Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ambien Gait

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or, say, Larry the Cable Guy’s ass, you’ve probably heard about the fun little side effects of the sleep-inducing drug Ambien. Not only is it rumored to prompt sleep-eating and sleep-driving, but just take a look at some of the other potential side effects:

Central and peripheral nervous system: Frequent: ataxia, confusion, depression, dizziness, drowsiness, drugged feeling, euphoria, headache, insomnia, lethargy, lightheadedness, vertigo. Infrequent: abnormal dreams, agitation, amnesia, anxiety, decreased cognition, detached, difficulty concentrating, dysarthria, emotional lability, hallucination, hypoesthesia, illusion, leg cramps, migraine, nervousness, paresthesia, sleep disorder, sleeping (after daytime dosing), speech disorder, stupor, tremor. Rare: abnormal gait, abnormal thinking, aggressive reaction, apathy, appetite increased, decreased libido, delusion, dementia, depersonalization, dysphasia, feeling strange, hypokinesia, hypotonia, hysteria, intoxicated feeling, manic reaction, neuralgia, neuritis, neuropathy, neurosis, panic attacks, paresis, personality disorder, somnambulism, suicide attempts, tetany, yawning.

Other than my favorite (sleeping), which IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN, what is up with abnormal gait? What is IN this shit? (To say nothing of "depersonalization" and simply "feeling strange.")

The Ambien pushers don’t explain what exactly they mean by "abnormal gait," but the image I’m getting in my head is this: you’re walking along, minding your business, and all of a sudden you’re Cookie Fleck stumble-running across the floor of Madison Square Garden to hug Gerry and Winky after the big “Best in Show” win.

Perhaps the makers of Ambien should include a free pair of Olga shoes with every prescription, just in case that abnormal gait develops. You know about the Olga shoes, right? The “special” shoes that Pa Ingalls made for irregularly-limbed Olga so she could play with the rest of the kids? See, she had one leg shorter than the other. So Pa built her an elevated shoe.

My friend Fee made our good friend Wendell an Olga shoe for Christmas in 1997. Here it is:

And here they are, being modeled in a close-up. Unfortunately, I cut the Olga shoe off a bit when I took this picture, but I think it's a fair enough representation:

Wasn’t that thoughtful of Fee? Wendell didn’t have an abnormal gait at the time, so perhaps Fee was providing her with the means to walk and play with the rest of the kids in the event that she would one day take Ambien.

So here’s to the kind of friends who will make you an Olga shoe, even if you don’t really need it.


  1. Abnormal gait? i can just picture someone bustin' out in a moonwalk.

    Abnormal dreams? What are those?
    Maybe dreams about having an abnormal gait?

  2. Anonymous9:57 PM

    That drug just seems scary. I know people that experience insomnia are really tortured by it, however this drug appears to cause more problems than does good!

  3. Anonymous10:19 PM

    Oh, that's a code I see @ work all the time. Abnormal gait. Sounds like something for a horse, not a human. F*** Ambien, try Melatonin, 3mg. You will sleep for 10 hours. Just make sure you don't have anything to be up on time for the next day. :0

  4. I heard on the news about someone taking Ambien and realizing that they were hard boiling eggs in the middle of the night.

    Only evidence was the pan on the stove and the extremely overcooked eggs.

    Maybe just cut out the chemical dependency?

  5. You are a very funny human being! (Not funny as in "special"...funny as in GA-FAW!!)

    You have such a way with words. Very clever and witty.

    We all need that friend, don't we? The one who will make us the Olga shoe...just in case!

  6. "Maybe just cut out the chemical dependency?" A diabetic judging an insomniac? Why don't you just cut out your little "sugar" problem?
    My sleeping problems are due to chronic pain and severe sleep apenea. Not everyone has a choice. Or at least a good choice. And, according to my family, I fit the news profile.
    Sorry to be "so quick to judge", but this story hits close to my heart.

  7. Anonymous6:33 AM

    Ambien-the velvet sledgehammer. Me likee (though it does seem to have affected my speech patterns)!

    Seriously, I (as in me, as in I am not speaking for Ambien users in general) have a much easier time going to sleep and do not feel like I'm fighting my way out of a fog in the morning and it's ok if I can only get 6 hours sleep. I've not experienced any sleepwalking or driving or God forbid cleaning.

  8. LOL at the Cookie Fleck comparison! I was also thinking of that Monty Python skit about the Ministry of Silly Walks.

  9. Those side effects were unbelievable! Frequently people felt lethargic, drowsy, and drugged after taking Ambien, a sleeping drug? No fucking way!

    Seriously, there were people who "frequently" had insomnia after taking it?? Well, they probably had insomnia to begin with - which is why they were participating in the study - so it just had no effect on them!

    Infrequent side effect: sleep disorder? What the hell? Newsflash Einstein, if you're taking Ambien, you already have a sleeping disorder (unless you're just using it to hallucinate)! :)

    And decreased libido?? Welcome to what we women have been dealing with for all of time! You have an exausting day (or in this case, took sleeping pills, same difference) and oh my gosh! you don't have the energy to get your groove on anymore? What a revelation!

    Ha! I could go on and on. (YAWNING?? For real??)

