The Gauntlet of Protracted Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

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My story is a horror show, and it terrifies me. I feel doomed and depressed most of the time after learning about the long-term effects of benzodiazepines. On December 27th, my father passed away from complications due to a dementia-related illness that he had battled for more than five years, but I had started to conduct my research into the brutal pseudoscience of psychiatry years before – which included reading Mad in America, because of my frustrations and struggles with psychiatry.

In the beginning, my father (who did not drink or take psychotropic medications) was passive and befuddled, and then he became agitated and delusional. As the disease progressed, he became aggressive and violent. I was never truly scared of him because he no longer had the physical strength and coordination to become truly destructive, but on one too many occasions, he placed his own life in danger; and he became especially agitated when my mother was not at home, so I took the brunt of his increasing hostility and outbursts. As a result, his doctor put him on a combination of Haldol and Ativan. When I learned about this new cocktail, I explained to my mother that it was “not treatment, but a slow form of euthanasia.”

And I was right: he was dead within three weeks. He turned into a slobbering zombie: the physical rigidity, the backup of saliva, the rapid deterioration of motor skills and an apparent lack of appetite made it almost impossible to feed him. In two weeks – probably because he was malnourished and dehydrated – he caught pneumonia, and then he died about five days later.

I was there when he died, and my mother asked me to check and make certain he was gone. In my mind, I knew it was not in my best interests to see his body. I knew it was likely to trigger heightened anxiety and possibly panic attacks. But how could I possibly refuse that kind of request from my mother? As soon as I saw him, I knew it was only a matter of time.

To watch someone die that way was heartbreaking, excruciating, horrific. When the funeral was over, the dust had settled, and I was alone again with my thoughts, the persistent anxiety and sense of impending doom returned and I have not been able to shake it. I have suffered from a lifelong anxiety and panic disorder, and I can trace the symptoms back to the age of seven. I have even written a 350-page book about it because I became so frustrated with psychiatrists that I began to do my own research, and all that research and reflection turned into an (unpublished) memoir. In the past twenty years, I have received a minimum of fifteen official and unofficial diagnoses from Asperger’s Syndrome to Bipolar II Disorder – many of these diagnoses would be laughable if you knew me. Through happenstance, I ended up taking the only clinical assessment for Bipolar II Disorder four years after I was diagnosed. It was administered by Dr. Brian Tolliver, the chief bipolar researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina, to evaluate me as a potential subject for a research study. And I failed it, with flying colors. I simply have never met the criteria for a manic episode, so I was not allowed to participate in the research study. Still, I was only tested because a doctor wanted to assess me as a potential guinea pig – not out of concern for my well-being as a patient, not to confirm or appropriately diagnose me with any level of objectivity for my own sake.

By that time, I was on a cocktail of eight different medications in high dosages, including benzodiazepines (clonazepam) and zolpidem (Ambien) and SNRI antidepressants (Cymbalta), in addition to mood stabilizers and low dosages of atypical neuroleptics. From what I understand, I was on quadruple the federally suggested maximum dosage of zolpidem (20 milligrams) and double the federally suggested maximum dosage of clonazepam (8 milligrams). I had done enough research at this point that I decided to “unwind” my relationship with psychiatry. I remember performing a written inventory of these medications, looking up at my mother and informing her that I was not going to be able to untangle these issues outpatient. So I returned to the Medical University of South Carolina (M.U.S.C.) and showed the resident psychiatrist the list of medication I had been prescribed. He sat there stunned and slack-jawed for a few moments. Then he excused himself and returned with a colleague. They wanted me to enter the hospital right away, and I agreed, without hesitation. I think they were surprised when I did not resist and voluntarily entered the hospital on December 6, 2014.

Their strategy and treatment of the underlying issues, and the withdrawal syndrome that I received at the hands of the psychiatric team at M.U.S.C. still baffles me to this day. For some ungodly reason, they immediately dropped me off of the Cymbalta, and immediately switched me from clonazepam to Valium. I left the hospital one week later with a six-week taper from the Valium and a prescription for 10 milligrams of zolpidem. I followed their instructions to the letter, turning my Valium prescription over to my mother to ensure that I did not waver. She placed all my medications under lock and key. One week after I completed the taper, I was halfway through a cup of coffee when I had a panic attack and all the symptoms returned, irrevocably. My hands and feet went numb. A burning, tingling sensation overcame me and I became so irritable and frightened of everything that I simply could not focus or function in any way.

At first, the resident psychiatrist presiding over my case (clinically supervised by a psychiatric nurse for reasons I don’t understand) refused to believe me. He said that protracted withdrawal syndrome did not exist until I pressed him to look into the clinical literature. When I followed up with him, he sheepishly admitted that there was “some evidence” that it existed, and that I showed “some of the symptoms” but he would not put me back on benzodiazepines. I want to be absolutely clear on this issue: I never asked him to put me back on benzodiazepines. In fact, I was adamant that I did not want to go back on them. I told him that I “never wanted to see another benzo as long as I lived,” but I was also adamant that I needed humane treatment for the withdrawal, and I was not getting it. In fact, I was dismissed as a junkie trying to get back on these medications.

He told me it was impossible that I could be experiencing what I was experiencing. He told me I was “a baby whose bottle has been taken away.” He even told me it was all in my head! Of course it was all in my head – it is a deeply embedded neurological issue. For 3.5 months, I white-knuckled it through every day. I was so irritable and stewing in the darkest thoughts possible that I completely understand why some people commit suicide coming off these medications. But the worst symptom was this obsessive-compulsive fear of everything. I was scared to drive my car because I was irrationally afraid of getting into a car crash. I was afraid of walking down a flight of stairs because I just knew I would fall and break my neck. I had this weird, obsessive fear of bumping my head against the mantelpiece, so I walked a wide berth around the fireplace – those are just some examples of what I went through. Even some television commercials frightened me for a while. The image of someone parachuting from an airplane would make my stomach bottom out, the zero-gravity sensation of falling from a great height.

My doctor insisted that those symptoms (if I was telling the truth) could not be associated with withdrawal – they had to be symptoms of an underlying condition. If they were withdrawal symptoms, he reasoned, then the condition would improve over time, not become worse. I have since learned from legitimate sources that protracted withdrawal syndrome from benzodiazepines can last years, that it can intensify long before it abates, and that it can come and go – with some symptoms, such as irritability under stressful situations, lasting for years until they dissipate. I am beginning to think they can last a lifetime, if they have not already killed me by predisposing me to the same kind of dementia-related early demise that just killed my father last week.

During this time – at the peak of withdrawal – I canceled four to six months of refills of clonazepam, zolpidem and Librium at two different pharmacies, though every brain cell was screaming at me not to cancel them. But I somehow found the strength to do it. Hardly the actions of the hardcore junkie that my psychiatrist had accused me of being. He didn’t use this word, but he clearly implied that I was malingering. For three and a half months, I stayed within the M.U.S.C. network to ensure that no one could accuse me of doctor shopping, and I only used one pharmacy for the same reason; but as a result, I also never received any help. Inevitably, they contacted my psychiatrist and he denied me any assistance, and of course his peers were not going to contradict him. He did finally try Prozac, but it only made the symptoms worse after three weeks. Then they tried Zoloft and the results were the same, I became even more agitated after three to four weeks.

As a last resort, he put me on a low dosage of the antipsychotic Zyprexa. I was told that the Zyprexa would “knock me out and treat the anxiety.” I was also advised that it would increase my appetite and I would gain a lot of weight but that I “needed to put aside my body issues for a while.” I have been athletic all my life – rigorous aerobic exercise was how I always dealt with my anxiety problems, so lethargy and weight gain and the “stupidity” that you feel on antipsychotics as they diminish your frontal lobe activity was like trading one source of depression for another. In my twenty years of experience as a patient, as far as psychiatry is concerned, the cure is always worse than the disease.

I was willing to put aside those concerns for a while if, on the long term, I could get through the intense, protracted benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. But it just did not work. The Zyprexa did not put me to sleep, and it did not take away the intense anxiety and panic that plagued me all the time, everywhere I went. One day, it was so intense that all I could do was pace up and down. I tried to take my dog for a walk to distract myself, but I couldn’t even make it twenty-five feet. I had reached my breaking point. Something had to change, and it had to change that day. So I talked my mother (who was handling all my medications at the time) into letting me have a zolpidem and then driving me to the M.U.S.C. emergency room. Again, I refused to leave the M.U.S.C. network so that no one could accuse me of doctor shopping or any kind of criminal dishonesty.

When I arrived, and after the zolpidem kicked in, I was less agitated, but I explained to them why I’d come there and that I needed to go back into the hospital again. Instead of admitting me, I was referred to an inpatient program at M.U.S.C. for patients over 40 years old with manic depression and schizophrenia (I have never received either diagnosis). The emergency room staff told me that the staff at this program knew I was coming and that I was already registered – I only needed to show up the next morning to get started. When I arrived the next morning, the program staff had no idea who I was, and it took another week to get me enrolled in the program. I went for one day and it became obvious to both me and the clinical staff present that I did not belong there and my issues were clearly related to withdrawal from benzodiazepines. When I did my intake session with the psychiatric nurse in charge of the program, she said to me (and I am not paraphrasing much here):

“I do not understand why they didn’t admit you back into detox right away.”

That was the final straw. I went back to my old practice and found a new psychiatric nurse who recognized the problem right away. She offered to put me back on clonazepam, but I refused. I asked her to put me back on Valium, because I was told by the psychiatrists at M.U.S.C. that it’s the oldest and weakest of the benzodiazepines and the easiest to taper. Though I have been free of clonazepam and SNRI antidepressants for more than one year now, I am still struggling to get off of the Valium and the Ambien. I am committed to zero alcohol consumption and have been sober most of the time for the last ten years, though I have not been perfect. Of course no doctor – psychiatrist or otherwise – informed me that alcohol consumption was problematic with benzodiazepines until years after I had started taking them. When I was first prescribed Xanax in the early nineties, I did not drink that much. Then I discovered the combined effect of white wine and Xanax, and slowly alcohol became another issue, though I have largely cleaned up my act in that respect. In the early nineties, when I told my first doctor that I was drinking wine and taking Xanax, his response was: “When I go home tonight, I will have my three vodka martinis. It’s okay, you just don’t want to get shit-faced.” How could I make this stuff up?

There is much more to the story, but since we buried my father on Saturday, I am terrified and on the verge of panic all the time. It seems to me – based on what I have read on this blog – that there is very little hope of complete recovery and I am destined to the same fate.

I don’t trust the APA either. They receive a significant chunk of their budget from the pharmaceutical companies and they have a vested interest in protecting their members from widespread liability. I may not have an MD but I do have an MBA in Finance, and I worked in the financial investments industry. Large corporations and their trade associations lie all the time to protect the bottom line.

It’s the American way.

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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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Robert Pfaff
Robert Pfaff is an activist and writer with 25 years of experience working on LGBT and other social justice issues. He has detailed his battle with a lifelong anxiety and panic disorder in the unpublished memoir Wild Life. Robert is currently working on a supernatural thriller about a psychiatrist haunted by a vengeful spirit hell-bent on possessing the body of his newborn child. While it is a supernatural thriller, it is also a researched indictment of the brutal pseudoscience of psychiatry.

94 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for sharing your story.

    It is unbelievable what some psychiatrists will say to patients. I found it particularly upsetting that your diagnosis was not considered strong enough for you to participate in a research study, whereas at any other time – as you say- it seems impossible to get rid of a diagnosis

    I just wanted to say that when I read this site (and also M0nica Cassani’s Beyond Meds site), I see enormous hope for complete recovery. People seemed to be recovering from the most terrible states. You seem to me to already have so much that is well functioning (e.g. you are writing thoughtful blogs, acting as a support person to your mother in time of crisis, etc. etc.)

    I look forward to future blogs from you describing your continual recovery.

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  2. Thanks for posting – I have similar experiences, and am finishing up a taper of a different Rx, although I have the same ‘burning’ feeling and some anxiousness similar to what you recounted.

    Just wanted to say you’re not alone because here I am too. And, thanks again: The more people who write/blog/post/tell their stories, the better for so many important reasons

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  3. Good luck with your book and don’t give up hope. I never knew what anxiety was until I cold turkyed Cymbalta. I went mental . This was long after my Ambien ct and before my Ativan taper. I also stayed in my network, enduring judgement and ridicule so no-one could accuse me of doctor shopping. I’m looking more like myself seven months after a Valium taper and my mind is slowly coming back.My grandfather died of Alzheimer’s shortly after Drs started drugging him. What will be will be. But for now I plan on and have every hope of living a good life for as long as I can.

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  4. Robert, what a very, very heroic struggle you’re waging. My heart goes out to you.

    As someone who has battled benzo withdrawal for over two years now, I empathize a great deal with what you’re experiencing. BenzoBuddies.org offers support and guidance for those going through withdrawal as well as post-withdrawal. You will also find advice from those who have either withdrawn from the other pills you mentioned or are tapering currently. Personally, it’s been extremely helpful to me to know that I’m not alone, that my symptoms are not unusual, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, however far ahead that may be.

    I will never understand how absolutely, and ruthlessly, idiotic most doctors are when it comes to understanding benzo withdrawal, along with their firm conviction that benzo withdrawal is not the cause of extreme symptoms a patient is suffering but that the patient is returning to “preexisting anxiety” or some such ridiculous notion. Doctors have had over 50+ years to get on board with benzo knowledge, yet most have either refused to do so or have simply allowed ignorance to take its course. The result is that more people are on these drugs than ever before, and patients keep being told (with absolute straight-faced conviction, no less) that such a thing as benzo withdrawal doesn’t exist or won’t last past a short period of time.

    The problem is that society has let doctors off the hook for far too long. The poor doctor didn’t understand what he/she was doing, and the result was that the patient was left to suffer alone, most likely, for months or years, because no one else understood what the patient was experiencing either.

    Doctors should NO LONGER be allowed to skate past the extreme calamity that prescribing these drugs has caused. I believe that giving patients fast tapering instructions or telling a patient to simply stop taking a benzo drug altogether ought to be known as malpractice, as doing such a thing causes a cascade of debilitating symptoms that can be dangerous and at times fatal.

    Robert, I wish you the best in your healing. Please know that you’re not alone.

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    • You’ll be delighted to know that no doctor would think of withdrawing you using niacin (vitamin B3) because it would be too dangerous, the proof being that you can physically withdraw someone from alcohol in 24 hours using it. Further evidence for the psychiatric mind is that niacinamide and niacin raise your convulsive threshold, so you can withdraw from hypnotics without flopping like a fish in the process.
      Withdrawing from benzos is likely to be much trickier, as they’re fat soluble- you’d be likely to wind up taking several grams of B3 a day over a period of weeks to months- a big deal unless you run with B3-using schizophrenics, who have taken it for years.

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  5. Hi Robert.

    Your story is very familiar and much like mine. Benzo withdrawal CT survivor here as well- although I came off multiple other psych meds CT at the same time as well (all of which had been prescribed for symptoms of benzo tolerance misdiagnosed as so-called “mental illness” over the years I was in benzo tolerance and no one recognized it as such). 37 months off and still unwell, but have improved some over time as I’ve been off and enduring. Worst hell I’ve ever endured or could’ve imagined- this is the stuff of worst nightmares- only worse.

    Anyhow, just wanted you to know what you’re not alone. I got fed all the same BS – “it’s not possible”, “these drugs don’t cause that”, “it’s all in your head”, “you must NEED the drugs if being off of them makes you feel this bad”, etc, etc, etc. I finally found ONE doctor (after seeing MANY) who believed me and has stuck with me all this time. She can’t help me since the damage is done and she knows that – but helps with paperwork and such that I’ve needed and also validates that this is real and as bad as I say it is. She also offers compassion and support if I need it and has apologized for the iatrogenic damage, despite not being the one who caused it.

    Hang on, we do recover I’m told. Many have before us. And in the years I’ve been in the groups I’ve seen many completely recover in time. Please do join some of the facebook groups or support forums online to find others in similar boats. There are many of us, unfortunately.

    Take good care of self. Time is the ultimate cure as the receptors slowly upregulate.

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  6. Thank-you for telling your story. It is hard to believe “doctors” can be so inept, dangerous, ignorant, uneducated, arrogant, and useless.
    Am I wrong, or have the “(mal)practitioners” in the “specialty” of psychiatry poisoned, disabled, destroyed, injured, traumatized and killed more people (equal opportunity-toddlers, teens, women, men, autistic, elderly) than any other so-called medical specialty??
    I wish you peace and healing. No one should have suffered the misery you have experienced.

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    • The trouble is, there are untold numbers of us who do and who have.

      It is hell on earth.

      It isn’t just psychiatry, either. My local health clinic hands out benzos (and psych meds) like candy…

      How many have died? How many lives ruined?

      24 months off Klonopin here (and numerous other psych meds over the years) and still suffering and hugely impaired.

      Somebody should be made responsible for the damages wreaked on lives/families/incomes thanks to big pharma and their enablers.

      Instead, we are blamed and made to suffer alone and without support. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the bullshit about ‘underlying condition’…

      Thanks for writing up your experience, Robert. And like you, I wonder will this ever end? Are we permanently damaged?

