living room carpet.
Some users report having sex and not remembering it or waking up somewhere naked, and some people have even exploited this and used Ambien as a “date rape drug.” One person shot through his own front door because he hallucinated that someone was breaking into his home. Another man called 911 and reported an imaginary plane crash he had been involved in, using great detail, and this was after only taking half a pill. People have also locked pets in closets, shaved their head or body hair, and contacted exes in humiliating fashion.
As you can see, it’s definitely possible to say or do something while taking Ambien that you wouldn’t necessarily do while completely sober. It’s a dangerous drug that is handed out far too easily, with many doctors giving patients prescriptions for it just because they asked. People will sometimes share their pills with friends to “help” them, mistakenly believing it is harmless. (Related: Sleeping pills linked to 460 percent increase in sudden death.)
With sleeping pill prescriptions climbing from 47 million to 60 million between 2006 and 2011 in the U.S. – 38 million of which were for Ambien – it’s no surprise that we’ve become a nation of zombies acting in strange and unpredictable ways. When will the madness stop?
Sources for this article include: