Ambien maker responds to Roseanne Barr, says 'Racism is not a known side effect'
Yesterday Roseanne Barr tweeted a racist 'joke' about former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett. In a Twitter thread about Valerie, who is a African-American woman born in Iran, the comedienne wrote, "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj." The backlash was sudden and severe. Celebrities, politicians and 'Roseanne' cast members spoke out to condemn her behavior. And in a swift move, ABC cancelled the 'Roseanne' revival, one of the most successful shows of the past season.
Initially, Roseanne deleted her offensive tweet, apologized for the 'bad joke,' and said she was quitting Twitter. However, she quickly returned to apologize to the "hundreds of people" who lost their jobs on her show. Frustrated over "being labeled a racist over one tweet," she attempted to explain her behavior as a result of taking too much Ambien:
"Guys I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me. It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible. I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but…don’t defend it please. ty"
To some, it looked like Roseanne was blaming her racist tweet on Ambien. We've seen celebrities blame bad behavior on drinking too much alcohol, but can you blame it on Ambien? The debate blew up so much that 'Ambien' began trending on Twitter, and Sanofi, the company that manufactures the drug, responded:
"People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world. While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication."
"Racism is not a known side effect" is a pretty funny line, and proves even pharmaceutical companies are capable of throwing shade. But you may be wondering, is Roseanne's claim valid? We all know Ambien is a sedative used to treat insomnia, but what exactly are the side effects?
According to New York Times science reporter Benedict Carey, Roseanne's Ambien defense is "a far-fetched claim at best." It's true that the drug can cause a wide range of significant side effects. For example, people do activities while sleeping, like driving their car or eating a pizza, that they have no memory of doing later. However, these side effects "tend to involve physical actions, often taken at night in a state of near amnesia — not specific and cogent comments made with apparent conscious awareness."
Carey explains that Ambien can cause lapses in judgement, but at the same time, it creates a lack of mental focus. The ability to read an article like this one, and respond with all of your verbal memory, will slip. So, it's unlikely you'll have a Tourettes-like outburst.Also, while people have reported hallucinations, it's mainly a visual experience. For example, you may see the icons on your desktop swim in circles, or the clothes in your closet turn into zombies. However, "these states tend to produce a spacey quality during waking hours, not the kind that lends itself to tossing off vituperative insults."
Speaking with the New York Times, Dr. W. Christopher Winter of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine said, "I think the question with Roseanne is she is trying to say, ‘I am not really racist.'" While he did not answer that question, he did add, "The pills reveal the kinds of thoughts you are having which you are actively suppressing. The Ambien allows those kinds of thoughts to be expressed."
Well, the Ambien defense doesn't appear to ork in this case. In response to the brouhaha, Roseanne tried to clear things up on TWitter. She said that she blames herself for her actions, not Ambien, and denies being a racist, despite the regrettable "joke."
Well, as the drama continues, maybe we'll gain greater insight into why Roseanne tweeted what she did.