Following after Jamie Foxx, Roseanne Barr blamed it on the a-a-a-a-Ambien. In a tweet after her controversial rant on Twitter blew up and led to her firing, the popular sitcom star wrote, “Guys I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me. It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting—it was memorial day too—i went 2 far & do not want it defended—it was egregious Indefensible. I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but…don’t defend it please,” she wrote later on Twitter. She added, “Not giving excuses for what I did (tweeted) but I’ve done weird stuff while on ambien—cracked eggs on the wall at 2am etc.”
People on Ambien have been known to sleep-walk or even sleep-eat. (“We’ve had people eat buttered cigarettes,” Mark Mahowald, of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, told News.com.au. “We’ve had people make salt sandwiches.”) There’s an entire sub-Reddit devoted to Ambien and the wacky texts and emails people sometimes write while on it. One guy even claims to have unconsciously built a cabinet in the middle of the night. Rarely, van der Helm says, people might experience mood changes or aggression.
Indeed, the medication guide for Ambien lists rare side effects like “getting out of bed while not being fully awake and do[ing] an activity that you do not know you are doing” and “abnormal thoughts and behavior … more outgoing or aggressive behavior than normal, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, worsening of depression, and suicidal thoughts or actions.”
“Basically part of the brain is asleep, while other parts are still active, explaining why your memory might fail you, or why you have lost normal inhibition,” van der Helm told me.
Ambien is a sedative that is prescribed for insomnia. Some of the side effects listed for the drug include memory loss, agitation, mental/mood/behavior changes, aggressive behavior, and anxiety.
So could Ambien be the cause of Roseanne’s behavior? The actress thinks so. Of course, the manufacturer of Ambien, Sanofi, denies the claim. David Juurlink, of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, was similarly skeptical that Ambien could produce hateful thoughts. “Drugs like Ambien can absolutely influence one’s actions,” he said. “But in this instance, I think there’s a distinction to be drawn between the decision to tweet something and the content of the tweet. Ambien could certainly prompt an ill-advised tweet, but it wouldn’t explain bigoted or racist content.”
Any pharmaceutical, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, is capable of altering body chemistry and in some instances mood and behavior. Caveat emptor!