Counting Sheep Is For Suckers

The pharmaceutical industry works like the women's magazine industry: attractive people telling you what's wrong with you and how they can fix it in a super underminer-y way so as to send you shame-spiraling toward a lifelong cycle of dependence. Okay, so: Ambien. Why ever would we need it? We consulted Pillhead, who said: "You only think you don't need them because you drink yourself to sleep every night." But only because of the Adderall! "And why do you think my doctor wrote both prescriptions at the same time?" she replied. "Because he's a pawn of the pharmaceutical industry's conspiracy to invent new First World diseases because there's no money in curing the old Third World ones!" we responded, reflexively. And then we felt a sharp pang in our liver. (Whoever said you can't feel your liver wasn't an alcoholic.) After the jump, Pillhead finds eternal love with Ambien after a brief dalliance with Lunesta leaves a bad taste in her mouth.

Hi, it's Pillhead, your guide to recreational and lifestyle pharmacology. Last time I pussed out on taking Alli and shared some serious TMI about Adderall instead. This time I'm playing some soothing music and giving you the dirt on prescription sleep aids.

Sleeping pills are so hot right now! Martha Plimpton recently described her bedtime to New York Magazine as "When the Ambien Express arrives at Sleepytime Station." If you've ever taken Ambien, you know the feelings of love and devotion that little oblong white pill brings out. You also may know the feelings of WTF? brought about when you wake up with your pajamas on top of your clothes and nine popsicle sticks on the nightstand. (And maybe a mystery condom. Did I have sex last night? Yeah, so it's sort of like drinking.)

I didn't ask my doctor for a sleep aid, he just offered me an Ambien prescription and I said, "Why not?" That night, I popped half and climbed into bed with a book. The next morning I woke up with the light still on and my head on the book — I hadn't even made it through one page before sweet, sweet Ambien knocked me out. (This is why I have a theory that the decline in literacy rates and the rise of sleep aids are inextricably linked.) Ambien is a success because it's a lifestyle drug. Why leave it up to chance when you can now choose the exact five minute window in which you'll fall asleep?

Which is why its important not to take Ambien until you're actually in bed. We all know about the widely-publicized cases of people who took it and tried to drive cars, and I have a friend who took it at a party and "came to" hours later in an unfamiliar bar. Another friend used to hallucinate and babble endlessly about his favorite architects when he mixed Ambien and Jim Beam. (Yeah, so EVERYONE got in on the sleep.)

After a year on Ambien, I asked my doctor for Lunesta because I'd read it was less habit-forming, and also, obviously: those pretty magical moths in that enchanted forest. Five minutes after taking it my mouth was full of what tasted like a mixture of aspirin and copper. I fell asleep anyway, but when I awoke I was shocked to find that the taste was still there. All day long I guzzled water and tea but it only made the taste worse! I remembered "unpleasant taste" being a side effect in the pretty moth commercial but this was ridiculous! So I turned to Google, and it didn't let me down. On message board after message board, Lunesta users were one-upping each other trying to find the best way to describe the infuriating taste:

"...like a heard of wild animals nested in my mouth."

"The delightful taste I'm enjoying is not at all metallic, though; something more like dirty socks. So I've had some dirty sock eggs, a dirty sock glass of milk, a dirty sock sandwich.... you get the idea. Water, gum, juice, hard candy, mouthwash — nothing brings more than a few seconds relief, and then the dirty socks are back with a vengeance."

"The metallic taste is horrible, no matter how much water you drink or gum you chew. I think it works better as a diet pill. I don't want to eat or drink certain foods, since it makes me gag to try to do so."

"Oh man, nothing like sucking down a few coins with rotten egg!"

In my case the taste lasted for several days, and I bored my friends to death because it was all I could talk about. So: if you're in the market for a sleep aid, magic Ambien is the way to go. Besides, Lunesta is expensive and - rejoice - Ambien just went generic!


My Valentine: Ambien" image by JoeWorld [Flickr]