Medications are known to have many odd side effects, like causing a black tongue, turning urine orange, or causing unsuspecting patients to take up compulsive gambling.
But is it possible that “sleep-tweeting” is a thing? Roseanne Barr, actress from the recently rebooted (and now canceled) ABC comedy “Roseanne”, claimed that the sleep medication Ambien (generic name: zolpidem) caused her to tweet out racist comments about former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Sanofi, the maker of Ambien, quickly shot back: "While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication."
Insomnia, defined as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both, is one of the most common health conditions -- roughly 40% to 50% of people have trouble sleeping.
Does Ambien cause “sleep-tweeting”?
What are the side effects of Ambien? Serious central nervous system side effects have been reported with nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics like Ambien.
Nonbenzodiazepines are similar to the benzodiazepines, like Valium (diazepam) or Xanax (alprazolam), but they work on the more focused sleep centers of the brain. They are shorter-acting but can still cause serious side effects. Not all patients will be aware they are impaired.
Ambien central nervous side effects may include:
- next day drowsiness that may impair driving, work performance, and decision-making.
- anterograde amnesia, another name for memory loss.
- complex sleep-related behaviors like sleep driving or walking, making phone calls, having "sleep sex", or preparing and eating food -- with no memory of the event.
Plus, these risks are greatly increased when the nonbenzodiazepines are combined with alcohol or other sedating drugs, like the opioids. The manufacturer recommends that their combined use should be strictly avoided.
Plus, several years ago, the FDA required lowered doses for most zolpidem-containing products like Ambien and another related sleep drug, Lunesta (eszopiclone) to help prevent morning impairment. Lower doses are recommended for women, older patients, and those with mild to moderate liver disease.
The active ingredient zolpidem is found in many other sleep products besides Ambien. It’s also in:
- Ambien CR, a controlled-release form of Ambien.
- Edluar, a dissolvable under-the-tongue tablet.
- Intermezzo, also a dissolvable tablet but a lower dose of zolpidem.
- Zolpimist, an oral spray form.
Intermezzo is a lower dose of zolpidem that is specially designed for middle-of-the-night awakenings when at least 4 hours can be devoted to sleep; all other forms are to be used before bed when there is at least 7 to 8 hours to devote to sleep.
The patient medication leaflet warns that Ambien may cause serious side effects, including that: “you may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are doing. The next morning, you may not remember that you did anything during the night.” While “sleep-tweeting” has not been reported as an adverse side effect with Ambien, unusual sleep-related behaviors are possible with the drugs in this popular class of sleeping medications.
Have other celebrities reported strange side effects with Ambien?
Other famous insomniacs have also blamed Ambien for strange incidents, according to Fox News:
- Former House Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy said he took Ambien not too long before crashing his car into a barricade.
- Elon Musk went on a Twitter spree after claiming he had drank red wine and consumed Ambien.
- Tiger Woods was under the influence of Ambien during a DUI arrest in 2017.
- Sean Penn admitted to being on Ambien during Stephen Colbert's late-night talk show.
- Ambien Product Label. Sanofi Aventis. Revised 3/2017. Accessed May 30, 2018 at http://products.sanofi.us/ambien/ambien.pdf
- Insomnia Treatment: Non-Benzodiazepines Ambien, Lunesta & Sonata. Drugs.com. Accessed May 30, 2018 at https://www.drugs.com/slideshow/insomnia-treatment-nonbenzodiazepines-1072
- Sleep Disorder (Sedative-Hypnotic) Drug Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). May 2018. Accessed May 30, 2018 at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/postmarketdrugsafetyinformationforpatientsandproviders/ucm101557.htm
- Joyce K. Roseanne Barr not first celeb to claim Ambien led to bizarre behavior: What is the insomnia drug? Fox News. May 30, 2018. Accessed May 30, 2018 at http://www.foxnews.com/health/2018/05/30/roseanne-barr-not-first-celeb-to-claim-ambien-led-to-bizarre-behavior-what-is-insomnia-drug.html
- View Frightful (But Dead Serious) Drug Side Effects. Drugs.com. Accessed May 30, 2018 at https://www.drugs.com/slideshow/frightful-side-effects-1053
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