Tsunami of Frozen Grief Found in the Clinical Work


One of the primary clinical teachings found in the pursuit of prescription drug withdrawal: we need stepping stones and a great many of them to navigate the perilous terrain. In the fight against ‘diagnosis by prescription’ one man, one woman, one clinician, one physician, one transition medication, one dynamic psychotherapy, one great support group—-no one of these alone will suffice to defeat the opponent. All of the tools together, however, can add up to make a fantastic difference.

The combination of the chemical injuries and the addiction effects, in so many cases, are powerful enough to make a marathon runner collapse at  the 21st mile— sometimes referred to as ‘the wall.’  To throw in the towel before the finish line.

But David should not be deterred by the Goliath in his presence. One soul, in rehab work, can be saved at a time. If you let clients be the guide and respond with a strong, secure, flexible, kind and open voice waters do part.

Reason tells us that psychiatry, general practitioners and big pharma have joined together to prescribe drugs to the population for profit. Marketing has us mesmerized. Before the drugs came in, grief work was understood as the foundation of healing. Today grief and its stages have become a cliche. That is the result of any addiction. Pain is masked.

In prescription drug withdrawal, when it is difficult and protracted, the flood gates are opened in spades. One could view this as a kind of bad juju for the harm created by the grand experiment of prescription drug use. It is the beast clients so often refer to. To be a witness to the level of pain that hard withdrawals bring is humbling and will open the heart deep and wide of any empathic clinician/person.

The task of the clinician navigating the uncharted seas of detox is to hold all of the frozen grief as the damn breaks. Steady as she goes. Plug up the damn. Take out a finger. Repeat the cycle.

At a mile marker for the revolutionary shift away from the model of bio-psychiatry it is easy to see that a monumental task lay before us. So much flood water to hold. An ocean of emotion to thaw. One in five Americans have been identified as having a mental illness. (SAMHSA) One American dies every nineteen minutes from prescription drug use. (CDC)  Collectively we can unring these bells.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. After withdrawal the patient has to learn to live with every days( or weeks) highs and lows, that previously were smothered with drugs, so my comment is to say that the “flood water” or the opposite feeling of joy has to be continually dealt with by the patient. Grief and joy are not a one time thing.

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