Hamlet by William Shakespeare

“To sleep, perchance to dream…,” Hamlet wondered  in his famous To Be or Not to Be soliloquy.

If he lived in modern times, Hamlet would probably pop an ambien and call it a night if he desired to sleep. This popular sleeping aid is gaining quite a bit of attention in the mainstream celebrity world- it’s use amongst celebs is almost as ubiquitous as their active Twitter accounts.

Jay-Z along with Alicia Keys raps about it in Empire State of Mind in reference to partying in NYC- “the city never sleeps, better slip you an ambien”; John Mayer tweets about his personal use and sings about it in Heartbreak Warfare; Jimmy Fallon jokes about it on his late-night talk show; and Tiger Woods probably takes it on nights before playing in the majors. Why not? He takes it for crazy ambien sex with one of his many former mistresses. You probably remember that infamous night he crashed his SUV which led to the unraveling of his secret lifestyle- yep, he was driving under the influence of ambien.

Ambien is a sedative or hypnotic prescription medication that knocks you out like a left hook from Manny Pacquiao.  It was first approved by the FDA in 1992 for the short-term treatment of insomnia. But it didn’t gain widespread use until the generics (zolpidem) came out in 2007. Although not approved for treatment of chronic insomnia, it is not uncommon for doctors to prescribe it for long-term use.

Common side-effects of ambien are drowsiness, impaired motor function, and a drugged feeling.  But more interestingly, side-effects may also include hallucinations, amnesia, euphoria, increased appetite and libido, and extroversion in social settings. And these effects may perhaps be the reason behind  the trend in ambien misuse for recreational purposes.  There are also many documented reports of ambien-related bizarre behavior, ie.  people cleaning out their fridge from sleep-eating politicians involuntarily joining the DUI club from sleep-driving, and wives engaging in unusual sexual behavior of which they have no recollection.

Before the days, or nights, of ambien, the common sleeping pills were the benzos (xanax, valium, ativan) and the barbiturates. These medications are far more dangerous than ambien. They are addictive and lethal in overdoses.  Guess which prescription meds were found in Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, and Heath Ledger when they prematurely died?

Ambien is potentially lethal in an overdose since it’s a sedative, especially if combined with alcohol. The cause of death is cessation of breathing. Fortunately, there aren’t too many documented cases, if any,  of death primarily by ambien overdose. In my own clinical experience, I haven’t seen any yet.

Hamlet was contemplating suicide in his soliloquy- “for in that sleep of death what dreams may come.”  If he were to take a large dose of ambien, he would be at some risk of a fatal overdose. But he’s more likely to hallucinate and engage in an ongoing conversation with the skull until he falls soundly asleep, and not remember a thing the following morning.



Filed under Celebrities, Drugs

9 responses to “Ambien

  1. Stephanie

    Ambien’s the best! I don’t know how I would be able to sleep and function at work without it. Thanks for the extra info about it.

  2. Daniel

    That’s pretty interesting man. Never new ambien had such a wild side!

  3. Chester Wayne

    I’m glad you touched subjects on ambien as I’ve recently been diagnosed with a light case of insomnia. It has helped me tremendously with my sleep schedule and I guess it’s useful for people with lots of brain activity at night. In Tiger Woods case, purely abusing its use and giving the drug a bad name. In turn, the feds might keep a closer eye on the drug itself. Who knows if it would be classified as an illegal drug one day?

  4. Pingback: News Round-Up:March 2010 3rd Edition « The Amazing World of Psychiatry: A Psychiatry Blog

  5. Mary

    Great Article.. ambien has caused me to sleepwalk, sleep dial and my brother found me in the bathroom stall sleeping..
    I woke up with no recollection of any of that happening.. just a “woohoo! I got 8 hours of sleep”.. little did I know.. I had 4 sides of the story. Quite funny to me… but not really.. So now, I just stick to my wine.. and hope for a restful night. When wine doesn’t work, I turn to FB until I get tired.

  6. Reportedly, Eminem experienced ambien’s cognitive side-effects which “wiped out five years of [his] life.”

  7. Ambien helps me with severe anxiety and ocd. I feel the frontal lobes of my brain light up with Ambien and my OCD almost vanishes. I am also far more productive when on Ambien. I take it before work in the parking lot as not to drive on it. WIthout Ambien I go through with some pretty agonizing times that are beyond discription. OCD can be worse than some forms of cancer, especially the paranoiad variety. Ambien brings a little joy to my life. Zoloft, Celexa, and Abilify failed miserably for me. Only Ambien and Xanax work for my condition- nothing else!!!!

  8. case

    Thank you for your operate. Article aided me a lot

  9. dawn

    Please DO NOT take this medication, its not worth all the side effects this medication has. Its too dangerous.

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