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  7. Most doctors prescribe benzodiazapines as a last resort, when patients repeatedly come to the office hysterical, crying about how they can’t sleep, can’t cope, “please doc can’t you give me something”. You leave a lot out of your history. Unless you were involuntarily committed to an impatient facility or ordered to do so by a court, no one is forced to take benzodiazapines. You also fail to mention any type of ongoing therapy for your problems. Normal alcohol use and normal doses of benzodiazapines are not a problem except in people with addiction. Your judgement was so impaired that you apparently did not realize or ignored the fact that combining alcohol and benzodiazapines was a problem, at least for you. I am curious how you got the information that valium is the “weakest” and easiest to taper of all the benzodiazapines. I don’t even think it is the oldest, but hardly see how order of discovery is relevant. Unhappily, psychiatric diagnosis is not always easy or clear cut. Having a correct diagnosis, may give guidance to what medications may be effective, or what direction psychotherapy should take, but since symptoms overlap widely and treatment overlap widely, the exact name to give your symptoms is not always critical. Your narrative is so full of holes, misinformation, and general nonsense that I do not see how anyone could take you seriously. You state that you have little hope of recovery. Since you have had serious psychiatric symptoms for the last twenty years it is unlikely that you will stop having serious psychiatric symptoms. As far a treatment, you seem to be your own worst enemy.

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    • lucilda, beg pardon? You a doctor trying to be a joker or something? I got prescribed a valium for being exhaused with a newborn, fully breastfed baby, it nearly killed both of us. As for normal alcohol use, bollocks! Effexor turned me into drinker. These pills cause these addictions, and instead of blaming these deadly pills, the alcohol gets blamed? Easy for me, went of the pills, didnt need the alcohol. Read rxisk “”Driven to drink”” you might actually learn something……….. I thought his narrative was great, are you are writers critic or something? Or perhaps a troll for Merck?
      I had serious psychiatric symptoms for damn 20 years (on and off). All caused by the meds.
      Every time, I have gone to a gp, for any problem, what do they prescribe, damn psych drugs. They dont say they are psych drugs………… so many times I have been conned, so many times, got off the stuff.
      People only get valium for being hysterical, beg pardon? I was exhausted two kids, and a newborn, and an absent husband…. here darlin take this tablet and go home and sleep…. that one tablet damn near killed me…. instead of blaming the tablet, I got to spend three weeks in a psych wards, before they actually realised there was nothing wrong with me (nearly killed me three times on damn psych drugs).
      Psychiatry is a con, and you lucinlda, really, really offend me. Unhappily psychiatric diagnosis, is bullshit and rubbish, so of course not easy nor clear cut….. But while you are around, obviously there are going to be thousands more of us, suffering at the hands of ppsychiatric bullshit.
      As the present DSM bible stands, with all the votes for new and more bizarre “”illnesses”” so the pharma profits grow, so the psych profits grow, everyone in the world, could have a psych diagnosis. I suppose you diagnose them in 10 minutes as well?
      Reality, the nutters in this world ARE the psychiatrists.

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      • These comments are super old, but most come back around to the same thing. A lack of personal accountability. You got exactly what you asked for or implied you needed and then put it into your body. The same would go for being given a box of Fentanyl patches and no dialogue from the doctor. All the information you need is on the medication or in a pamphlet in the pharmacy bag. The internet is also a great way to look up medications.
        There is not one once of accountability in here and that is never going to help you or anyone else work their personal problems out. The blame is on everyone else, but surely there is nothing you could have done differently. Everyone else is going to continue to be the problem until you gain some self-awareness and do the work necessary to grow. It’s a simple solution, but no one ever wants to accept that their lives are their own to clean up.
        Lucinda was right.
        The only people who think it’s a con are those who were not able to use it in the way they had hoped. It’s the manipulative, narcissistic, abusers who condemn psychiatry because they know it will not benefit the games they play or are too mentally ill to see they need help. There is a reason you are being given psychiatric drugs. That isn’t something that happens to the average person.
        It is offensive that people who claim to be adult human beings are so incapable of accepting responsibility for anything. This a textbook example of what is with the “civilized” world. Grown-ups with no capacity to take responsibility for themselves, having children, and passing learned helplessness down onto their offspring… When it suits.

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        • When someone with a user name like HeiferThots and a fake profile pic criticizes me for lacking personal responsibility, I am too overcome with irony to respond. Usually. But I thank you for your comment only because it gave me a chance to review the supportive responses who helped me through a life-threatening amount of pain and trauma. I am very grateful to the outpouring of support I received here from people who actually lived the experience, and understand the complexity of these issues. Personal responsibility or patient blaming is the first recourse of the ignorant who chose to comment when they should listen.

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      • Depends on the patient. I react horribly to one crumb of magnesium. Even using magnesium spray is dicey.

        Frankly, I would try CBT first and then try OTC remedies very gradually. And if they are necessary, just because they aren’t drugs, doesn’t mean they are harmless.

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    • “Most doctors prescribe benzodiazapines as a last resort.”

      What planet are you on?

      “Normal alcohol use and normal doses of benzodiazapines are not a problem except in people with addiction.”

      You sound like one of MANY very ignorant, cavalier doctors.

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    • lucilda,

      In addition to being extremely rude, presumptuous, and misleading, your comment is perhaps the most inaccurate I have ever seen on MiA.

      As a sufferer from protracted withdrawal myself, I know the truth of Robert’s article and I am very grateful that he wrote it. I have had many of the same experiences that he writes about. And in my case, I KNOW I am not merely suffering from “pre-existing conditions” because I have been suffering from many conditions that I’ve NEVER HAD BEFORE.

      But lucilda, your comment is validating in that it shows the ignorance and dismissiveness that we sufferers of protracted withdrawal confront on a daily basis. So thank you for that, and I hope the weather is nice on Bizarro World.

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      • Did any member of this medical multitude ever do anything like use one of the forms of Vit. B3 in the course of this withdrawing. All of them raise your seizure threshold and neither inositol niacinate nor niacinamide cause flushing.
        The multitude certainly didn’t think of using magnesium oxide @ 750-800 mg./day for anxiety attacks, instead of more or upped benzos. A sad story, likely to be the source of many more.

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    • lucilda

      If you are NOT a Biological Psychiatrist then you have seriously missed your true calling. Your words are literally dripping with that indomitable combination of the highest levels of arrogance and ignorance that permeates the psychiatric profession

      Oh, where to begin to dissect such utter nonsense!

      “Most doctors prescribe benzodiazapines as a last resort…”

      I guess the 94 million prescriptions for benzos in 2013 (most of them likely long term) was just of a lot of “last resort” prescribing, instead of being one of the worst examples of medical malpractice in all of American medicine.

      “…when patients repeatedly come to the office hysterical, crying about how they can’t sleep, can’t cope, “please doc can’t you give me something”

      How is this fundamentally different than patients “asking for” or “demanding” antibiotics. Doctors/psychiatrists resisting “Dr. Feelgood” personas is a necessary prerequisite for practicing ethical medicine, especially when they should be educated about the long term negative (emotionally crippling) effects of the unethical prescribing of benzodiazepines.

      “no one is forced to take benzodiazapines”

      Is this not the essence of the kind of “blame the victim” posturing that permeates the excuses of virtually all prescribing medical malpractice?

      “Normal alcohol use and normal doses of benzodiazapines are not a problem except in people with addiction.”

      Exactly who are these “people with addiction” that are somehow the ONLY ones who might develop a problem combining alcohol and benzos on a regular basis? What the hell is “normal alcohol use” and “normal doses of benzodiazepines” anyways? Does this not vary dramatically from human being to human being DEPENDING ON THEIR LIFE EXPERIENCES AND THEIR PARTICULAR ENVIRONMENTAL CIRCUMSTANCES in which they consume these substances. Anyone can develop an addiction, even someone with your level of hubris, lucilda, if they are in the right combination of life circumstances.

      “Your judgement was so impaired that you apparently did not realize or ignored the fact that combining alcohol and benzodiazapines was a problem, at least for you.”

      Everyone here should seriously question the judgment of someone making the above nonsensical statement. How many doctors have taken the time to learn about the dangers of benzodiazepines, and truly understand the science of addiction as it relates to combining two different drugs from the sedative hypnotic family? The synergistic effect of these combinations are not a simple one plus one equals two; the effects are quite often much much higher. If someone (that means me or even you, lucilda) has NO PRIOR problem with substance use, yes, they are at risk of developing addiction issues if they combine these two types of drugs on a regular basis.

