Duterte reveals he's taking sleeping pills

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This photo of President Rodrigo Duterte watching a show on Netflix at home last May broke what would have been a six-day absence from the public eye that fueled speculation about his health.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 22) — A prescribed drug is putting President Rodrigo Duterte to sleep.

The President on Friday admitted he has been taking the sleeping pill Stilnox, which is used to treat sleeping difficulties or insomnia.

"I take Stilnox to sleep. Prescribed ‘yan. Tulog ka talaga because Stilnox makatulog ka lang ng six hours, parang nag-hit ka ng mga eight," Duterte said in a speech during the oath-taking ceremony of his youngest son, Sebastian "Baste" Duterte, as Davao City Vice Mayor.

[Translation: I take Stilnox to sleep. That's prescribed. You'll really fall asleep because with Stilnox, even if you sleep for six hours, its feels like eight.]

Duterte has said he is used to staying up late at work. A self-confessed night owl, he said he works from 1 p.m. until midnight, which explains why he struggles to be awake when he attends events in the morning. During the Philippine Military Academy graduation rites last May, Duterte did not follow the tradition of handing out the diplomas, and Malacañang said it was because the event was too early and the President was "very sleepy."

Duterte has also admitted to using the pain reliever fentanyl due to a spinal injury he got from a motorycle accident in the past.

Critics have been calling for transparency regarding the 74-year-old President's health – possibly through disclosing medical records or a regular medical bulletin – after Duterte admitted having several medical conditions. In his previous speeches, the President said he also suffered from migraines, nausea, and Buerger's disease or a disorder affecting blood vessels. In October 2018, he said he underwent biopsy and tested negative for cancer. He said what he had was a bad case of Barrett's esophagus, a condition where acid from the stomach damages the esophagus lining, resulting in complications that could turn into cancer.

Malacañang has said the President only needs to inform the public about the state of his health "in case of serious illness," as the Constitution states.

Medical experts say that many patients taking Stilnox (generic name: zolpidem) do not usually suffer serious side effects, but they have to watch out for memory loss and changes in mood or behavior, among others. In Australia, there were reports of "bizarre" sleep-related behaviors associated with Stilnox, including sleep walking and even sleep driving, which prompted authorities there to impose a conspicuous warning on medicine packages containing zolpidem in 2008.