“Ambien increases the appetite to sleep, but doesn’t increase the quality of your sleep,” Seixas added.
Ambien, known generically as zolpidem, has been on the market since 1992. It has been causing controversy almost as long.
It has been reported to cause strange side effects in users, including sleep walking and taking part in other activities such as driving, with no memory of having done so afterward.
Some of the reports about impaired driving were so worrying that the Food and Drug Administration asked makers of the product to lower doses.
For those seeking help sleeping, the American College of Physicians recommends trying counseling before pills.
Some people accused of serious crime have used the Ambien defense, including Andrew McClay of Denver, after he was arrested in the 2009 murder of a friend, as well as a 45-year-old hospital worker who stabbed his wife 20 times and a 62-year-old woman who beat her husband to death with a metal pipe after taking Ambien.
This might, however, be the first time the drug has been blamed for offensive use of social media.
“I think what we have to ask ourselves is, ‘Is racism a disease of your heart or your mind?’ If racism is a disease of your mind then there might be some explanation,” Seixas said.
“But if you believe that racism is a disease of the heart then there’s no way to scientifically explain such behavior.”