      “Having a correct diagnosis, may give guidance to what medications may be effective…”

      Are these words not the living embodiment of Biological Psychiatry’s approach to “treating” extreme states or psychological distress. Robert should be pleased to know that his living nightmare could be finally over if he just found the right psychiatrist who could label his “diagnosis/disease” correctly (once and for all) and tweak the right combination of psychiatric “medications” to target his “chemical imbalance.”

      “Since you have had serious psychiatric symptoms for the last twenty years it is unlikely that you will stop having serious psychiatric symptoms.”

      The “wisdom” and hackneyed phrases of modern psychiatry just keeps oozing out of this benevolent, or should I say, malevolent comment. Just more disease mongering with the added caveat of perpetual permanency.

      “Your narrative is so full of holes, misinformation, and general nonsense that I do not see how anyone could take you seriously.”

      Is this not the THE classic case of projection and looking in the mirror? Though unfortunately, lucilda, in this case I DO take YOU seriously. Having worked in community mental health for over 22 years, and in that time worked with perhaps two dozen different psychiatrists, I have encountered your hubris, outlook, and approach many times.

      Lucilda, when you say “you seem to be your own worst enemy” I want to return to the first part of my comment above. If you are not currently practicing psychiatry PLEASE PLEASE sign up right away. For the sooner you become part of the psychiatric profession I will be comforted in knowing that Psychiatry’s ultimate demise will be finally much closer at hand.

      As insane as our current world truly is, lucilda, your version of reality could only have the effect of perhaps (once and for all) “turning reality back on it head” or smacking some sense into the larger public consciousness with the shear absurdity of your ideas. You certainly “woke me up” today, for sure!

      BTW, Robert, this was a great blog that is filled with great insight and very important questions. Your story is a living example of the true nature of the current benzo crisis and the high crimes of modern psychiatry.

      Richard
      PS. Word of note, I chose to leave alone lucilda’s misspelling of benzodiazepines in the context of her quotes.

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      • I’m amazed at how lucid and well researched your tale and the detail of your experience is, and while you’re still on drugs, and after suffering such horrible iatrogenic effects.

        My experience was with the antidepressants / antipsychotics, not the benzos. One is almost completely incapacitated from all rational thought, while mandated to take over the maximum recommended doses of those drug cocktails, not to mention “psychotic,” via anticholinergic toxidrome.

        I’ve read the withdrawal from the benzos is much worse than the drug cocktails forced upon me, but I think it’s just a different kind of long run egregious, unethical, and morally unacceptable iatrogenic harm.

        Have hope, I do believe those who have such, can almost, if not totally, fully recover. Although, let’s hope those perpetrating these unjust and undeserved iatrogenic harm onto others, do some day pay. After all, that’s for what the doctors’ malpractice insurance was intended. And the fact the medical community has malpractice insurance is why we trusted in doctors in the first place. Our government and legal system may not make them pay, but I do believe God will. Justice is important.

        Best wishes in your healing journey, and have hope for a full recovery. I’m so impressed at your abilities thus far. And get your books published, we need them turned into movies to educate the public of our current medical industry’s ongoing crimes against humanity.

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    • Lucinda –

      Your experience and observations do not comport with mine, nor with the experience of almost everyone else who has replied. They also do not comport with this statement from the Journal of the American Medical Association’s 2008 study: “approximately 5.2% of US adults aged 18 to 80 years used benzodiazepines.”

      With more than 5% of the general adult population on these medications, there is compelling evidence that benzos are NOT prescribed as a last resort, but as a de facto strategy against anxiety that people should look to holistic and authentic methods to manage.

      I was not that strong, unfortunately, not when I was first introduced and encouraged to take benzos, though I can honestly state that I never begged or malingered in order to get them. I have a vivid memory of going back to the first doctor who first prescribed me benzos and telling him “I feel like I am becoming pill popper. Help me get off this stuff.” He responded: “Tell me more. Tell me more about your symptoms.” I described to him what I now know was rebound anxiety – its a common side effect: the worsening of your anxiety after the Xanax leaves your system. He said “That’s your underlying condition coming back.” And then he increased my dosage. Should I have known better? I would argue that as the doctor he was the one who should have known better – that’s his area of expertise.

      I do not claim that I was 100% the victim in this situation. As in most cases like mine, I was so distressed because I did not understand what was so wrong with me: the irrational, obsessive-compulsive convictions (not fears, but convictions) that killer bees were coming for me (when I was seven years old), that I had AIDS when I was 15-25 years-old – even though every test came back negative and I was so terrified of HIV that I remained celibate most of my life; the unshakable conviction that the apocalypse was nigh, given my upbringing in a very southern, conservative religion, after Hurricane Hugo swept through my hometown. Unlike someone with a psychotic disorder, I knew those thoughts were a symptom of a bigger problem, but it did not stop the primitive part of brain from flooding my body with panic attacks and the looming, incessant certainty of my own personal demise.

      I guess I need to clarify that I was never “forced” to take benzos and I would need you to point to where in my story I make that claim. I do not see it. No one crammed benzos down my throat, but they were dispensed in high dosages in a perfunctory manner by most of the doctors I visited. If that claim is in my story somewhere, it needs to be edited out.

      Yes, I left out a lot of my history out of the blog post, which is why I made the statement above that “there is so much more the story.”

      After years of research and a 350 memoir on the subject (the rough draft was 436 pages, so the editing process required leaving out some important experiences and information) it is almost impossible to relate my entire two-decade relationship with these drugs in a 2500 word post.

      When you submit your story to this blog you have to comply with word-count limits and other constraints. If you have a specific question about “the general nonsense and holes in my story” I will be pleased to respond honestly and to the best of my recollection. Since you were not specific, since you did not cite a single example, I cannot respond adequately to that criticism. If you do respond, I will do my best to fill in any gaps.

      I also disagree with the statement that there is such a thing a “normal” use of benzos in combination with alcohol. There is mounting evidence that long-term use of alcohol in moderate amounts, with or without benzos, results in long-term cognitive impairment. I could point to so many studies on that subject, but a simple Google search reveals numerous, credible research studies and governmental “alerts” on the topic.

      To answer you question about Valium being the “weakest and oldest benzos,” I was given that information by Dr. Kelly Barth, Program Director of the Combined Internal Medicine & Psychiatry Residency Training Program at MUSC and supposedly an addiction specialist, as well as the resident in charge of my weekly follow-up session, Dr. El Sabbath at MUSC, when I asked to enter the hospital so I could get off of benzos. In fact, I was told that was the reason for switching me from Clonazepam to Valium – it was a core part of their strategy. My current prescriber also agrees with that assessment.

      Frankly, I don’t know who to trust – I don’t really trust any of them anymore – but I have to trust someone, because I cannot do this alone. I also continue to do my own research so that I can ask smarter questions that will lead to better treatment.

      Your post clearly lacks empathy and given that I just buried my father, and I am now concerned for my own well-being, I am stunned by the absence of compassion and intense, personal vitriol expressed in your response.

      Am I my own worst enemy? Yes, sometimes, especially when I was young and stupid and desperate and reckless and borderline suicidal because I did not understand what was happening to me, and so I placed a lot of blind faith in psychiatrists who were supposed to be the experts.

      But I have also made some good choices too. I have done some things right. I run 10 plus miles every other day now, and rigorous aerobic exercise is from what I understand, the front-line defense against early onset dementia. Last year, I took a course in Transcendental Meditation that has changed my life much for the better. The clinical literature is mixed, but I would point to a recent study out of Harvard Medical School that students who praticed TM for six weeks show a thickening or strengthening of frontal lobe tissue after six weeks using SPECT and other brain-scanning technologies. I am a devout practitioner, twice a day. In addition, I am committed to a regimen that includes very healthy diet. I have written two books and completed a Masters in Financial Analysis in 2005 – at one of the top three programs in the country – so I am not brain dead yet…thank you very much.

      Again, I would love to know what you consider “general nonsense,” so I can retract anything that I cannot substantiate, or defend what I can.

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    • The only thing I agree with in Lucinda’s statements is that therapy is warranted. One needs to understand what to expect from a psychiatrist and what the expectations of therapy are, as they are very different. Sometimes the therapist can collaborate with the doctor to form a better outcome for the patient. In many situations doctors would be wrong to not also refer to a therapist.

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    • Lucilda,

      I’ll only add one thing to how others already thoroughly refuted your comment.

      You said, “Since you have had serious psychiatric symptoms for the last twenty years it is unlikely that you will stop having serious psychiatric symptoms.”

      There’s no logic to this comment – unless you knew the individual person and their strengths and weaknesses well, you could not possibly make this prediction with any degree of accuracy. Some people suffer for a very long-time due to misinformation, lack of access to social support or therapy, bad luck, and then at some point the combination of factors changes and allows things to get much better. Addtionally, psychiatric distress is on a continuum and for different people in a complex individual way over time; serious psychiatric symptoms do change constantly.

