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What Is Ambien? What To Know About The Sleep Drug Roseanne Blamed For Her Racist Tweet

Roseanne Barr blamed a racist tweet on the drug Ambien. Is that possible?

Posted on May 30, 2018, at 1:32 p.m. ET

Valerie Macon / AFP / Getty Images

What exactly is Ambien?

Ambien is a drug that's used to treat insomnia. The generic name is zolpidem and it's made by drug manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis. Ambien has been reported to make people do all sorts of things — sleepwalk, make food, have sex, talk on the phone, drive — without remembering ever doing them. One person even cut their own hair.

Ambien is known as a sedative-hypnotic and comes in a quick-acting form and an extended-release form. It's the most widely prescribed sedative-hypnotic medication on the market in the US, with millions of prescriptions sold around the world.

The Food and Drug Administration, which first approved the drug in 1992, updated the labeling in 2013 to warn that the drug could cause mental impairment the next day and that people shouldn't engage in driving or any activity that requires mental alertness.

Roseanne Barr said Ambien was partly the reason behind her racist tweet earlier this week, in which she compared Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser in the Obama administration, to an ape.

She defended the tweet, saying it was a joke.

But on Tuesday ABC canceled the Roseanne revival. And in the aftermath, she said part of the reason for the tweet was that she was taking 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,” she wrote.

Sanofi, the maker of Ambien, weighed in, noting that "racism is not a known side effect."

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.

And other people dragged Roseanne for blaming Ambien.

Omg. I used to take Ambien! How many times was I racist in my sleep?! GIRL BYE. #ownyouractions

The name Ambien is thought to come from the word "ambient" or similar words in French. Ambient does not mean "prone to making racist comments," but it does mean "of the surrounding area or environment."

So what are the real side effects?

Moussa81 / Getty Images

The most common side effects of Ambien include drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea, and a "drugged feeling." Possible side effects include getting out of bed when not fully awake and doing things you do not know you are doing, having abnormal thoughts and behavior, memory loss, anxiety, and severe allergic reactions.

After you stop taking Ambien, you can have trouble sleeping, nausea, flushing, lightheadedness, uncontrolled crying, vomiting, stomach cramps, panic attacks, nervousness, and stomach-area pain.

Roseanne later clarified that she was not blaming Ambien for the tweet.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.