Have you heard about bath salts? I just heard about them, somehow, for the first time this weekend. If you haven’t heard, do yourself a favor and Google (or Bing) them. FASCINATING. As a brief summary, they seem to be an organically occurring compound that people are smoking. They give the same sort of speed high as cocaine or meth, but are currently legal because they are marketed in head shops as – you guessed it – “bath salts.” Here’s where it becomes TRULY interesting – they cause people to turn into zombies. Not in the literal walking dead sense, of course – in the “Man I am starved and you know what sounds really good? My neighbor’s face,” sense. I kid you not – there are MULTIPLE instances of this drug causing people to turn cannibalistic and eat people’s faces (or, in this case, the family dog). When I learned about bath salts this weekend, everyone I asked seemed to already know all about them, making me wonder how the hell I have missed this sensational development in the world of narcotics. I assure you, I know more about hard drugs, hard drug users, and the effects of hard drugs than nearly anyone you know – especially amazing since I have never actually partaken of any hard drugs. It has been a lifelong fascination for me, so it’s especially bizarre that somehow I missed the popularization of a drug that causes people to turn into horror shows, quite literally.
Anyhow I digress. The point of this post is not actually bath salts or hard drugs. It’s Ambien.
I have had insomnia pretty much since I got my depression resolved (with medication) at the age of 19. I used to use sleep as a crutch, sleeping as much as possible to avoid dealing with reality. When I got medicated for depression, my sleep cycle first became normal, then I developed insomnia. I have two different types of insomnia – slow sleep (the inability to fall asleep once I am in bed) and premature waking (waking up at all hours and then being unable to fall back asleep again). For years, I have taken Trazodone, an anti-depressant with sedative qualities, to help me sleep. It works great, but when I got pregnant, I had to stop taking it, and didn’t sleep for pretty much three days straight – not good.
My doctor then put me on Ambien. I guess Ambien is safe(r) to take during pregnancy. I take it “as needed,” meaning I mostly just take melatonin at bedtime unless I know for some reason I am not going to sleep (like jet lag) or if I have taken the melatonin and have still been lying awake for hours.
Google (or Bing) Ambien and you will find ALL SORTS of horror stories. I have heard more about how awful Ambien is than bath salts. Sleep eating, sleep driving, sleep murderizing entire towns (okay, I am exaggerating on that last one) – people are terrified of Ambien. I read an entire article in a women’s fashion magazine demonizing Ambien and its effects. The author, you see, instead of taking the Ambien and going immediately to bed, as prescribed, was taking it and then staying up and compulsively eating and shopping. But that’s the drug’s fault. Not hers. Yes, the doctor told her to take it and go straight to bed. Yes, she asked for it. Yes, the prescription bottle also advised going straight to bed. Yes, she is a fully grown woman. BUT IT’S ALL THE FAULT OF THAT HORRIBLE DRUG! (Ugh, sorry, sorry, I have issues with people refusing to take personal responsibility.)
These articles even freaked me out. I read all about Ambien. I doubted the wisdom of my doctor in prescribing it. I worried about the side effects and long-term problems. But you know what? I haven’t really had any. So now finally I am going to get to what this blog is actually about – What It’s Like To Be On Ambien. By Kate.
Yes I have taken Ambien and then stayed up. Not because of any desire to “see” what it would be like or to consciously disobey doctor’s orders. More because my typical nighttime routine consisted of taking Trazodone and then goofing off online until it kicked in, at which time I’d go to bed. The “problem” with Ambien is that it doesn’t kick in in the same way. You don’t become suddenly super sleepy – you feel a little drunk. Not in the fun, party way, but in a slightly dizzy, disoriented way. So I’d take Ambien, start goofing off online, do that for an hour or so, think, “I should try to get some sleep,” and then pretty much immediately fall asleep.
Did I order things online while on Ambien? Yes. I definitely did. I ordered things I only vaguely remembered ordering, and things I didn’t really need. Ambien definitely causes me to become looser and more apt to make purchases online.
Did I post things on Facebook/send texts while on Ambien? Oh yes. And I would see them the next morning and think, “What the eff?” They were JUST the sort of weird, off-the-wall things I’d post while drunk, and some of them I only BARELY remembered. But again, Ambien doesn’t really make you FEEL drunk – you’re not all laughy happy silly emotional. You’re just – weirdly relaxed. (And yes, I am saying “you” and should be saying “I,” because my experience could be vastly different from everyone else’s, but I am not going to go through and change all the pronouns now. Sorry.)
Did I drive, walk, talk, eat, or murderize while asleep on Ambien? NO. The only thing Ambien made me do after I closed my eyes was sleep.
So here’s the deal: Ambien is a drug. In my personal experience, it’s no more a drug than alcohol – maybe even less of one. But treat it like a prescription drug. Follow the directions. Take it and close your eyes. Don’t try to take it and then go on about your life – that’s not what it’s prescribed for. It’s prescribed to let you sleep, so use it for that. If you have a bad effect, stop taking it. If you can’t control yourself and feel the need to abuse it, stop taking it (and definitely talk to your health care provider). But don’t use it contrary to the directions and then blame the drug for what you do. Ultimately what you make of it is in your hands. Or on your nightstand.