Ambien: Side Effects Include WHAT?

Cartoons by Toothpaste for Dinner: http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/

By Terry Gotham

A lifetime ago, I worked in a Sleep Lab at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. We looked at the effects of sleep deprivation on pain tolerance & sensitivity. The non-clinical way of explaining that is, I poked and prodded a bunch of hilariously tired people. Inability to sleep continues to be a huge issue on & off playa, with 40% of Americans admitting to Gallup they don’t get as much sleep as they’d like. While the CDC has declared insufficient sleep a public health problem, Burners are the champions of functional partying with nowhere near appropriate amounts of sleep. But, because a lot of Americans are currently taking/addicted to sleep aids, I figured I’d run through the risks & rewards to consuming Ambien (Zolpidem). People are even attempting to tether it to the death of Justice Scalia, so get a non-caffinated beverage and strap in for this wild, amnesiac ride.

One of the immediate problems that people discount when they start taking Ambien is when you don’t follow the specific rule: Please allow yourself a full 8 hours of sleep to sleep after taking Ambien. There is nothing in the world so disoriented than a random dude attempting to build a geodesic dome 6hrs into an Ambien dose on playa. Seriously, if you need to get sleep and you don’t have 8hrs to sleep, take another drug. Do a shot of whiskey, eat some melatonin gummies (recommended option), or if you’re Archer, soak the melatonin gummies in whiskey. While the Indian Army gives its soldiers Ambien, I can’t say I recommend the practice if you’ve gotta be up at 0500 after getting to sleep at midnight.

This next point I cannot stress enough. Be very, very careful consuming Ambien on repeated evenings. Most sleep medicine practitioners agree that you can develop an addiction to Ambien in two weeksThe easiest way to keep this from happening is to try your hardest to not take the substance one night after another. Even reducing the frequency to once every 3 days or once a week, can seriously help your chances at preventing physical dependence. Don’t discount the potency of Ambien or other sleep aids, even over the counter ones. Over the long term, Ambien loses its effectiveness, but maintains the dependency. If you think taking a fistful of pills to sleep is scary, imagine taking them & realizing they’ve become totally ineffective.

But these aren’t the reasons you’ve heard of Ambien, or that you joke about it with your friends. You have because you’ve heard all these horror stories about people taking Ambien and sleep eating, sleep driving and sleep fucking with no memory of it. And I’m here to tell you all of those horror stories are true. Yes, even the ones you heard about people killing their spouse & mounting an Ambien defense, claiming they didn’t remember it.

First, Ambien has caused people to develop what I can only describe as a sleep eating disorder. This is where you binge eat while retaining no memory of it. The New York Times reported on research done by the Mayo Clinic & the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, confirming this wackiness. Dr. Carlos Schenck has estimated that thousands of Ambien consumers suffer from this issue. While turned on gas burners, peanut butter in the sleeping bag & weight gain seem like it could be fun on the playa, I think we can all agree that this side effect should be a deal breaker.

Sleep driving is a real problem for people who consume Ambien in suburban & rural areas of the country. If I had to wager, more than 1 person who reads this will have had an experience of driving on playa on Ambien & not remember it. As you can imagine, this has significant legal ramifications, as this report from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found. It reviewed cases where patients had reported 3-5hrs worth of amnesia and had been pulled over for driving while intoxicated. Personally, the risk of operating a motor vehicle sans-memory or non-autonomic functioning would keep me off a drug forever, but this is America, home of the brave. I’m not entirely sure what recommendations I could make from a harm reduction perspective, but hopefully, your unconscious self remembers to put your seatbelt on.

The third in the trio of “What The Fuck?!” side effects is sleep sex. So many people have reported going to sleep after Ambien, then waking their partners up and asking for wildly different sex, that the Daily Beast’s story about this was actually titled Is Ambien Sex Hotter? While the veracity of the reports may vary, the volume has been such that even non-drug publications like Men’s Health & the NY Daily News have reported on it. I’m not going to tell anyone they shouldn’t try to spice up their sex life, but as per my GHB article, I’m against people giving other people roofies. If you want to roofie yourself, maybe ask yourself a couple of questions as to why before doing so.

The last problem I need to mention doesn’t affect the vast majority of Burners, but it might affect their parents. Even after giving themselves the 8hrs of rest that Ambien directs, Consumer Reports and other sources have confirmed that if you’re over the age of 80, there’s some residual coordination/drowsiness problems that amplify the risk of accidents while driving. If Gramps has trouble sleeping, perhaps get him those gummy bears or ZZZQuil, instead.

