Matt Samet: Climbing Out of Benzo Madness

Rock climber, author, and MIA Blogger Matt Samet discusses his experience becoming addicted to, and subsequently coming off of, benzodiazepines. Samet is a freelance journalist, former editor-in-chief of “Climbing Magazine” and author of the book “Death Grip: A Climber’s Escape from Benzo Madness” about his near fatal struggle with anxiety and depression. He has been an avid (and semi-professional) rock climber for nearly 25 years, and resides in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and young son. This is latest in a series of interviews and MIA blogger profiles to be featured on


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. Matt,

    Thank you so much for so eloquently putting words to the tangle of emotions that I’ve struggled with as a survivor of psych med withdrawal. You are a terrific writer and speaker and I wish you continued success with your work and much happiness with your beautiful family.

    best wishes,


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  2. Badass short film in a fun way in that you seem content with your exciting and also humble life. Also in the sense that you expressed the hell of benzo detox in a way that needs to be heard more often. Terror terror terror. As I think you kind of alluded to – I am also perhaps uncomfortable conciously remembering my benzo withdrawl. Even watching and hearing you talk about it through a computer screen – while important – was hard. It is sort of important for me to not not forget but to not let my being ever completely de-emphasize my memory of benzo withdrawl. I really appreciated your framing of the experience as umitigated hell and terror and playing a waiting game with the torture of not being able to process or experience one’s existence and human sensations as anything other than fear or pain. I tell people that my fast taper off of years of four yellow benzo pills per day – was like being somewhere in between dead and alive for five months. It was a long long harrowing nightmare that brought me to my knees every single concious moment for months. Hell. Paradoxically this terror strengthened me and the tortourus experience is I think a big part of why I take really good care of myself today and my life is rich in terms of being rewarding and fulfilling. This detox for me was five years ago and I used to regularly conciously channel memories of the hell and appreciation of the strength I mustered to get through or over it – as motivation and daily optimistic energy. I haven’t channeled these memories in a good year or so except when watching or reading things comparable to your narrative.
    PS the still photos in the film really capture the differnt emotions or stages in your life when you are describing. I saw the not feeling anything but maybe longing for something more in your eyes and face in some of the stills – I can really relate to this.

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