Does Ambien Cause Anti-Semitism?

  • by: |
  • 08/03/2006

I pondered this question in light of Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant at the LA cop while deep under the influence of distilled spirits. Can we blame Gibson’s views on alcohol? You can say a lot of things when you are drunk, but the phrase “The Jews start all the wars” is not exactly one that leaps to mind in people who are plastered. Then again, Michael Moore called Israel part of the true axis of evil and he was stone sober, though overweight when he said that…No one seems to care.

Which raises an interesting question, when will someone begin to blame hateful outbursts on Ambien? It makes statistical sense. And according the Washington Post ,which has made coverage of Ambien a nice little hobby, it seems to cause everything else. Ambien, we are told, caused Patrick Kennedy to smash his car up, causes sleepwalking, shoplifting, midnight snacking, etc., etc.

Or does it. After all, sleepwalking, car crashups, and shoplifting were around before Ambien. So was the drug and alcohol addition of people that often take these medications or abuse them. But even with that, just how much of problem is this so-called Ambien epidemic? The folks at did the math in a March 14, 2006 posting:

In 2004, over 24 million prescriptions for Ambien were written. Let’s say that each contained 30 pills. That’s 740 million times people took this sinister drug in 2004. Tinmothy Morgenthaler, a Mayo Clinic researcher, reported five cases fo sleepwalking in 2002. Nineteen cases were reported by one center last year. Since 1997, a whopping 207 sleepwalking incidents have been reported, most of which physicians can’t link to Ambien. In fact, only 48 have been linked to this killer drug.

It’s well known that adverse incidents are under-reported, so let’s assume a factor of 100. That is, there are 100 times more incidents that are reported. Okay, we get out our calculator and multipy 48 incidents times 100. Wait a minute. Got it, that’s 4800 incidents over, say, 8 years or 600 a year. Wow! No wonder it got banner headlines. But wait. The drug is used 740 million times a year, which means your odds of sleepwalking from using the drug are 0.00008% or something like 1/80,000th of a percent. Another way of thinking about it is that if you take the drug 80,000 times, you have a 1% chance of sleepwalking.

Blame Ambien for anti-Semitic outbursts? Might as well blame the Jews for sleepwalking.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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