Of course, it’s not all bad. It’s not only exceptional at providing 8hrs of restful sleep to those who need it very occasionally, but it might actually help you recover from a stroke. Researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine found that stroke recovery in mice was improved when given Ambien, both in sensory acuity & motor coordination. The findings still need to be independently verified by other insitutions for humans, but what kind of reporter would I be if I didn’t include some good news. If you’re interested in trends in pharmacology and sales information, here’s an exhaustive report on the industry and specific consumption patterns of Zolpidem in the USA & China. If you run into John Stamos, ask him about it. He’s probably got a story or two about how he got off the stuff.

If you’re planning on taking the stuff, take it and hit the pillow immediately. Don’t take it and go brush your teeth or try to do your taxes. Take it, crash out, and set your alarm for 8-9hrs from when your head hits the pillow. If you suffer from chronic insomnia, definitely speak to your doctor, therapist, herbalist or local Vitamin Shoppe employee. There are substances that can knock you out that won’t cause you to eat bacon at 3 AM or ask your husband to be tied up like a pig on a spit and not remember it.

Video

Life Cube Gonna Burn in Vegas

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2014 Life Cube in Vegas. Image: Aluminarium

Scott Cohen asked us to share this.


It’s official. The Life Cube Project will be coming back to Las Vegas. The metal and glass Life Cube will be coming from Reno if we can arrange transportation and then we will be creating a 24 foot Life Cube on Fremont Street between 8 & 9th. The Cube will be up and open to the public in mid-March and burn on April 2. The journey from Burning Man to the default world continues. We will be looking for artists, builders, people with positive energy to teach yoga, dance, spin fire, play music, DJ, and help assemble 200 satellite Cubes for schools throughout the Las Vegas valley. This is going to be epic. If interested in helping, please email lifecubedtlv@gmail.com and we will get you info. #lifecube #burningman — Please feel free to post your favorite Life Cube memories and photos. Documentary by H. Andrews Joven.

 

 

Burning Man 2015 By The Numbers Part 2 – Census Highlights

random number dilbert

Along with the 2015 Afterburn report, BMOrg released the results of their 2015 Census. I’ve had a chance now to go through this in a bit more detail. Some highlights:

There are a lot of dudes (60%) and it’s pretty gay (1/3rd LGBT) and pretty white (86%).
The minorities at Burning Man these days are double digit Burners (just over 5%).

“40% Virgins” is still about right, which is really still about 68.9% newbies, as only 31.1% of Burners had been to Burning Man more than twice prior to 2015 – our previous definition for Veterans. It’s up slightly from 28% the previous year, it is remarkable how these virgin and veteran percentages remain about the same, year after year. Coincidence? Random chance? Or the result of Burner profiles, ticket lotteries, and all the other socially engineered ticketing hoops Burners are forced to jump through?

 

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20% of Burners are aliens, about a third of those from the biggest country, Canada
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Scalpers are not a problem, and STEP is not very useful.
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Burners are very affluent. 44.1% have an average household income of US$100,000 or more.
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About 7% of Burners are in the 1% – and we even have some in the 1% of 1% of 1% of 1%, the 62 people with as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the planet combined.
We’re smart, too. 77% have a college degree, 6.1% of Burners have a  degree in healing or beauty
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Despite the vehicle pass scheme, 10% of Burners still arrived alone. A third used a plane in their journey to Black Rock City.
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Although 17.9% arrived in an RV, 26.2% ended up staying in one.
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Only a third of those RVs got pumped – incredibly disappointing, given the amount of money being spent across Black Rock City on site services – and BMOrg’s intervention to make it hard for camps to make their own deals with vendors of their choice.
35.9% had access to some form of renewable energy – iPhone charging, perhaps?

69.7% of Burners were connected to electricity from generators – not exactly “off grid living”.

It is, however, a great place to go to get away from conventional forms of religion. Only 5.4% of Burners identify as religious.
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How many of those are Satanists is unknown, but let’s call it 5%: 3.2% of Burners worship “other” and 1.2% are Pagans.
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Download the full Census from their new home within the borg. Here are the team credits, thanks to everyone who participated:

Principal investigators and project coordinators: S. Megan Heller (Countess), Dana Lilienthal DeVaul (DV8), Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost (Hunter), and Kateri McRae (Variance)

Data analysis: Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost (Hunter), David Nelson-Gal (Scribble)

Report coordination, graphics, layout & design: Rebecca Mason (B^2), Aaron Shev (Murse), Dana Lilienthal DeVaul (DV8), David Nelson-Gal (Scribble), Jason Lankow, & John Nicholson

The 2015 Census Lab: The project also involved more than 150 volunteers whose contributions were essential in many ways: research collaborators, volunteer coordinators, statisticians, camp builders, gate samplers, keypunchers, census lab hosts, graphic designers, and many more. These contributors will globally be referred to as “the Census Lab”. We would also like to thank the Burning Man organization for the resources that they provided both on playa and off playa and for believing in the project.

