Roseanne’s Drug of Choice: Ambien’s Disturbing Side Effects

Composite screenshot: USATODAY.COM

(Headline Health) Controversy surrounds the use of many prescription drugs, and Ambien, the most prescribed sleep aid is no exception.

With mouthy Roseanne Barr blaming Ambien for her inflammatory twitter rant against longtime Obama associate Valerie Jarrett, the drug is once again undergoing intense scrutiny, with both advocates and opponents speaking out.

In response to our story yesterday, one Headline Health reader dispatched a pointed email directly to the editor of this site:

Other readers posted their experiences with Ambien in our Comments area:

To which another reader responded:

The maker of Ambien took to Twitter to address the controversy:

Our coverage continues below with a story from Huffington Post …

The No. 1 Prescription Sleep Aid has a troubling history 

(Allison McCabe, Huffington Post) On March 29, 2009, Robert Stewart, 45, stormed into the Pinelake Health and Rehab nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina and opened fire, killing eight people and wounding two.

Stewart’s apparent target was his estranged wife, who worked as a nurse in the home. She hid in a bathroom and was unharmed. Stewart was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder; if convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Even though there was evidence that Stewart’s actions were premeditated (he allegedly had a target), Stewart’s defense team successfully argued that since he was under the influence of Ambien, a sleep aid, at the time of the shooting, he was not in control of his actions.

Instead of the charges sought by the prosecutors, Stewart was convicted on eight counts of second-degree murder. He received 142 – 179 years in prison.

Ambien, a member of the class of medications known as hypnotics, was approved by the FDA in 1992.

It was designed for short term use to combat insomnia and was a welcome change from the prevailing sleep aid at the time, Halcion, which had been implicated in psychosis, suicide, and addiction and had been banned in half a dozen countries.

Ambien works by activating the neurotransmitter GABA and binding it to the GABA receptors in the same location as the benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium.

The extra GABA activity triggered by the drug inhibits the neuron activity that is associated with insomnia.

In other words, it slows down the brain. Ambien is extremely effective at initiating sleep, usually working within 20 minutes.

It does not, however, have an effect on sustaining sleep unless it is taken in the controlled release form. Read the full story at Huffington Post.

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