Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) suffers from gastroenteritis, a disease that causes extreme pain. He sometimes suffers from insomnia, which is much more debilitating than most people imagine. For both of these conditions, he was prescribed medications by the same physician, to wit., the Attending Physician to the United States Congress. At his own home, he took the medication according to the prescriptions, and went to bed.
Ambian, the sleep medication, comes with a warning to patients that it can cause confusion, strange behavior and hallucinations. It sometimes induces somnambulating, and this appears to be what happened to Mr. Kennedy. He drove to the Capitol, thinking that he had to vote on a bill, and was involved in an accident. As one would expect of a sleep-walker, he appeared to be impaired.
Mr. Kennedy immediately made a statement. Here is the entire statement.
Last Tuesday, the Attending Physician of the United States Congress treated me for Gastroenteritis. The Attending Physician prescribed Phenergan, an anti-nausea medication, which in addition to treating Gastroenteritis, I now know can cause drowsiness and sedation.Mr. Kennedy announced the next day that he has battled depression for many years, and that he had recently completed rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic.
Following the last series of votes on Wednesday evening, I returned to my home on Capitol Hill and took the prescribed amount of Phenergan and Ambien, which was also prescribed by the Attending Physician some time ago and I occasionally take to fall asleep.
Some time around 2:45am, I drove the few blocks to the Capitol Complex believing I needed to vote. Apparently, I was disoriented from the medication. At that time, I was involved in a one-car incident in which my car hit the security barrier at the corner of 1st and C St., SE. At no time before the incident did I consume any alcohol.
At the time of the accident, I was instructed to park my car and was driven home by the United States Capitol Police. At no time did I ask for any special consideration, I simply complied with what the officers asked me to do.
I have the utmost respect for the United States Capitol Police and the job they do to keep Members of Congress and the Capitol Complex safe. I have contacted the Chief of Capitol Police and offered to meet with police representatives at their earliest convenience as I intend to cooperate fully with any investigation they choose to undertake.
“The incident on Wednesday evening concerns me greatly. I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police, or being cited for three driving infractions,” Mr. Kennedy said. “That's not how I want to live my life. And that's not how I want to represent the people of Rhode Island.” Accordingly, he is voluntarily returning to the Mayo Clinic for more treatment.
He has said he wants to end the stigma of mental health problems, and he has been praised by mental health professionals for being open about his struggles with depression, alcoholism and substance abuse.
“I hope that my openness today and in the past, and my acknowledgment that I need help, will give others the courage to get help if they need it,” he said today.
The reason this note is called “Pharmacology and Anatomy” is because young people who have only known Republican politicians and right-wing talk show hosts need to know: That’s what a pair of balls looks like.
His uncles would have recognized a Profile in Courage, and I hope his dad is very proud of him, as well ought he to be.
“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”