Did Tiger Woods get his freak on with an addictive drug?
- Rachel Grumman, BettyConfidential.comOf all the stories to come out of the Tiger Woods scandal, one of the most bizarre is that the golfer - recently named Athlete of the Decade by the Associated Press - reportedly used Ambien with his mistress to ramp up the couple's sexual excitement.
Rachel Uchitel, who was the first woman to be publicly identified as Woods's mistress, is said to have told friends that she and Woods took Ambien when they had sex.
"You know you have crazier sex on Ambien," Uchitel told a friend, according to the website RadarOnline.com. "You get into that Ambien haze. We have crazy Ambien sex."
(On Thursday, the British newspaper Daily Mail reported that Woods would enter rehab for treatment of sex addiction as well as addiction to Ambien and the painkiller Vicodin.)
The Ambien-sex phenomenon is all the stranger because the substance, a prescription hypnotic, is meant as a short-term treatment for insomnia. So it sounds like Ambien would be the last thing you'd want to take before getting busy. But for some, the drug appears to rev them up rather than knocking them out.
Ambien is considered safe when taken as directed, but in rare cases people report strange side effects, according the FDA medication guide for Ambien, including "Ambien amnesia." In other words, users walk, eat, sleep, use the phone and even drive after taking Ambien but have no memory whatsoever of what they did (they usually learn about it from witnesses).
Ambien sex is another activity on that list. In fact, thousands of first-person online posts describe taking Ambien and having wild, uninhibited sex within a few minutes of popping the sleep aid. What's more, users also report having foggy memories of the erotic encounter - or none at all - the day after the event, only finding out what went on once their partners told them. In the hazy, dream-like state between waking and sleeping, users report that inhibitions go out the window.
One woman from Arizona wrote: "Both my husband and I have been prescribed Ambien at different times, and both of us are prone to uninhibited intimacy after taking Ambien. Our experience has been that our judgment is not impacted by Ambien, but we are more relaxed and not worrying about the 'little things' (work, projects, deadlines, kids, bills, etc.) that tend to get in the way of long, involved, uninhibited intimacy."
But no matter how wild the sex is, Ambien users don't often remember it: "My wife started taking Ambien recently," a man from Texas posted. "She would take it prior to bed…but want to make love. She would do things that she would never do while not on it and then ask in the morning what we did."
"Ambien can put people in this state that's somewhere between wake and sleep," explains Lisa Shives, M.D., the medical director at Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois. "If they're in this state, and if they have a hard time relaxing, it's possible that [with Ambien] you can't be worried about your troubles and instead are able to feel sexy, frisky." (Dr. Shives says Ambien, which can be habit-forming, should only be taken right before bed, no more than 15 minutes before tucking in, and that it shouldn't be used for anything except helping insomniacs to fall asleep.)
While having great, relaxed sex may not sound harmful, the Ambien amnesia can do real damage if you take the medication with someone you don't know well. Says Dr. Shives, "Most patients live in fear of the unwanted side effects where they would do things that they wouldn't normally do and that would potentially get them in some kind of trouble. You can put yourself in a dangerous situation [by using it for sex], almost like giving yourself a rape drug."
An online post from a California woman bears that out: "Please be careful. If this can happen with your partner, can you imagine what could happen if you were in the wrong place and you took this drug? Scares the hell out of me."
Rachel Grumman, a freelance writer based in the New York City area, specializes in health.