Burning Man 2015: By The Numbers Part 1

SR-71 Blackbird using Afterburner. Image: Wikimedia Commons

SR-71 Blackbird using Afterburner. Image: Wikimedia Commons

BMOrg have just released the Afterburn Report for 2015.

Some information that used to be provided, is now hidden. Here are some of the key details missing:

  • medical services visits, nature of injuries
  • arrests and citations
  • number of vehicles
  • number of aircraft at the airport
  • entry and exodus times
  • volume of ice sold
  • number of people watching live video stream

All of this was freely available in the past; it’s hard to see how BMOrg can claim to be “more transparent”, when they are sharing less information. Maybe now that they’re down one Minister of Propaganda, there will be a reduction in the Orwellian double-speak. One can only hope…

 

Here is a summary of what was released in the report.

 

POPULATION

67,564 paid participants. In 2014 this was 65,992 and in 2013 it was 69,613. The definition of “paid participant” seems to have changed between 2013 and 2014. In 2015 there were 68,000 tickets officially sold, so 436 people managed to get a ticket but didn’t show. Or, something went wrong counting them – however, the report says Ticketing and Will Call went super-smoothly last year. The Box Office line was never longer than 30 minutes.

There were 1150 placed camps, out of 1300 applications. What was wrong with those 150 camps? We’ll probably never know, which is a pity – because if we could all learn together, we could reduce the amount of mutual time wasting between camps, volunteers on the placement team, and BMOrg’s holocracy of a hundred-plus full-time busy worker bees. Assuming that some of the camps get rejected for some of the same reasons, that is.

ART

BMOrg granted $1.2 million cash to more than 100 art projects on the Playa. They also provided in-kind support in addition to this $1.2 million.
This works out to $17.76 per ticket , or about 4.5% of $390. Seems like an increase from previous years, and we should know in a year or so if it’s true – when the IRS returns for the Burning Man Project in 2015 are released.
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The Artery handled 1139 service requests on playa from art projects, a 50% increase over the previous year.
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There were 326 art pieces; 75 of them incorporated fire art. There were 210 self funded projects and 56 “walk in” projects. Presumably this means the remaining 60 were the ones BMOrg had any involvement in: 18.4% of the total.
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In 2014, The Man was 105 feet tall, and took a long time to Burn. In 2015, it was reduced to 60 feet tall.
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There were 33 regional midway projects, with participants from 16 countries.

TRANSPORTATION

The Burner express brought 3,884 people in, and took 3,334 out. 250 people camped in the Burner Express bus camp.
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No word yet on if there will be any price hikes on bus tickets, additional luggage fees, or bike fees for the 2016 Medici theme. But it looks like this service is bringing in close to a million bucks.
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There is also a Gerlach-Empire shuttle bus, though usage was modest. Total shuttle bus ridership increased 45%, from 85 passengers in 2014, to 123 in 2015.
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17,000 Burners flew in through Reno airport.
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88NV, the Burning Man Airport, saw a 30% increase in traffic. 2,330 Burners arrived this way – at $40 per head landing fee, that’s about a hundred grand. At its peak, the airport was handling 210 landings per day.

BIKES

Image: Phillipe Glade, burningman.org

This year there were 631 yellow bikes. Someone donated 180 huffy bikes to the total.

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527 came back like they were supposed to. 56 had been painted and 28 had been decorated. The bikes are supposed to be free for all Black Rock City citizens, not just free bikes for you to grab and claim as your own for the whole Burning Man. 20 of the bikes were stolen outright.
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There were a total of 1,625 abandoned bikes. This works out to 2.4% of the population – about the same ratio as the portapotties. For each portapotty you see, there is one Burner MOOPing their bike.
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How many of these were stolen? How many were from Burners leaving in the Burner Express, planes, or car-pools, with no room for bikes and no spare $50 for the transporation fee?
Fortunately, 200 of the retrieved bikes will be recycled back into the Yellow Bike program for next year.
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AUTHORITIES

This year there were more than 700 rangers – a veritable army battalion.
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BMOrg worked closer than ever before with the Feds, achieving “Unified Tier 1 inter agency integration”:

BRC has relationships with Federal, State and County agencies including Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Highway Patrol, NDOT, Washoe and Pershing County Sheriff’s offices, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and Nevada State Health, amongst others.

BRC works year-round with these agencies to ensure legal compliance and public safety at the event. In 2015, BRC led joint training and table-top exercises to further align operational process and interagency communication.

Also in 2015 BRC updated the Unified Command to a Tier 1 management process, joining all the bodies (both event and agency) together, ensuring safer management in the event of unplanned incidents. This system was tested thoroughly during the repeated whiteout conditions of 2015, and proved to be highly effective for event operations emergency management.

