Ambien Has Its Own Guilt — Just Not for Roseanne

So Roseanne Barr is saying she was in some kind of Ambien-induced altered state when she wrote and sent the Tweet that got her show cancelled. As numerous commenters have pointed out, Ambien does not cause one to have deeply racist beliefs, it just lessens one’s inhibitions about making those beliefs known and/or causing you to not remember that you made those beliefs known.

When I worked in residential addiction treatment, Ambien was the drug we hated the most because it was even more falsely marketed than OxyContin. Sanofi, its manufacturer, stated all over the place that Ambien is not a benzodiazepine. Xanax (the most heavily abused benzo), Valium, Ativan, Klonipin and Librium are all benzodiazepines, which are all sedatives  (anxiety) or hypnotics (insomnia). The chemical names for most benzos end in -am or -pam (alprazolam = Xanax, for instance); the chemical name for Ambien is zolpidem and therein lies the lie Sanfoi tells. According to Wikipedia, “[Ambien] works by increasing GABA effects in the central nervous system by binding to GABAA receptors at the same location as benzodiazepines.” Yes, Ambien is not a benzo, until you put it in your body, and then it has all the same effects as benzos, both good (helps you sleep) and bad (causes tolerance, amnesia and alcohol overdoses).

So if Ambien is not a benzo, why did we treat people for withdrawal from Ambien (and no other drugs) that was just like withdrawal from short- or medium-acting benzos? The problem with this illusion is it causes people to think that Ambien is not a dangerous drug with a high abuse potential and when mixed with other drugs can cause fatal overdoses. But, as Sanofi points out, it cannot cause you to have nasty, racists beliefs; it can only unleash them.

© Joseph Galligan 2018

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