  10. The liberalbanana has it about right - anything that patient experiences while participating in a clinical study or reports after taking a prescribed drug is recorded as an adverse effect, even if it's an EXPECTED result of the drug. Therefore, people who take sleeping aids might report insomnia (just means the drug didn't work for you), or people with diabetes taking insulin might report hypoglycemia (also, spot-on if the drug is working a little too well or you're not eating enough). The companies who make and market the drugs have to report these effects, or face having the drug pulled or their company investigated.
    Yes, as a matter of fact, I do work in the pharmaceutical industry....
    Abnormal gait can be lots of things - walking more slowly than usual or stumbling (because you're still sleepy, say) or whatever. Maybe galloping down the stairs to cook you some eggs at 3 a.m.!

  11. Olga shoe? I've never heard of that!

    when I think of abnormal gait I think of white people suddenly walking with the cool swagger of a black!

  12. "Gait" makes me think of horses, so you can only imagine the odd mental images I'm having.

    I used to take Ambien. It was great stuff until I decided not to sleep while on it one night. My roommates thought I was drunk... Or insane. Or both.

    P.S. All I want for Christmas is some Olga Shoes.

  13. Anonymous10:58 AM

    Sounds like Ambien works like a nightmare. I love listening to the side affects listed with those pharma ads. Sometimes those are worse than the symptom causing you to take the drug in the first place. I'd rather be sleep deprived than fat! :) Ooo. that's gonna sound bad, oh well.

  14. I loved ambien. It is classified as a "hypnotic" - hehe. Unfortunately my doctor knew I liked it a bit too much and won't give it to me anymore :-)

    It was good for 8 hours of sleep and some cool color effects beforehand if you didn't go to bed right away :)

  15. Anonymous1:19 PM

    This post had me laughing out loud.

    And the shoe! I propose using it as new euphenism for when something is 'just a little bit off.'

    As in, "I made some chili last night but it tasted totally Olga shoe."

  16. If someone yawns and then makes a suicidal threat... does this mean they are on Ambien? Gait. That's a swell word for sure.

  17. ooooh. Does Fee take custom orders??

    I wish I was taking this damn drug so I could blame the "blogger ten" on my sleep eating.

    Thank you so much for the Best In Show reference, Jess. There is nothing like picturing Cookie Fleck and her left-footed husband to make my day.

  18. Totally related to nothing...

    How much do you think I can bench press?

    A true fan, eh? We shall see.

  19. Lena, can I guess 80 pounds?

  20. Anonymous3:20 PM

    Well, I'm glad we got to the bottom of THAT. I am "feeling strange" all the time, and now I know it is because I used to take Ambien.
    Also--how is it that "sleeping" is infrequent and "insomnia" is frequent? That sounds like "decreased cognition" on somebody's part...

  21. I sooooo loved that you worked Cookie Fleck into this post. "You must be very proud, Mary ... " "Gerald, my husband. The beat goes on." haha.

    Um, wtf is tetany?

    Do you think "abnormal gait" would have anything to do with the ministry of silly walks?

  22. Anonymous5:38 PM

    "Abnormal Gait". Love it. Actually, it's often amusing to read those lists. And with a side-effects list like that, how can anyone consider using Ambien?

  23. Half of those side effects I've never even heard of and couldn't even pronounce. But this one made me laugh out loud: feeling strange.

  24. Jess,

    I don't take any new drugs because the FDA uses us all as guinea pigs. FDA approval doesn't mean anything anymore.


  25. That was so she could "play" an Ambien user in a future commerical.

  26. Sleep-eating and -driving, as well as the "feeling strange," are definitely good ones to muse over. The one that really floored me was "suicide attempts." Whaa?!

  27. Anonymous3:21 PM

    My friend had some ultra bizarre experiences with Ambien. Also, she's a sleep-eater. Go figure!?

  28. I just heard about this Ambian thing today...I guess I've been living under the plumber's ass!

    Just saw your comment on my blog and followed it back. Great writing! I'm gonna have to buy your book 2007, that is. ;)

  29. Anonymous3:18 AM

    My name is Catherine Snow and i would like to show you my personal experience with Ambien.

    I have taken for 1 years. I am 57 years old. Works great if I take it on an empty stomach, and get right into bed. If you take it and try to keep yourself awake, you can override the pill and be up all night.

    Side Effects :

    I hope this information will be useful to others,
    Catherine Snow

  30. This drug made me visually hallucinate so bad I had to be driven to the ER! It stopped within a couple of hours, but I never took it again, and the hallucinations went away after that night.

  31. Had sleep problems since College (43 years old now). Took all the normal heavy duty sleep medicines like Valium and even Benadryl. These only put me in a half sleep state and made me feel horrible for days on in. After 20 years of suffering from insomnia and after a bout with meningitis in 2000 my friend, a neurologist who was seeing me for post meningitis asked me how I was sleeping. I told her I haven't had a good nights sleep in over 20 years. She wrote a script for Ambien. I have never been so in love with a pill in my life as I am with Ambien. I fall asleep within 15 minutes, get a good 7 hours hard sleep and wake up bright and early and feel rested like I have not felt in decades. Ambien is a miracle drug and thanks to the genius who made it.

  32. I love Ambien - it slows my racing, worried mind and lets me sleep through the night. I just take 5 mg tablet and that works great. I am a Type 1 diabetic for 43 years, and notice no side effects.