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You may have seen the news this week about Apple fighting the Federal government over unlocking an iPhone related to the San Bernardino alleged terrorist attack – even though they were happy to hand over details at least 70 previous times. It doesn’t sound like BMOrg are going down the route of Just Saying No to the government, preferring total co-operation and integration of systems, Burner profiles, and databases.

VOLUNTEERS

The Playa Information tent had 130 volunteers, supporting 30 computer terminals.  There were 2,299 visitors to the V Spot, and 1,117 of them were connected with volunteer opportunities. 794 went to Burning Man teams, 155 to theme camps, 158 to art projects, and the rest were assigned MOOP duty.
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The total number of Greeters was 850. 325 were pre-scheduled general Greeters, 50 or so were “walk-up” volunteers. 18 theme camps greeted as a group(425 people).
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210 volunteered to be Lamplighters – 130 of them camping in the Lamp Lighter Village. They report that “the interdepartmental communication and cooperation is the best it has ever been”. There were 319 lamp spires and 917 lanterns total.
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Tips from Arctica were donated to three worthy causes: Polar Bear International, the Gerlach Senior & Community Center and the Washoe County Family Planning Clinic. No information about who got what is available.

SANITATION & INFRASTRUCTURE

50 dump trucks working 24/7 serviced 1600 porta potties. That’s one WC for every 42 people, in case you were wondering (I was!) How does that stack up against Defaultia?
Screenshot 2016-02-19 10.54.53

Source: American Restroom Association

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We’re about the same as a nightclub in Florida, and doing better than your average stadium.
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At the company ranch in Gerlach, they stored 300 containers, 120 vehicles, and 30 semi trucks. The property operates entirely off the grid.
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30 yard dumpsterThe recycling camp processed 5000 lbs of aluminum cans, 2 30-yard dumpsters’ worth. This was approximately 170,000 cans. Recycling them resulted in a $1500 donation to the local school.
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The city burned through 20,020 gallons of propane. 17,673 gallons were used for flame effects in Mutant Vehicles, theme camps, and art projects. The other 2,347 gallons were used for infrastructure, utilities, and cooking.
According to the US Department of Energy, burning a gallon of propane produces 12 lbs of CO2 emissions. So that’s 212,076 lbs, or 106 tons of greenhouse gas generated – just for the art. And that’s not even counting all the non-propane burning, especially The Man and The Temple.
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BMOrg did bring us exciting new news just over two months ago that they had listened to the community based on a petition last year to make Burning Man greener, and were starting a new chapter. This doesn’t merit a single word in the Afterburn, perhaps it is still “coming soon”. Maybe some of that $2 million a year vehicle pass windfall could be reallocated to habitat preservation or re-forestation projects.
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Read more at burningman.org

Over at the Reno Gazette-Journal, staff Burning Man reporter Jenny Kane reports that the Medici VIP tickets sold out in less than a day.
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The first 500 da Vinci tickets, a new tier of tickets that are three times the cost of the main tickets, were sold out as of Thursday morning, according to Burning Man spokeswoman Megan Miller. An additional 4,900 $990 pre-sale tickets, which were $800 last year, also were sold out by Thursday morning.
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No comments on what happened to the other 100 of the $990 pre-sale tickets.  Jenny asks the question “will any of this windfall money go to art”? The claim is made that $1.5 million was handed out in art grants in 2015, compared to $800,000 in 2014 (actually, $911,955). Corporate PR supremo Megan Miller says:
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“There’s definitely money from those revenue streams going to art grants,” she said, noting that Burning Man distributed $1.5 million in art grants last year, compared to $800,000 the year prior.

Part of the increase in net revenue may go toward another increase in art grant spending this year, although the organization has made no final grant decisions yet, Miller said.

Continue reading at Part 2 – Census Highlights

GHB: Interactions, Advice & A Touch of Sanity

By Terry Gotham

Every time issues of consent come up on the playa or in the regional Burner community, “date rape” drugs such as GHB are inevitably mentioned. To help people make smart choices both about what they do personally and what substances they want at their events, I spoke to Dr. Joseph Palamar at NYU, widely quoted expert on substance abuse & recreational drug use, to make sure the readers of Burners.me got the best information available about the drug. If y’all like this, let me know, and I’ll try to bring on more experts for these harm reduction posts.

GHB has largely become a boogeyman in the drug world. Even though it is the literal best case practice treatment for narcolepsy, it’s become associated with irresponsible choices & shady characters over the years. While many Burners enjoy it recreationally, the label of date rape drug has stuck and there’s a large gap in a lot of drug education and messaging surrounding it. Just because it’s assumed that the majority of the people using it are using it “on” other people doesn’t necessarily make it true. For everyone who isn’t trying to violate the consent of people on & off playa, here’s a quick set of frank tips that should serve you well if you’re trying to hang with Xyrem.

Continue reading