Ambien: The new 'assault drug'?

Roseanne Barr stepped in a steaming pile of political correctness this week.  She lost her hit television show after a derogatory tweet about Barack Obama's co-president, Valerie Jarrett.  ABC wasted no time in canceling the show because the tweet didn't represent its values, or some other nonsense.  Far worse has been tweeted out by their people, such as Keith Olbermann.

The tweet, which you have undoubtedly heard about or read, was rude and inappropriate.  And ABC is a private company that can do what it wishes.

That being said, let's try an alternate scenario for a public figure comparing someone to an ape.  Suppose Roseanne, who is a liberal despite some of the pro-Trump leanings of her TV show, was the guest host of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.  If, in her monologue, she compared Sarah Sanders or Melania Trump to some animal, the audience would be howling with laughter.

Sure, she might be condemned on Fox News, but the rest of the media would rally to her defense, prattling about free speech and the thin skin of the subjects of her derision.  How many times was George W. Bush compared to a chimp or Trump to any of the top-shelf dictators with nary a word of criticism from the media?

Roseanne apologized and attributed her tweet to Ambien.  She wasn't looking for an excuse or an out from her potentially career-ending tweet; instead, she offered justification for her behavior.

Ambien seems to get blamed for lots of bizarre behavior, much like how the AR-15, a so-called "assault weapon," is blamed for every mass shooting, including the most recent shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.  This most recent school shooting was initially reported as from an AR-15 when in reality it was just a revolver and a shotgun.  Regardless of such details, the left has eyes only for the AR-15 as the culprit.

Perhaps after the Roseanne tweet, Ambien will become the "assault drug" in the pharmaceutical world, blamed for all sorts of bad behavior.  What a perfect excuse, given how the medication is ubiquitous.  Ambien, though, as a medication, has definite effects on someone who takes it, unlike an AR-15, which, simply being held in one's hands, doesn't make one a mass shooter.

Ambien is a sleeping pill, in the class of drugs called "sedative-hypnotic" agents.  It's designed for short-term insomnia when other non-medicinal or over-the-counter remedies don't work.  Here are some of the side-effects from WebMD.

Memory loss, mental/mood/behavior changes (such as new/worsening depression, abnormal thoughts, thoughts of suicide, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, aggressive behavior, anxiety).

People have also sleepwalked, prepared/eaten food, made phone calls, or had sex while not fully awake.  Often, these people do not remember these events.  This problem can be dangerous to you or to others.

Without commenting on Roseanne's nocturnal sex life, it makes sense that she might have had an adverse reaction to Ambien, sleep-walking to her computer, then sleep-tweeting about Valerie Jarrett – particularly if she drank some alcohol before going to sleep.  Her tweet certainly falls under the listed Ambien side-effects.

Sedative-hypnotic drugs affect brain neurotransmitters, the same things that, if out of whack, can cause a variety of mental illnesses, from mania to depression.  Brain chemistry is enormously complex, with multiple transmitters, many as of yet unknown, turning on or off other transmitters, leading to a variety of downstream effects, many difficult to predict.

Sanofi US, maker of Ambien, wasted no time in cleverly distancing itself from Roseanne's tweet.

One can argue whether Roseanne's tweet was racist or simply crude – especially since Roseanne, previously a liberal in good standing, cannot by definition be a racist.  This is the same Roseanne who spoke at Occupy Wall Street and sought the Green Party nomination for president in 2012.  After all, Joy Reid, another good liberal, was given a pass from previous homophobic blog posts.  Labels such as racist or homophobic apply only to conservatives and never to liberals.

Roseanne is hardly a conservative, despite her former pro-Trump TV show.  The media don't care.  In their wistful fantasy world, Roseanne = Weinstein = Trump.  Boorish behavior by a liberal is still Trump's fault, as Valerie Jarrett herself told us, blaming Roseanne's tweet on President Trump.  To their thinking, if Roseanne's show can be canceled, why can't Trump's presidency also be canceled?

She is not the only one to have bad trip on Ambien.  Patrick Kennedy crashed his car into a barrier near Capitol Hill in 2006, blaming it on Ambien.  Tiger Woods was arrested for a DUI in 2017 and had Ambien in his system.  Then there are stories of people on a long-haul airplane flight, trying to catch some sleep, having a glass of wine or two with dinner, popping an Ambien to sleep, then turning into an zombie, awakening duct taped to the seat, awaiting arrest, after landing, and not remembering anything past their dinner.

Compare Ambien to an assault weapon, using the words of the Washington Post: "easy to obtain" and "a common thread" connecting gun violence in the case of the weapons, or bad behavior in the case of Ambien.  Ambien is a "scary" drug, despite being just a sleeping pill, just as assault weapons are "scary"-looking guns that in reality are not at all different from most handguns.  Yet just like the AR-15, protected under the Second Amendment, Ambien is FDA-approved and legal.  Handguns are responsible for more shootings than the AR, just as most bad behavior has nothing to do with Ambien, instead being caused by stupidity, perhaps aided by alcohol.

Millions take Ambien with good effect: a restful sleep without sleep-driving or sleep-tweeting.  But with the news of Roseanne and other high-profile Ambien cases, what a ripe target for the left to go after!  An evil drug made by a big corporation, more interested in profits and high CEO salaries than keeping innocent bystanders free from derogatory tweets.

There is already concern about schoolkids over-medicated on Ritalin and antidepressants.  Add Ambien to the list now.  How long until David Hogg and fellow leftists call for a ban on these "assault drugs"?

Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer.  Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn, and Twitter.