Friday, September 15, 2006

Waking Life

I've been on Ambien. It did some weird things to me. Sometimes in the night I couldn't tell if I was awake or asleep. I saw things. My memory got jumbled. I would fall asleep in the middle of the day. I would forget what I was doing.

I switched to something else pretty quickly, and started to hear the reports, and then the jokes, about people on Ambien. How they'd sleepwalk in the middle of the night and eat the entire contents of their refrigerators. How they'd be driving their cars with their eyes open, but mentally asleep.

"How crazy is it," I thought to myself, and not for the first time, "that drug companies put out and doctors prescribe substances without having a clear idea of just what they do or how they do it, much less the long-term side effects?"

I didn't know the half of it.

It turns out that, when taken by some people in persistent vegetative states, Ambien actually wakes them up. People who were staring, sightless, unable to walk, talk or feed themselves, begin to laugh and communicate. It's incredible - like Awakenings all over again.

The power of drugs: truly both miraculous and frightening. The cause of one person's car accident is the ticket to one person's consciousness. How little we know and understand.


MEK the Bear said...

That's so cool, and bizarre, and terrifying all at the same time. But wow, how great is it that they've figure this out!

claire said...

holy crap is that scary.

what i'm curious about is how they thought to try giving a sleeping pill to someone in that state in the first place.

you know, in the same way i wonder who the first person was that thought artichokes would be good to eat. (i can't be the only one who wonders that).

Da Nator said...

Well, apparently someone in a vegetative state kept clutching and moaning, so his mother asked the doctors if there was some sedative she could give him so he wouldn't seem so pained. Mix crushed Ambien with water and voila! Talking veg!

This whole thing is wonderful, but scary at the same time, as you say. Makes me feel for both the people who will now wonder if removing life support from their loved ones was the right thing to do, and the people who hope this will suddenly cure their afflicted loved ones, which may not be the case...

BigAssBelle said...

that's unreal. my husband has taken ambien for 5 years. did the whole sleepwalking/eating thing long before anything was written about it. we had a load of deer sausage and he cooked up four platesful one night, leaving one in his lap as he slept upright on the sofa (started out in bed), one on the counter, two on the floor. i asked him what the hell was going on, refrigerator door standing open, fire on the stove, and he said "i made sausage for all of us. you and me, bill and mo (the animals)" and then conked out.

ambien. hate it. what a powerful drug. how amazing that it's waking people up. sleep well . . .