Update: ABC World News Wants to Know About Benzos


Note: The episode did not air as expected. ABC indicates it will air Tuesday, January 21.

Six weeks ago a producer from ABC World News with Diane Sawyer contacted me.  “ABC wants to do a piece on addiction and prescription drugs,” she told me.  “Would I agree to an interview?”  I was not without reservations.  I have a healthy disregard for much of mainstream news, but I also realize their reach and potency.  The proposition was risky, but one which I decided to take.  It’s a cliché, but one with truth: If one person can benefit, then it’s worth it.  I said “yes.”

Last Friday the crew arrived.  They’d given me an infrared camera to record my insomnia, which is not very newsworthy.  It’s what’s left of my two-year crawl out of benzodiazepine dependence.  I recorded night diaries on my iPhone which were sleepy and, in my mind, only telling in their gritty, somnambulant tenor.

Two cameramen set up lights. Cecilia Vega, the correspondent, sat in a chair across from me.  Ned Berkowitz, the producer, drank bottle after bottle of Diet Coke and chewed his nails.  We shot footage of me putting glittery high-tops on my daughter’s feet.  We shot footage of me typing on my computer and running down the street. This is how the media works.  She’s a mother, a writer, an athlete.  And then, the medicine cabinet: she’s dependent on prescription pills.

I have many hopes for this two-minute (that’s right – a whopping two minutes) segment.  My hope is that it will ring loud and long.  My hope is that it will be a small fire that will gather other small fires and that the network will have phones ringing off the hook.  My hope is that one person or a thousand or more will see it and say, “that’s me” or “that’s my brother” and they’ll call their doctor and demand to know more about the Ashton Manual.  My hope is that this one blip in the media landscape will hit a sudden nerve and that it will start a ball of momentum toward more research, more education of providers and more societal support for those coming off these highly addictive drugs.

They’ve cut over four hours of interview into two minutes.  May those two minutes have potency.  May they reach the very people they need to reach.  I wore blue, like the sky. May it be that big.  Big as the sky and with wings.



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. You were right to do the interview. I’ve been on the media a lot over the years, and it’s always frustrating how little of the interviews they use, and even more frustrating when they (sometimes) seem to completely miss the points I’ve tried to make. But what I think is especially important here is that they have a drug victim (you) as the spokesperson, instead of an “expert” (read: some doctor on the take from the drug companies).

    So thank you for doing this.

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  2. Benzodiazepine dependence, Ya, spent a few years doing that.

    Is This the World’s Deadliest Pill?
    Some say it’s not an opiate painkiller like Oxy, but Klonopin. And doctors are doling it out like candy, causing a surge of hellish withdrawals, overdoses and deaths.


    The addiction community knows benzos are even worse than Oxycontin and Heroin

    There is one other benzo nightmare , Zyprexa.

    ZYPREXA (olanzapine) is an atypical antipsychotic that belongs to the thienobenzodiazepine class. The chemical designation is 2-methyl-4-(4-methyl-1-piperazinyl)-10H-thieno[2,3-b] [1,5]benzodiazepine.

    – Rx list

    Withdrawal from Zyprexa is a trip even deeper into that absolute hellspace Clonopin and the other benzos take you to. It’s not pleasant to take like say Xanax,it really sucks actually, but withdrawal is the ultimate hell.

    Benzo withdrawal is is hell.

    What is hell, a place regarded in various religions as a spiritual realm of evil and suffering, often traditionally depicted as a place of perpetual fire beneath the earth where the wicked are punished after death.

    Hell is fear on top of fear on top of fear… welcome to cold turkey benzodiazepine withdrawals. See you at the E.R if your lucky.

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    • You’re right about Zyprexa. It’s the worst hell, and I’ve been in a cold turkey withdrawal of 11 years. Doctors dismiss this, so Zyprexa is the “perfect crime”- a death grip of diabolical dimensions.
      Dr. Gotzche has blown the whistle on this drug, (200,000 dead and counting). This drug clings to the entire nervous system and down the spine too. An antidote is desperately required! Any suggestions? I have an orthomolecular MD, and his supplements have probably kept me alive! I’ll share my list on MIA soon.

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      • http://www.google.com/search?q=zyprexa+withdrawal+hell

        Read the nightmares.

        Zyprexa CAUSES “Schizoaffective plus”, a condition that describes a frightening loss of contact with reality (psychosis) and severe mood problems in people that never had those problems before taking it when they try and quit. And the nausea and vomiting , all that extra hunger it causes suddenly in reverse during withdrawal. I was sick for 6 months with out the knowledge I would ever recover. Thought I was going to die by starvation.

        The criminal marketing and diabetes scandal is fairly well know and easy to find such as here http://www.zyprexa-victims.com but the withdrawal reactions are still not exposed very well.

        RE: Any suggestions?

