Singing About Ambien

Jay Z -(Empire State of Mind) “MDMA got you feelin’ like a champion/ City never sleeps, better slip you an Ambien”

Jay-Z, in a quite cavalier manner, tells his listeners how to achieve “better living through chemistry.” MDMA is an acronym for the active compound in Ecstasy. ( Ecstasy is a stimulant that can accelerate the beating of the heart, cause depression, set off strokes, and result in comas. Ecstasy can kill and there are numerous news reports of teens dying of overdoses. In fact, a student in my high school died of ecstasy overdose in the late 90s.

Ecstasy has some pleasant short-term effects. It can increase energy and alertness. It can heighten one’s sense of self-confidence. But one can get the same effects from a balanced diet, exercise, and a number of perfectly healthy activities.

Jay-Z also says that since “the city (New York) never sleeps,” he “better slip you an Ambien.” This spreads the notion that if one has trouble sleeping, one should just take a pill for it – an Ambien. But Ambien or zolpidem carries a risk of dependency, especially for those with a history of drug abuse or alcoholism. It can impair one’s ability to drive, as in the case of Representative Patrick Kennedy ( Ambien withdrawal can cause seizures. I would not go so far as to say that no one should use Ambien, but it is a prescription drug for good reason. One should only use such drugs as directed by a qualified physician.

John Mayer – (Heartbreak Warfare) “Red wine and ambien/ You’re talking s*&% again/ It’s heartbreak warfare.”

Ambien and alcohol are a dangerous mix. Both drugs increase the effect of the other. Drowsiness, blackouts and even severe depression can occur.

It seems like John Mayer is implying that the combo of ambien and wine is making his girlfriend angry. Or perhaps her use of drugs is making her speak more loosely than she normally would.

Amanda Palmer – (Ambien)
“Ambien, arsenic/
and make me a lesbian/
make me a something/
so i can forget him/
and get back to reading/
and get back to sleep again/
Ativan, marzipan/
anything, anything/”

It’s interesting how she places ambien and arsenic together. Arsenic is a fatal poison. She may be recognizing the danger of the drug.

The line “Ativan, marzipan” is especially disturbing because it likens a prescription anxiety drug to candy. What kind of message does this send?

Yet what can we do as a democratic society to deal with singers who seem to be encourage the use of prescription meds? While some might suggest censorship, a counter movement would adhere more closely to our liberal values. (I mean liberal in the sense of valuing free expression not as in an ideology opposed to conservatism.) We need musicians, artists, and writers who challenge the notion that happiness comes out of an orange bottle.

Also, education can show people why they should not do drugs. As a former educator, I know that teachers already have many responsibilities. Yet I also know that a major reason why many teachers chose the profession is to have impact on their students’ lives. Giving students guidance to make more prudent choices about drugs is something that matters to many schools.



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