‘Roseanne’ canceled: What is Ambien and what can it make you do?

Comedian Roseanne Barr tweeted overnight that she is tired of "being attacked and belittled," and appeared to blame an insomnia drug and the fact that it was Memorial Day for the tweet in which she compared a former Obama administration official with an ape.

The tweet posted on Tuesday attacked Valarie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, and prompted ABC to cancel her television show, a reboot of her late 1980s show “Roseanne” about a working-class Midwestern family.

Late Tuesday and early Wednesday, Barr posted a series of tweets about the incident, and in one suggested that the sleep-inducing drug Ambien could have caused her to post the offensive tweet.

What is Ambien and why would Barr say it could have caused her to tweet what she did? Here’s a look at the drug and what it does.

What is it?

Ambien is a brand name for the drug zolpidem. Zolpidem is prescribed by a doctor to treat insomnia – or inability to sleep.

What does it do?

Zolpidem is classified as a nonbarbiturate hypnotic. That means it is a drug that is used to calm people to help them to sleep but is not made from a barbiturate – a strong sedative. Zolpidem works to depress a person’s central nervous system to calm a person and help him or her to fall asleep and stay asleep.

How is the medicine taken?

Zolpidem is a pill taken by mouth just as a person is getting ready to go to sleep. It generally acts quickly. A person should take the medication when he or she can get at least 7-8 hours of sleep as zolpidem is a long-acting drug.

If you must get up before 7-8 hours, there is a chance you will be drowsy and possibly dizzy, according to the drug’s manufacturer.

What are the side effects of zolpidem?

The drug can cause these side effects, according to the National Institutes of Health:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Anxiety, depression, nervousness, unusual behavior, or thoughts of hurting yourself
  • Memory loss
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
  • Severe confusion, drowsiness, muscle weakness
  • Daytime drowsiness

According to the NIH, zolpidem can “cause unusual moods and behaviors. You may also do things while you are still asleep that you may not remember the next morning, such as driving. … thought or behavior changes (such as problems with gambling or increased sex drive)” can also happen when the drug is taken.

Credit: Richard Shotwell

Credit: Richard Shotwell

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