      I sincerely hope you do not work in the “mental health” field.

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  8. I am just so puzzled, why you blame everything on benzodiazipines? I can not tolerate benzos (yep one tablet 3 week inpatient stay)…………..
    Later I took 1/4 valium, and realised why I had that three week inpatient stay…. much longer story, but that will suffice.
    My experience with SSRIs, zoloft, effexor mostly.
    I went of zoloft, due to pregnancy, I was fine for damn 12 months, then the Withdrawals began….I had no idea, didnt expect it.
    Same going off Effexor, couldnt do it, had to switch to zoloft. Effexor is the worst.
    Went off everything 14 months ago. I tapered, but after 4 months of feeliing fine, the Withdrawals Hit, they get worse, now at 18 months out, I have had about two weeks in that whole time where I actually felt near normal, the other 17 and a half months? Agony…………… If you can walk your dog, you are way better than me, most days I cant leave the house……..
    So why are you putting all the blame on Benzos? SSRIs and SRNIs and seroquel, no benzos, and damn this I know, will last years, i hope I live long enough to recover.

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    • I don’t blame “everything”on benzos. I focused on benzos because of the mounting evidence that they place you at higher risk for early onset dementia, and I became aware of that information while I was literally watching my father die of a dementia-related illness. So it was on my mind at the time. It was the focus of my attention.

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      • Robert – More power to you as you work to conquer the impact of benzo use and the other medications you were given
        I am here to give you a note of cheer and hope – I was placed on a benzo (Dalmane) and an early antidepressant (pre-SSRIs) back in the 1970s at the end of a love affair – my symptoms were that I was sad and haven’t trouble sleeping. The psychiatrist told me that because of family history I would have lifetime depression so I unquestionably stayed on them all that time.
        Fast forward to 2009, when I finally had time to assess my situation (single parent with two children, one killed by the psychiatric drug Zyprexa)….I tapered off what I thought was slowly from the drugs I was on at the time – lithium and a high dose of klonapin.
        Thought the withdrawal itself was just terrible, several years later I do not feel after effects, other than concern that I may fall victim to dementia. I have the confidence to know that everything I feel is truly me, unadulterated by any medication.
        I try not to dwell on any of this, however, rather trying to focus on being grateful for every day I am alive.
        I haven’t gone on the benzo withdrawal boards because I am afraid that my healthy and active imagination would kick in, giving me “symptoms” which I don’t truly have.

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        • Thank you for your supportive comments. I do feel so much better, given recent circumstances. It was productive and healthy day, including a ten-mile run and two great meditation sessions, writing 5-6 hours on the second book., lots of reading…all good brain stuff.

          I believe I will get through this because of success stories like yours, though I do share the same lingering concerns. The more I learn, the more frightened I become, which only makes me want to take medication. But I have a safety net in place that prevents that from happening.

          There is also the continuing concern about dementia. I just read that brain scans may not reveal the damage because it happens on the molecular level.

          Here’s what I believe, based mostly on personal experience and some research: aerobic exercise, healthy nutriti9o, and the right supplements (from a reputable manufacturer) should help to reduce that risk. In particular, exercise is supposed to be your front-line defense against the aging of the brain. I sincerely believe that and I also believe that the research supports that statement.

          That one of your children died on Zyprexa breaks my heart. I took a lose dose for maybe two weeks, as I mentioned in the original post. I made me stupid, useless. I ate everything i sight and it simply did not work. I cannot imagine putting a child on that medication.

          How can they get away with that?

          That always seems to be the trade-off in psychiatry. Yes, we can make you less anxious, fit in better with the rest of society. In exchange, we have to shave off about 20 IQ point and add 20 pounds to your waistline. I like my active, independent mind. Its the seat of my identity. And I am going to fight like hell to preserve it.

          My current prescriber has assured me that the brain will heal over time, but that is also the official line of the APA, so I don’t trust it, though I think you are right not to dwell. I had the conversation with my mother and sister yesterday. Is is healthy to angst over what might happen 20-30 years from now? I sincerely doubt it. Stress ages you for sure and I imagine that includes the brain.

          I am just going to continue to persist and use this new awareness to keep myself committed to holistic prevention. I cannot always control the anxiety (and the outrage) all the time, but I chose how I channel it.

          Thanks again for reaching out.

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  9. “”Normal alcohol use and normal doses of benzodiazapines are not a problem except in people with addiction. “”

    Not correct. Many people have taken benzos as prescribed by their doctors and had a horrible time getting off of them.

    I hope to god Lucilda you aren’t a doctor or a health care professional because if you are, with all due respect, you shouldn’t practice another day until you seriously educate yourself on Benzo withdrawal. Otherwise, you are causing great harm to your patients.

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  10. “”I am curious how you got the information that valium is the “weakest” and easiest to taper of all the benzodiazapines””

    If you google Heather Ashton, an expert in Benzo withdrawal, she would advise people to cross taper to Valium and then withdraw from that. The theory was it would easier to taper from since it had a longer half life than other benzos.

    However, many people found that wasn’t the case in their situation felt it was easier to taper off of the benzo they were on.

    The issue though which I am not sure you understand Lucilda is that Benzos like all psych meds need to be tapered very very gradually to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Many people find they have to taper them at 5 to 10% of current dose every 4 to 8 weeks.

    And no, I don’t have any research links to give you since sadly psych med professionals are mostly clueless about tapering and blame all withdrawal symptoms on mental health issues as this column excellently points out.

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  11. Robert,
    Sorry to hear you were put through all this shit and wish you all the best in improving to the maximum degree possible in terms of coming off the drugs and functioning better. Putting someone on 8 mg of Klonopin is ridiculous; that would be enough to sedate a horse. The most I was ever on was 1 mg.

    As you said, lying and deceiving is the American corporate way; it is one reason I am not proud to be an American, given that our country cannot muster the will to put any reasonable limits on these sociopathic entities and their parasitic activity.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry for your loss and I am sorry that you have gone through all of this psych drug madness. I have found that it is all one big just trial and error with these drugs and these doctors seem to have no clue that they are addictive, that the side effects are tremendous and to be honest, I am not so sure they care. They do not seem to know what to do other than prescrible medications. I feel like with mental health it’s a treat them and street them attitude that needs to change. I wish I could change this for everyone. I too have panic disorder and had to learn to manage completely w/o meds because the meds make me literally crazy. Luckily, I have been pretty successful with managing it. I wish you the best of luck. Keep strong.

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  13. The bad news, as has already been noted by many here, is that the comment by “lucilda” [far above] is an aggressive, ‘gaslighting’, and mean-spirited comment on many levels. I was shocked to read it. The good news, however, is that its presence here suggests that some individuals in or around the psychiatry profession must be threatened by the writing at MIA, or else this type of thing wouldn’t be here at all.

    So glad for Richard D. Lewis’ reply as the ‘insider’ I understand he was until very recently. The clients he served must miss him!

    I wish Robert Pfaff all the courage and strength in his journey ahead. This is a very moving account of harrowing personal struggles. It made me wonder what happens to the millions of children who are prescribed these horrible drugs. To that end I did a Google search and a ‘Huffington Post’ piece by Dr. Peter Breggin popped up. Terrible enough for an adult to survive this withdrawal; this ordeal for children must be beyond comprehension.

    Liz Sydney, parent of drug-free children

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  14. Just a few comments of my own:
    1) Why do people always assume that nobody has their best interest at heart. I suspect the large majority in the medical profession, and I speak from many years of experience, do have your interest at heart.
    2) I will attest that, for some unknown reason, there are psychiatrists who do not understand withdrawal from psych meds and benzos but some do. Find one of them! These drugs are powerful and should be used very judiciously. When they are correct they can be miraculous.
    3) I am a Board Certified Mental Health Psychiatric Nurse and I can not prescribe or oversee an MD. Perhaps you saw a Nurse Practitioner?
    4) Why is psychiatry a pseudo-science but no other brand of medicine is? For every disease/illness you will find every doctor has a different approach, mental or physical. This is why they call it “medical practice.”
    5) You obviously need intensive help and some sort of medication(s). I am not saying this to be rude, mean, or judgmental; simply to say: do not cast aside all help and medications to the point of having a low quality life. Apparently, you do need to doctor shop. An in-patient stay with a long observation would be advisable.

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    • Why is psychiatry a pseudo-science but no other brand of medicine is?

      Psychiatry is a medical specialty that seeks to treat metaphorical illnesses with dangerous physical interventions. Because its foundational premise is flawed, its interventions will necessarily also be flawed, and are therefore likely to be harmful.

