Ambien makers dispute Roseanne Barr's claim: 'Racism is not a known side effect'

Amid the condemnations that poured in about Roseanne Barr’s overtly racist tweet that likened Valerie Jarrett to if the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby,” it’s unlikely anyone could have predicted what would come next: The claim, from Barr herself, that Ambien is to blame. In a since-deleted tweet Tuesday night, hours after ABC canceled Roseanne, the 65-year-old reportedly said the sleep aid fueled her racist rant.

Roseanne Barr (Photo: Getty Images)
Roseanne Barr (Photo: Getty Images)

“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,” she reportedly wrote. “I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but…don’t defend it please.” Before thanking her supporters Wednesday morning, Barr took the Ambien defense further, according to CNN. “Not giving excuses for what I did(tweeted),” she wrote. “But I’ve done weird stuff while on ambien—cracked eggs on the wall at 2am etc.”


By Wednesday morning, Ambien was the top trending topic on Twitter, where those who have used it insisted that it’s never caused them to spew racist remarks.


In an email to Yahoo Lifestyle, head of North America media relations for Sanofi, the maker of Ambien, aggressively disputed the notion that the popular sleep aid caused Barr’s racist remark.

“People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world,” Ashleigh Koss told Yahoo Lifestyle. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

Ambien, a medicine approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1992, is one of the most widely used sleep aids in the U.S. Prescribed for “short-term treatment of insomnia characterized by difficulties with sleep initiation,” it has been shown to reduce sleeping difficulty. While the majority of those who do take it respond positively, Ambien, like many drugs, has a number of side effects. The most common include daytime drowsiness, headache, lightheadedness, upset stomach, and nausea.

None, it should be noted, include racism. The FDA does list “abnormal thinking” as another potential side effect, but notes that this happens in less than one percent of cases. When it does, individuals can experience things like “decreased inhibition,” “agitation,” and “depersonalization.” But even if racism fell into abnormal thinking (which it doesn’t), the FDA notes that a connection between unusual behavior and Ambien cannot necessarily be drawn.

“It can rarely be determined with certainty whether a particular instance of the abnormal behaviors listed above is drug induced, spontaneous in origin, or a result of an underlying psychiatric or physical disorder,” it reads. “Nonetheless, the emergence of any new behavioral sign or symptom of concern requires careful and immediate evaluation.”

Doctors and experts have taken to Twitter to further discredit Barr’s claim. Their expertise, along with the statement from Ambien’s makers, only serves to solidify the point: Racism doesn’t come from a drug.




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