Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sleep Is the New Sex

Of all the many kinds of abuse and addiction now available — because America is the greatest country in the world — Jews are most predisposed to prescription pill abuse. This is in part because we tend to view physicians as deities and will greedily swallow any bolus that comes in a little amber RX bottle.

We're also likely to gulp down sleeping pills, because we worry a lot and the wee hours tend to be when the little anxiety factory we call the brain starts mass-producing visions of loved ones dying in flaming wrecks or hangnails turning into metastatic cancer.

Not that we Yids are alone. According to the Prescription Access Litigation Project (PAL), the folks behind the Bitter Pill Awards, the top five prescription sleeping pills raked in $2.7 BILLION in 2005. "Sleep is the new sex," reads a quote on their site from Arthur Spielman, director of the Center for Sleep Disorders Medicine and Research.

Of course, sleep was designated the new sex waaaay back in 2006. By now, slumber has probably been knocked off its steamy perch by, oh, I dunno, knitting or vomiting or watching preteen girls eating spaghetti with chopsticks on YouTube. Nothing's the new sex for long.

The point is, Americans are popping Ambien and Lunesta and other yummy bedtime remedies like crazed toddlers tasting the Skittles rainbow. Which would be just fine if the drug didn't apparently cause them to rise from their pillows and somnambulate into their cars, embarking on joyless joyrides to they know not where. Frequently they go the wrong way on one-way streets and crash into lightposts; when the cops finally pull them over they seem blissfully unaware of what's going on and have no recollection of the incident afterward.

Yep, "sleep driving" is now a frequent occurrence. UNCONSCIOUS PEOPLE are padding out to their Ford Foci and snoozing their way onto the nation's roadways. The problem has become acute enough to cause the FDA — which, as a Bush agency, is normally inclined to allow pharmaceutical companies to boil children alive if they so desire — to step in.

Now this class of drugs will require special labels, lengthy supplementary instructions and possibly concerned facial expressions from Walgreen's dispensary employees. All of which will satisfy the 10-second news cycle but begs the question: What difference do these warnings make if, after reading them cover to cover, you pop an Ambien, slip under the ol' duvet and an hour later are barreling through the Holland Tunnel, stomping the accelerator with your footie pajamas?

To be fair, many of the worst instances resulted from folks mixing the current generation of sleep-inducers with booze, antidepressants and other mood-altering wild cards. But plenty of ordinary, directions-following patients also ended up driving, cooking, terrorizing planeloads of passengers and doing other wacky things while in the throes of a dreamless, pharmacological oblivion.

Upon reading about this, we Jews at first experienced the same mix of incredulity and opportunity that no doubt caused frissons in the ranks of the nation's comedy writers. But a clammy, dystopian light bulb of rationality quickly took its place.

The ephiphany was something along the lines of: Well, this explains everything.

It explains the narcotic political culture in which we plod on down an infinite corridor of corruption, aware we should be outraged but somehow unable to scream.

It explains the snooze-button salon of celebrity worship, wherein the world's dumbest pretty people sit on our chests like well-scrubbed succubi, commandeering our psyches with the rapacity of prospectors in the Gold Rush.

It explains the nightmarish papering over of every last vestige of space with advertising, the sponsorship of all things, the branding of every square foot until there is nothing that doesn't serve the message of some corporate giant.

It explains the syringes in the ocean, the chromium-6 in the water, the melting of the ice caps on which the polar bears are scrambling to escape the onrushing waves, the general cheerful flushing-down-the-loo of the world that sustains us, all permitted with the drowsy insouciance of a Lunesta road trip.

Welcome, in other words, to Sleep Culture. We've all just been dozing — yet still active enough to participate in our own impoverishment. Just ambulatory enough to drive to the polling place to vote for the vague smiling face that swore to protect us.

We are the Manchurian Citizen.

And you know who'd really appreciate it if we woke the fuck up? The polar bears.

The problem, of course, is that coming to terms with this waking horror really, really makes you want to down a couple of sedatives with a tankard of vodka.

So if you see us zooming over the 405 tonight, don't bother waving — it's our naptime.


Barbi said...

I love your posts

Jo said...

Your freakin' genius knows no bounds.

Simon Glickman and Sera Gamble said...

Thanks, man.

Pseudonym said...

Keep this stuff coming!