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    • To ASD, don’t try to give treatment advice about medication or hospitalization to someone you’ve read a few paragraphs about online. That’s ridiculous; I question whether you are really a trained psychiatric nurse as they would know not to do that in an online forum.

      As for “opinion”, I see that your comments stopped after the Insel quote below by Uprising. Even those within the psychiatric profession can’t stand up for it anymore.

      And it is rather disturbing to realize that the profession you’ve worked with for years might be an unscientific house of cards, isn’t it? Easier to deny it all than face that possibility.

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    • First , when money is involved, never assume a doctor has the patient’s best interest at heart. My dad’s cancer docs wanted him to get debilitating chemotherapy, which at his age would’ve killed him. They yelled at him when he said no. Then they were furious when we healed it without chemo. 200k is a lot of money.

      It’s the same in the psyche profession, and it’s easier to drug patients than actually give them therapy. Look up Dr. PETER BREGGIN.

      And psychology and psychiatry are pseudo sciences because we know nothing about the human brain. Nothing. Most therapeutic psyche drugs were made for completely different non psyche reasons but we’re discovered to have a neuro toxic effect on the brain that helped them treat the patient.

      These drugs are neuro toxins and chemical lobotomies to quote Breggin.

      I’m not surprised a nurse is so confident though.

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  15. Hello and thanks for your questions and comments. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify the insights you have brought to my attention.

    1) Psychiatry is a pseudo-science when other branches of medical science are not for one simple reason: all psychological and psychiatric diagnosis are a matter of opinion and not a matter of fact.

    If your oncologist (God forbid) diagnosis you with melanoma, she has scraped off some skin cells, examined them under a microscope, and found malignant activity. Your psychiatrist renders your diagnosis in the same way that psychiatrists diagnosed patients one-hundred years ago. It is an completely subjective assessment. There is not a single DSM diagnosis with a truly objective, statistical or forensic evidence to support its existence. All psychiatric diagnoses are driven by a professional consensus based on an often arbitrary cluster of symptoms. This lack of objectivity often leads to a professional complicity that perpetuates the myth that psychiatry is somehow “scientific.” It has no etiology whatsoever, unless I am unaware of recent major breakthroughs.

    Please consider this quote from the last seven pages of “Shrinks: The Untold History of Psychiatry” (Copyright 2015) by Dr. Peter Lieberman, a former President of the A.P.A.

    “I believe that we will soon have useful diagnostic tests in place for mental illness.”

    I did not know whether to laugh or cry. He is admitting that as of 2015 the current diagnostic tests for psychiatric illnesses in place are not useful. And it gets worse. He continues (to paraphrase) that he hopes new breakthroughs in brain-scanning technologies will allow psychiatrists to identify the chemical imbalances and genetic origins of psychiatric illnesses. Yet, psychiatry has promoted the existence of these imbalances and genetic flaws for decades (on frequently seen television commercials) without conclusive proof of their existence, much less their etiology and how to correct them, so that makes psychiatry a pseudo science.

    In a nutshell, it does not adhere to the empirical standard that is the root of all legitimate sciences.

    2) I do not believe that all the psychiatrists I have seen are “bad” or “evil” people. I have reached the conclusion that the institutions that protect the psycho-pharmaceutical industry and set the standards of the psychiatric profession, as well as the subjective nature of psychiatric diagnoses in general, have corrupted their training and reinforced destructive and dangerous treatments and medications. I can think of tons of examples but the first one that comes to mind is the FDA trials on Prozac. Those trials lasted less than six weeks, involved an aggregate sample size of less than 2,000 people and were not even double-blinded studies. Even so, Prozac barely out-performed a placebo. Yet, Prozac not only went to market, it became the mother of all anti-depressants (with no understanding of its long-term impact on the brain). It was also hailed as a miracle antidepressant, featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine. Why? Because of a multi-million dollar marketing alliance between the A.P.A. and the pharmaceutical companies. It was clearly more about marketing than medicine.

    In congressional hearings in 2010, it was revealed that 28% of the A.P.A.’s budget was funded by large pharmaceutical companies.They used this money to…

    a) fund a political action committee to lobby or unprecedented legal powers over their patients;

    b) sponsor media training and public relations campaigns that created an inflated market for these new drugs;

    c) publish the DSM and other professional journals, giving them control over almost all of the information that reaches its 36,000 members.

    (By the way, there are roughly 26,000 psychiatrists practicing in the United States, so they clearly have a powerful influence over most psychiatrists in the United States and abroad). Its not the people that are “bad.” Its the system and not the people that do not have my best interests at heart; but the system unfortunately controls the people.

    3) I have finally found one – a psychiatric nurse with more than 35 years experience. I will not, however, trust another psychiatrist again. They have too much power over their patients, and a mental health diagnosis has a profound impact on your civil rights. I can give you two examples.

    a) In 2012, a female judge in Massachusetts court-ordered a schizophrenic woman to have an abortion followed by sterilization and stands by her decision to this day. While this decision was overturned by a higher court, someone without a mental health diagnosis would never have gone to court over having a baby – much less faced the expense and duress of an appeal.

    b) I live in South Carolina under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. This court has decided that the American with Disabilities Act does not protect people with bipolar disorder. What’s truly disturbing about this decision is that the court apparently made no attempt to distinguish between Bipolar I and Bipolar II disorder. Two great reasons not to disclose you inner secrets to a psychiatrist. A psychiatric diagnoses can cost you your job – at least in this state – without legal recourse.

    4) Have you ever taken these drugs? They seem miraculous for a brief period. In the beginning, I felt rescued by Zoloft, but they backfire over time. When I reflect on the fleeting relief I received from taking anti-depressants, that relief also came with a sense of apathy. Yes, the burdens of the world had been taken from my shoulders, but I was also not very motivated and I was kind of oblivious.

    With that said, I have no problem with them being prescribed short-term, but they rarely are – and clearly there is a profit-driven impetus behind that tendency to hook people on these meds for life, regardless of their ignorance about the long-term damage. Your psychiatrist cannot continue to make an average $178,000 annually by making you well. His incentive is to keep you coming back to him.

    4) I met his clinical supervisor once several years ago. I remember that she introduced herself as a nurse. Perhaps I incorrectly assumed she was a psychiatric nurse, since it makes sense to me that only a psychiatric nurse would be on the staff of the out-patient psychiatric unit at M.U.S.C. But I conceded that I could have been mistaken on that point. It still seems to me that an M.D. should be under the clinical oversight of an M.D.

    5) I am well aware of the severity of my condition and I continue to check in with a psychiatric nurse with 25 years’ experience on a monthly basis. I actively involve my family members and my pharmacist into providing a safety net that ensures I take my remaining medications, as prescribed. Yet, I dream of the day when I never have to swallow another pill. I have adopted a strict, holistic regimen that involves rigorous aerobic exercise (ten-plus mile runs every other day on average), proper nutrition/supplements and Transcendental Mediation, which I practice devotedly twice a day. I am doing everything I know to mange my underlying issues in an authentic and mature way, and I remain open to suggestions.

    6) I have gone in-patient probably five times over the past 20 years for medication changes, not for behavioral problems or illegal detox. It is always a nightmarish experience. Its like being in a horror movie about being in a mental health hospital – its different if you are rich I guess.

    In my experience, the staff is always underpaid, apathetic and incompetent – and they downright bully patients considered obnoxious and its horrendous what they can get away with. I once overheard a psychiatrist put a patient on a powerful anti-psychotic because the patient called her a bad name. That’s exactly what she said to her staff: “You call me a b — I put you on Geodom!” I become very passive and go with the flow, trying to stay under the radar, so I am talking about how I have observed other patients being treated. I take a stack of books and keep a friendly distance. During one in-patient stay in 2007, I decided to account for amount of time that a real doctor spent with me: the amount of time that an actual psychiatrist spent before he diagnosed me and scribbled down some prescriptions.

    14 minutes in a four-day period.

    He wrote down that I had “Major Depressive Disorder with Psychotic Tendencies.”

    When I went to my personal psychiatrist and asked him how and why he would come to such a dramatic and unfounded conclusion in 14 minutes, I was told that he probably did it for insurance purposes…but otherwise that diagnosis did not apply to me. And I have detailed the catastrophic nightmarish experience that resulted from my last completely voluntarily (in fact enthusiastic) admission to a mental hospital in the post above. So thanks for the recommendation, but I don’t think its an appropriate one.

