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You can sleepwalk, but could you commit a crime in your sleep?

If you were a fan of the hit 90s sitcom “Roseanne,” you might have been excited when the series returned to network television this year for a sequel season. The reboot was an overnight success, prompting the American Broadcasting Company to immediately sign the crew on for a follow-up season.

However, before the current season even came to a close, Roseanne Barr—the show’s star—posted racially offensive comments on Twitter, resulting in public outcry and the show’s prompt cancelation. In defense of her actions, Roseanne blamed the sleep aid Ambien for her racists tweets. The drug manufacturer responded with a statement that there is no drug on the market which causes racism.

While it’s true that you may not be able to blame a drug for your bigoted sentiment, it is possible that a drug could be blamed for offensive or illegal action you unwittingly took while under its influence. In today’s post, we discuss how the world’s leading sleep aid could lead to criminal behavior.

While you were sleeping

It’s a regular Tuesday night. You change into your pajamas, pop your doctor-prescribed sleeping pill and get into bed. You soon drift off into la-la land. Several hours later, you find yourself on the cold, cement floor of a jail cell. The police inform you that you’ve been arrested for manslaughter. You pinch yourself to try to awake from this nightmare—but this is reality. You’re being charged for committing a crime in your sleep.

The chemistry behind the crime

The above scenario may sound far-fetched, but it’s actually disturbingly common. Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic drug. Its warning label advises that while under its influence, you may get out of bed while still asleep and engage in activities without realizing it. Sleep-walking and sleep-eating are the least of your worries. Patients on the drug have gotten behind the wheel in their sleep. Sometimes they have collided into a tree or fence—causing injury to only themselves. In worse cases, they have killed other pedestrians or drivers.

Ambien also lowers patients’ inhibitions and heightens their sexual drive. There have been reported cases of patients who have sexually assaulted adults—or even children—while on the drug. They awoke with no memory of their actions.

If you were ever charged with committing a crime while under the influence of a hypnotic, amnestic drug, defending yourself in court would be far from a straightforward matter. Finding the right attorney to build a nuanced defense for your case would be paramount.

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