McCain’s Ambien Use is Cause for Alarm

John McCain’s on Ambien. So much for being ready for that 3 a.m. call.

Ambien is the sleep aid that was at the center of a class action lawsuit after users noticed bizarre side effects, like getting up in the middle of the night and cooking huge meals, then leaving the burners at full blast and going back to bed. I remember reading one man’s account. He said he heard sounds from the kitchen and found his wife tearing open a package of hamburger buns, “like a grizzly bear.”

But there are less humorous risks as well.

“The key is to use Ambien-like medications in moderation and don’t mix them with other sedatives or alcohol,” an expert said. “Avoid use if you have to consider escalation from Defcon 4 to Defcon 3.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has uncovered more than a dozen reports of sleep-driving, all linked to the drug. Partly in response to such reports, the FDA urged sleep drug manufacturers on March 14, 2007 to strengthen their package labeling to include warnings of sleep walking, “sleep driving” and other behaviors.

…”Ambien should only be taken when you have a window of seven to eight hours for sleep,” [Director of the Strong Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center Dr. Donald W.] Greenblatt said. “Your staff should know that you’ve taken the medication, and that you should not be involved in any decision-making during that time.”

Official sources go beyond that recommendation.

Ambien can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. You may still feel sleepy the morning after taking the medication. Until you know how this medication will affect you during waking hours, be careful if you drive, operate machinery, pilot an airplane, or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert…Ambien may be habit-forming and should be used only by the person it was prescribed for. Ambien should never be shared with another person, especially someone who has a history of drug abuse or addiction. Keep the medication in a secure place where others cannot get to it.

Hear that, Johnny? That means you should be keeping it locked away from your wife, Cindy, whose past addiction to Vicoden and Percocet is self-disclosed legend.

But there’s one more little problem.

[Medical director of the St. Joseph Sleep Disorders Center in Orange, Calif. Dr. Peter A.] Fotinakes added that sleeping pills and other sedatives have been proven to be more potent in the elderly.

Um, has anyone noticed McCain is elderly? Let’s connect the dots.

“The key is to use Ambien-like sleeping medications in moderation and don’t mix them with other sedative drugs or alcohol,” Fotinakes said. “Most importantly, avoid use in the event you have to consider escalation from Defcon 4 to Defcon 3.”

Har-dee-har-har, Dr. Fotinakes. I bet your patients think you’re a regular stand-up comedian. The point is, McCain is one of the millions upon millions of Americans who feel they need prescriptions to get through the day, or in this case, the night. He also has a stake in making a drug that might well turn out to be very, very bad look acceptable.

I prefer my presidents to be ‘script-free, unless it’s stuff for blood pressure (which McCain is also on) or antibiotics. I don’t want them to need help from pills in falling asleep, battling anxiety, or fighting depression. And I damn sure don’t want them on something that makes them incapable of doing their job — making decisions — for more than one-third of every day.


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  • May 24, 2008 - 11:38 am | Permalink

    I want my candidates to enjoy their drugs while awake.

  • Jubilato
    May 25, 2008 - 12:15 am | Permalink

    You know nothing about Ambien. I’m no supporter of McCain, but I couldn’t care less if my President takes Ambien.

    There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about McCain. The fact that you chose to focus on Ambien says more about you than about McCain.

  • Pingback: Trish: McCain’s Ambien Use is Cause for Alarm « McCombover

  • Cornfields
    August 27, 2008 - 10:30 am | Permalink

    It is amazing that many first responders are taking Ambien… now it turns out that we have a presidential candidate with a sleeping pill problem.

    It would not be such a problem for an average older American (although even then sleeping pills are a bad idea), but many of Ambien’s more bizarre side effects are triggered precisely by interrupted sleep.

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  • Betsy
    September 16, 2008 - 4:17 pm | Permalink

    My brother in law lives with us and takes Ambien. One morning we woke up and he was not in his room. We tried calling him on his cell phone. He was in his car, downtown with his dog (just like he is used to doing in the daytime) We woke him up by calling his cell phone and he had absolutely no memory of going out or idea why he would have done that at 5 in the morning. Scary, and we are glad it was a time when there were few other cars on the road!

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