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    • Great answer. Psychiatry truly is a pseudoscience that it would be better to abolish than try to save. Beyond sociopathic corporations and their antidoctor pawns, part of the responsibility for the current state of affairs must fall on the American consumer, who, in a country comprising 4% of global population, takes about 60% of antipsychotics prescribed worldwide, 50% of global antidepressants, and an astounding 90% of all stimulants (these numbers are from Grace Jackson’s research). Rather than do their own research, far too many Americans simply accept their fake diagnosis and dutifully take their pills, like good little sheep being fattened up (often literally) to make profit for the corporations.

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  16. Many opinions, very few facts. I didn’t prescribe medication, I said what I would say to anyone with mental health issues seeking guidance. I am legally (wether you like it or not) qualified to to give that information and did nothing out of my scope of practice. Telling someone to continue seeking help is not wrong, illegal, or unethical by any stretch of the imagination. I am not going to respond to comments baiting for an argument. A factual debate is fascinating especially when absent name calling and insults. I am employed full time, busy with a family, and will respond when I feel so inclined.

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    • Here’s what you said ASD:

      “You obviously need intensive help and some sort of medication(s)… you do need to doctor shop. An in-patient stay with a long observation would be advisable.”

      You don’t know this guy. You’ve never met him or even spoken to him on the phone. You are not a prescribing psychiatrist. Surely you know that most mental health professionals don’t advise taking medication or going inpatient based on reading a few paragraphs written by someone they’ve never interviewed online. The guidelines at Psychforums.com, Psychcentral.com, Medhelp.com, etc. make it clear that public online forums not the place for that type of thing.

      I wonder what the arbiters of your profession would say if they saw you giving out this advice on taking drugs and going inpatient to a person you’ve never met on an online forum… they might not view it quite like you do. Obviously, like many of us, you prefer not to give out your identity publicly, which is probably smart in this case, as what you advised if acted on and leading to harm could indeed be construed as malpractice.

      And as for the lack of validity and reliability of mental health labels, and the pseudoscientific nature of the psychiatric position, I see that you wisely prefer to avoid that debate, knowing that you don’t have any solid arguments.

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    • If you need me to provide references or links to validate any the numbers, quotes and other facts in my response to your post, please indicate where I have failed to do so, and I will cite my resources. In most cases, I think I already did. But, much like you, I don’t have all day either to spend on it, and I do not desire to foster any toxic drama. With that said, if you would like for me to verify information or conclusions that you find questionable, I will do my best. Of course, I cannot verify anecdotal evidence (my personal experiences) – but that’s inherently true.

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  17. I apologize Robert. I was referring to Transformation guy and a couple others. He seems rather angry. I appreciate your comments and perspective and am taking it in and processing it all. I can honestly say I have heard much of your experience many times from patients. over and am truly sympathetic. I can only have a positive in my corner of the world by advocating for my patients, which I do wholeheartedly. It starts by listening (or reading) and asking questions. I appreciate your respectful reply.

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    • I was referring to Transformation guy and a couple others. He seems rather angry.

      I that how you try to invalidate “your patients” too — by saying indefensible things to them that you are “legally qualified” to say, then defining their reactions as “pathological”?

      Me angry? Nah, just doing my job & pointing out your inconsistencies. Anger would enter the picture only if you had some kind of power over me.

      Still waiting for those facts btw.

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        • Haha I hope so Oldhead 🙂

          I am a B.A. after all. It may not be as impressive as the letters after the names of many people in this forum, but it’s something.

          If this important debate goes to court then I will hire counsel to argue that I am competent to have opinions. That would be more representation than most people get in fake (mental) hospitals.

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          • Very funny oldhead. Apparently he is the only one here who is “qualified” and we must take his word for it. Everyone else must provide proof. Heaven help you if you have a difference of opinion as it will warrant personal attacks. Oh well, enjoy!

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          • That might be a problem Oldhead 🙂

            After all, the comments I made on this page alone are probably sufficient for me to be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Spontaneous Combustion Disorder, and Upsetting-Seemingly-Ignorant-Mental-Health-Worker Disorder.

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          • They tend to find other things to do when it becomes obvious that the straw man can’t be erected in a slight breeze.

            “After all, the comments I made on this page alone are probably sufficient for me to be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Spontaneous Combustion Disorder, and Upsetting-Seemingly-Ignorant-Mental-Health-Worker Disorder.”

            Thanks for the smile this has put on my face BPD, they’ll throw the book of insults at ya lol.

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  18. More than 8,000 views in about 48 hours – and it was picked up by Yahoo News?

    I want to express my profound appreciation from everyone who has responded to this story. It was written quickly and in a state of borderline panic, only days after my father passed. I apologized when I submitted it because I thought it was too long and I only reviewed it twice before I sent it in. Its not what I would call me most polished writing. With that said, I stand by the story. In rereading, I can see how the skipping timeline confuses some people – but it is an accurate account of the events described to the best of my recollection. It just needs a better structure, an improved narrative flow.

    I also stand by my facts and references and conclusions about psychiatry n general. I am so overwhelmed by the support I have received from across the nation -and even one psychologist from Spain. I feel so much better and I am not panicked anymore because dozens of people with similar stories contacted me here and on Face Book – people who have run the same gauntlet and emerged victoriously, mostly healed, but not perfectly. You have given me tremendous hope and I am very blessed. I was informed by the blog administrator that this story has gone viral, with more than 8,000 views in about 48 hours. It has also been picked up by Yahoo news and generated significant traffic, though I don’t know how to assess he impact on Yahoo.I would have never expected this to happen. I would have never expected people to care or understand.

    Clearly, I was still talking to the wrong people.

    I kind of want to cry right now – thank you so much!

    Robert

    I never expected this outpouring of support and compassion and it has restored my courage. I am still in mourning, of course, but I no longer feel doomed.

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  19. Please understand that I wrote this post in a thirty-minute state of panic, and its has now occurred to me that I left out some good news.

    At my father’s funeral, people I had not seen in years came up to me and said: You’re glowing. the quality of your skin, the clarity of your eyes, you look content. I had also lost a bunch of weight. I had two torn meniscus joints and no health insurance for two years, until the exchanges opened up. I was not able to start running again until August, 2014 after two surgeries and lots of physical therapy.

    I stopped counting at 50 lost pounds, but its a lot more than that. I ushered my father through a neurological degenerative disease. I took a crash course in brain health. It evolved into a devoted, daily regimen that includes the meditation, the renewed focus on nutrition, the right supplements (from reputable manufacturers), buttloads of aerobic exercise…its all made a tremendous difference.

    I guess my point is…the person who wrote the article above is not the person I am all the time.

    I am 100 times better off than I was two years ago when I started to unwind my relationship with psychiatry, and the holistic regimen that evolved from my recent experiences and research is how it all started to get better. I still struggle under stressful circumstances, such as the loss of a parent; but I am so far better off now than I have been in a long time. It seems the farther I get away from psychiatry and its meds, the better off I am – and that’s not a coincidence.

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    • Mr. Pfaff, the reason that your thousands and thousands of readers have instantaneously and vehemently praised your article is because YOU TOLD THE SCARY AND UNDENIABLE FACTS about the excruciating ravages (not side-effects) of these almost-unbelievably dangerous psychiatric narcotics. Your readers have NO option of minimizing the hellish life you led because your psychiatrists prescribed you these drugs, nor do your readers have any way to let your psychiatrists off the hook for blaming their criminally unprofessional conduct on you. It isn’t often that Mad people close off EVERY excuse that psychiatry and the “families of the mentally ill” have for why they want to or “should” go Mengele on us. Even some of the most ardent psychiatric survivors water-down their testimonies of resistance with a few perpetrator-apologist “technicalities” and “countervailing interests”. But not you. Enjoy your opportunity to raise your voice, Mr. Pfaff. You earned it and your Mad brothers and sisters who cannot yet access their after-psychiatry lives need to draw hope and and truth from your howl of protest. Good on you, Man.

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      • Thank you for that affirmation. I do feel like someone released from prison and out on work release for the first, with a possible parole (and maybe even a pardon) in my future, and that has everything to do with the supportive comments that I have received from folks like you. It is much appreciated.

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  20. I’m cheered by all the positive responses, Robert. Well done indeed, and thank you so much for voicing your story and for all of your sensitive responses. You are a very loving, caring soul. All the best to you!!