        The best thing to do would be to kill off all of the people who know how to synthesize Zyprexa followed by burning all the books with the Zyprexa chemical recipe.

        Zyprexa is like the “flu” in Steven Kings THE STAND.

        The world would be a better place. 200,000 dead and counting, damb.

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        • copy cat, I totally share your anger, but as a lawyer I caution you not to openly talk about violence in a public forum like this one, or you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. Remember that we live in a country where everything we say is being spied upon.

          Again, as a lawyer, what I would say is that those drug company executives and psychiatrists, who knowingly set in motion a chain of events that lead to people’s deaths, with a depraved indifference to human life and a malignant heart, have committed second-degree murder and should be prosecuted and put in prison for the rest of their lives. All state laws define second-degree murder in this way, and we should demand that these laws be enforced.

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          • I hope this comment winds up in the right place. The reason few lawyers will take psychiatric malpractice cases is that they are almost impossible to win, and all malpractice cases are very expensive to put on. Furthermore in most states the standard for malpractice is something like falling below the standard of care of the average recognized practitioner. (Not a very accurate summary, but you get the idea.) The problem is, as a very decent lawyer I once worked for said, it is almost impossible to fall below the standard of care of the average psychiatrist. This is not a joke, The insurance companies will find doctors who will testify that almost anything is OK (a lobotomy for a two year old, no problem!) while it is almost impossible to find a psychiatrist who will testify in the plaintiff’s favor. AND the average judge and juror relate to psychiatry as if it were some kind of religion.

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        • I only took it for a short time but it gave me what can only be called narcolepsy – I could fall asleep while biking or walking even though it was a lowest dose possible. When I got angry at the psychiatrist for not telling me that can happen because it was so dangerous I was told that I should have read the leaflet (which I did) and it said it can make you sleepy. What a joke. And even after I took it for a few days I already had withdrawal symptoms from it.

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  3. The “A” in ABC stands for “Abilify.”*

    Still, I hope your 2 minutes are as you say, “as big as the sky and with wings.”

    Thanks for doing it. I’m withdrawing from a benzo right now and it’s been brutal.

    *Earlier today I commented on a highly offensive ABC talk show episode that promoted the psychiatric drugging of children(http://katiecouric.com/2014/01/15/parents-struggling-with-mentally-ill-children/), and my comment lasted all of 5 minutes.

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  4. I agree that benzo dependence and withdrawal can be hell: I’ve seen it in others and determined I would never become addicted to them like that, and I haven’t. I agree even more strongly that the fraudulent and damaging marketing of Zyprexa has been one of the darkest episodes in modern psychiatry (and the competition for that “honor” is stiff); I regard the iatrogenic diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disturbances, not to mention the creation or exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms rather than relief of preexisting ones (not unrelated to the metabolic effects, if you ask me), as a form of genocide against nonconformists, dissidents, etc., of the sort you read about in the bad old USSR and aren’t supposed to expect to find in the US.
    That said, I think that judicious, *occasional* use of short-acting benzos, under the PRN self-control of a non-addictive personality who is leery of taking psych meds at all, can be a helpful thing to someone in the worst throes of PTSD, if they are seen as an *adjunct* to mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques, yoga, music, exercise, etc. I found them to be so, anyway; I never could have had a lot of dental work without them, because I gave severe dental phobia and it shot my blood pressure through the roof so the dentist was afraid to work on me; but I didn’t want to take BP meds because, frankly, I hate the side effects of them worse, and they did nothing to quell the anxiety I felt over opening my mouth and letting so done stick their hands in. But I refused to take them on any kind of a regular schedule to avoid becoming physically dependent, and I would ordinarily try mightily to calm myself without them. I think they are infinitely preferable to the neuroleptic variety of antipsychotic. The biggest problem with most psych medicines is the attitude, fostered by insurers who didn’t want to pay for talk therapy, that they can be a *substitute* for psychological therapies, that all you need is a 5-minute medication management appointment now and then with the doc who writes them. If instead they are regarded as emergency measures to be resorted to only briefly, intermittently, when all psychodynamic efforts to maintain are unsuccessful, AND ARE self-administered only as needed by someone who would prefer not to take them at all, they can be as useful as a nip of scotch or a hit off a joint. Some of us are unable to tolerate marijuana; I have paradoxical reactions to pot of anxiety, panic, nausea and confusion. It really annoys me to constantly read nowadays about pot as a panacaea; not for everyone, it’s not.
    If you can find a shrink who will write scrips for the lightweight benzos without any pressure on you to actually take them regularly, who trusts your judgment in that matter, it’s a wonderful thing. Sometimes just knowing I have it in reserve if things get really hairy, helps me manage the anxiety on my own. I have had a bottle of 30 1mg Ativan last for a year or two, even more. Used like that, it’s not a problem.

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