Saturday, April 23, 2005

Side-by-side Taste Test: Ambien vs. Valium

How many times has this happened to you? It's 4 in the morning, and you've got this craving--not just for sleep, but also for a tasty sleep-aid to get you there. Too often, I think, we just slot pills into our mouths without slowing down to experience the flavors of what we're eating just then. Well, no more. Here, readers, are the results of the 4 a.m. Ambien versus Valium taste test.

We'll start with Valium (5 mg). Mother's Little Helper. The little yellow pill. In fact, though, owing to the longevity of this miracle drug, I will not be consuming "Valium" per se for this test, but rather its generic equivalent, Diazepam. Same diff--trust me--except that it's not yellow, it's a sort of light brick-pink. One of the problems I have with Valium (I will refer to it by its commercial and more recognizable and mellifluous name) is that you're just never sure how well it will work. This, perhaps, is because it's not technically a sleep-aid at all, but rather an anti-anxiety med. When my doctor explained this to me, I told him as calmly as I could that my sleeplessness stemmed from anxiety about not being able to fall asleep, and he agreed with me that this might call for recategorization, at least in my case.

On to the tasting!

Like many things from the 70's, Valium tastes bold but clumsy. In fact, let's be honest, it tastes terrible. One morning, about 10 years ago, I found myself on the floor of a then-popular Manhattan nightclub. When I realized where I was, I simultaneously realized that my mouth was open and that I COULD TASTE THE CARPET. This was an experience I swore I would never repeat, but lingering over a Valium really comes close. The taste is like the inside of a footlocker full of books and old photos, kept in the attic for 50 years--assertive, musty, not to be savored. Unfortunate, really, since one sometimes has to ingest several of these little buggers in order to drop off, and their extreme porousity makes them stay attached to your tongue as if they were clinging for their very lives.

Overall score: 4, and only that high because of its special place in my heart.

Next: Ambien (10 mg). The sledgehammer for a new millenium. Quick, aerodynamic, and not yet available in generic form. Dare I say that Ambien is everything that Valium is not? After all, it's been 40 years, and someone has clearly been doing his homework, beginning with the seemingly-obvious--yet in the case of Valium, clearly-overlooked--fact that oral medications are not suppositories. That's right, folks--these meds are eaten, and should therefore be fit to eat. Well, thanks to the good folks at Sanofi-Synthelabo, Inc. (?!), they now are. Ambien's flavor profile is simple--chalky, a bit sweet, but with a subtle and difficult-to-place minerally suggestion about it. It's too bad these pills are so much smaller than Valium, and that you can really only eat just one without your motor skills abandoning you in embarrassing ways even after the onset of sleep, because frankly, I can imagine lingering over a six-pack of these as part of a lovely picnic. Ambien, unlike Valium, would go well with any food set-up, really, acting as either amuse bouche or tween-course palate cleanser. It's the pharmaceutical industry's contribution to the world of granita.

Overall score: 8. Could even be higher, but I'm tired.

Unfortunately, this wasn't even close. Ambien is clearly the tastier sleep aid. In future, I'll broaden my scope to include more diverse offerings, and maybe even perform the tests blind (or double-blind!). Pharmaceutical reps wishing to have their products profiled in upcoming tests should send samples to me, along with dosage and drug interaction information. And now, to all, a good night. And sweet dreams.


Anonymous c said...

Thanks for the cutting insights on Ambien and Valium. Methinks comparing the latter to suppositories is a bit of a stretch though. A coughed up fur ball with a hint of maple is as far as I'm willing to go.

2:08 AM  
Blogger dwg said...

Since receiving your comment, I've retested the latter under a variety of circumstances, all attempting to push to the surface this "hint of maple" you mentioned. I just can't find it. Looks like we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. Hey, people's palates are different, after all. But the coughed-up furball is pretty dead on.

Oh: thanks for the comment. And tell your friends.

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Blogger Alli said...

Fascinating little story. my ambien has kick in so my typing might be off, but this story of the two friends, valium, and ambien, are so interesting to me. I've been taking ambien for a year or so, and for the first time since i was 9 or 10, i can sleeeeeep! its amazing. but as i will prob. be losing my insurance any time now, i'd thought of switching to ol'faithful- valium, think it'll work?! :o) ???

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