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Report: Junior Seau took Ambien to sleep, often not as directed

June 01, 2012|By Chuck Schilken
  • Former USC and NFL linebacker Junior Seau reportedly struggled with a sleep disorder for years before taking his own life last month.
Former USC and NFL linebacker Junior Seau reportedly struggled with a sleep… (Charles Krupa / Associated…)

Nancy Emsley says she once lectured Junior Seau about the dangers of taking a powerful sleep-aid drug without getting a full night's sleep afterward.

"He just rolled his eyes," the friend and workout partner of the late football star said.

Emsley's account, part of a USA Today article on the days leading up to Seau's suicide last month, is quite telling. It paints a picture of a seemingly carefree guy who also took powerful drugs, sometimes not as directed, to combat a sleep disorder.

The article as a whole paints the same picture of the final days of the former USC and NFL star. It tells of a life filled with fun times with friends, working out, hanging out at local bars, playing golf and enjoying the company of multiple women.

But it also reveals that Seau had been struggling with a sleep disorder for years. Friends say the former USC and NFL star took Ambien, the brand name for a prescription drug for sleep disorders called zolpidem.

FDA-approved prescribing information for Ambien says depressed patients using that class of drugs have reported suicidal thoughts or actions.

It also warns that the drug should not be taken by people who consume alcohol or still can't get a full night's sleep while using Ambien. Seau's friends say he fell into both categories.

"I know he's had a very difficult time sleeping over the years," said close friend and former teammate Mark Walczak, who spent some time with Seau just days before his death. "I think it's gotten worse and worse. Lack of sleep creates huge anxiety."

The investigation into Seau's death is ongoing, though police have already ruled it a suicide. Much public speculation has centered on how years of head blows and multiple concussions affect former NFL players, even though Seau never reported a concussion in 20 seasons.

With a toxicology report expected in about 30 days, the investigation is said to be near completion. Chances are, no matter what it determines, many people in Seau's close-knit hometown of Oceanside will continue to struggle with the idea of their happy-go-lucky friend taking his own life.

"I'm aware that there is a segment of folks out there that don't want to believe that Junior took his own life, and I respect that," Oceanside Police Lt. Joe Young said Thursday. "But the bottom line is … there's nothing to indicate anything other than suicide."

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