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  21. hi, robert.

    sending support and hugs from me, too.

    heartfelt condolences on the loss of your dad- i’m so, so sorry.

    it is, indeed, a long road off benzos and other ridiculously dangerous psych drugs. good for you! enjoy being reborn- step by step.

    my husband’s 10 year relationship with benzos and other legal drugs and “the system” kind of/nearly ruined his life, my life, the lives of our 4 children, among others…

    one of the biggest pearls of wisdom is this: everybody struggles with something. everybody. no free rides in life. and no such thing as a chemical imbalance. when you give somebody psych drugs you have taken a healthy brain and caused dysfunction. the brain now must compensate and work around the foreign body now present. that’s why these drugs cause such havoc in the brain- andw hy they cause such havoc when you get off of them.

    stay strong. you are not alone.

    blessings

    erin

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    • Thanks and I agree with you observation about how the brain compensates and works around the intrusion caused by psychotropic medications. I am not a doctor but many psychiatrists and one psychologist and my own research confirms that so many of the medication operate by blocking receptors on the brain, like the Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), thus elevating the “natural” levels of Serotonin in the brain.

      Unfortunately, the brain compensates by sprouting more receptors! It is like a barometer – it seeks stasis. Such is the nature of tolerance and addiction. You must continue to increase the dosage to plug the increased number of receptors and achieve the same effects. On the flip side, I was also told and I hope its true that when you stop taking the medications, the increased number of receptors diminishes. Intuitively, that makes sense to me. Though it was sheer agony – though it produced a level of mental anguish previously inconceivable to me – I did survive being dropped off the cliff of Cymbalta after 3-4 weeks – that withdrawal was came and went in a short amount of time, (compared to what I have gone through struggling to get off the benzos.

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  22. I went for a long run this morning and flashed back to the cherished anecdote, flooded with new insights. Some people might find it hard to believe, but I would swear in court to every detail.

    My journey into benzo addiction started to become a serious problem twenty years ago.

    In the mid-nineties, I worked for an ivy-league university in Boston. As part of my benefits, I had access to campus psychiatric and psychological care. To be frank, the psychiatrist was nearing retirement and befuddled much of the time; but it never crossed my mind to question his judgement. What can I say? I was raised to trust doctors blindly and other authority figures, coming from a small, southern town; and that includes my elders in particular. I also did not know much about the dangers of benzos and I had no reason to suspect that he was unqualified to treat me. He certainly did not caution me and he was obviously quite generous with a prescription pad. I mean, he was a revered professor of psychiatry at one of the most prestigious medical schools in the nation!

    So at one point, he had me on seven, concurrent prescriptions for Clonazepam.

    I do not remember the dosages, but my best guess is 2 milligrams daily. Either the laws have changed dramatically, or they vary state by state, or perhaps both; but I had legal access to those concurrent prescriptions, when I wanted them, whenever I wanted them, as I remember. The campus had a pharmacy and the psychiatrist called the prescriptions directly into that one pharmacy, so I could only use one pharmacy. At the time, I was able to get those refills whenever I wanted them, even when I wanted them much earlier than I was supposed to have them refilled.

    Then, I remember how the pharmacist fussed at me for having so many concurrent prescriptions, and my first response was…is this illegal? She said no and refilled the prescriptions, but she was not happy about it. She said I was not supposed to have concurrent prescriptions, but I could not imagine it was dangerous because I did blindly trust doctors and I was susceptible to addiction. I also assumed in retrospect that it could not be that dangerous, because it was legal. I could not imagine that my doctor would place me in harm’s way. Nor could I imagine that the laws would allow for the wanton dispersal of those medications if taking them was that dangerous.

    In my experience, people with a lot of anxiety problems also carry around a lot of guilt, so the pharmacist’s admonishments eventually started to bother me. I then went to my campus psychologist and confessed that I had seven concurrent prescriptions on file. She reacted with shock and horror, absolutely flabbergasted. She put me in the hospital right away and she also promised to have a serious conversation with the psychiatrist. I never saw him again. I vaguely remember that hearing that he retired shortly thereafter, but it probably did not have anything to do with my case.

    The hospital was hardly a vacation, but it was not quite the nightmare that I have experience other places. I was not not rich, but I worked for the wealthiest nonprofit in the world. Still, the doctors took me off the Clonazapam right away – no taper whatsoever, so I was set up for a relapse. I did not know that of course. I did what my doctors told me. I exited that hospital – as I recall – with a prescription for a low-dose of Remeron to help me sleep, but that was it.

    I then became so irritable, hypersensitive to criticism, and so wounded all the time. Now, I was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. This town has been ranked the most polite city in the nation for the past 25 years in a row by Conde Naste and other organizations that produce these rankings. In my memoir, I jokingly state that “I was born and raised in Charleston, so I was taught how to lie politely from the cradle.” Its so damn polite here that many people find us insincere, because many of us are disingenuous and deceptively civil to everyone, regardless of what we really think. I can joke about it because I am not that way…certainly not anymore.

    I have to consciously bite my tongue…a lot. But here’s what I realized during my run this morning: I am beginning to believe that perhaps benzos played a role in making me more temperamental than how I was raised and trained. I do have a severe underlying anxiety disorder, but I was coping on the job – making very some good things happen, until they dropped me off the benzos without a taper. Because of my upbringing, however, I blamed it on culture clash. I was not accustomed to how direct and aggressive Bostonians could be – that’s what I told myself. I thought I was just a fish out of water.

    Anyway, I almost lost my job there because of my “sensibilities.”

    I was constantly getting my feelings hurt and I could not help but become obsessed and paranoid. That level of paranoia was not rational, but it was not delusional either. As the national center of academia, it was a very competitive and pretentious place to work. And paranoia can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you start to act paranoid, people start to suspect you, which only compounds your paranoia…and so the spiral begins until you collapse, and your worst fears turn into realities.

    But this particular university has so much cash that they did not tend to fire people. Instead, they move you to another job as a primary strategy – they hated lawsuits and I did have grounds for one. I worked in a low-level fundraising position for the theater department and someone thought it would be cute to put a (gigantic) sex toy – I kid you not – under my desk. It was such a politically correct environment that I immediately reported it. Paranoia has it advantages and I was not going to be accused of having that thing anywhere near me, because it could have resulted in my termination.

    So that was the last straw. They offered to relocate me to another department. I vividly remember the meeting between my supervisor and the human resources representative. My immediate supervisor started to talk about some strange behaviors that he did not understand. In particular, I remember him describing how obsessive-compulsive I was about writing down every word he said in meetings. He mentioned some other odd behaviors, but I am struggling to remember the details – but given what I know now about benzo withdrawal – I think that’s what I was going through at the time, or it was at least become a major contributing factor. I have had other very successful career experiences, where I got along well with my colleagues. In that situation, after they dropped me off the benzos, a strange paranoia started to creep into my head and it was different, much worse than anything I have experienced before. But this is what hit me this morning: it was strangely familiar to the symptoms I experience detailed in the article above.

    I did not make that connection until just this morning.

    Did this doctor cram all those benzos down my throat? Absolutely not. Of course I enjoyed the effect, and of course I enjoyed having them at my disposal, within walking distance from my office, whenever I wanted them. They made me feel normal for the first time and I was not advised of the risks. If I recall correctly, there were no warning labels on the bottle in those days. Like everyone else, I am to some extent complicit in my problems, but that only makes me human – not insane.

    I will plead guilty to extreme naivete and placing undue trust in psychiatry. However, I also contend that at least one the multiple psychiatrists involved in this situation should have understood that the benzos were a big part of the problem, and that it only exacerbated the situation to drop me off the cliff, without any kind of taper – we pay them for that expertise, because we don’t have it. They went to medical school and had practiced psychiatry for decades. Since the prescriptions were all attained legally, and they were all aware of my history, it was primarily their job to know better.

    That’s how capitalism is supposed to work in a complex society. You hire a plumber to fix the sink because he is trained to do it better than you are. You hire a psychiatrist to fix your head because he is supposed to know the safest, best treatments and medications.

    That’s what I believed 20 years ago, but not anymore.

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  23. In my personal experience, the further I separate myself from psychiatry and its medications,the more stable I become – and the more likely I am to make healthier choices.

    ————————————————————————

    I received a thoughtful message from someone about using the language of addiction versus the language of an “iatrogenic,” condition, which refers to an illness caused or compounded by medical treatment. I did not know the word and I had to look it up.

    Its a valid point, and it resonates with me, because I know I did not truly struggle with ‘addiction issues’ until I started on psychotropic medications in my early thirties. I cannot claim to be an expert on this issue. I can only speak to my personal experience, and bottom line, that’s all that really matters. Statistics and research provides us with general insights, when properly formulated and without bias, but it all breaks down completely at the individual level. As someone with a graduate degree in financial analysis, I am qualified to say that.

    In the end, it’s all about what works for you.

    I did smoke cigarettes in college but when I graduated (26 years ago) i went to a hypnotherapist and…zap! in one session, I lost all desire to smoke. I tried to go back once or twice, but I could not stand it anymore. It was suddenly disgusting to me. The last time I even tried one? More than 20 years ago. Its one of the big reasons I have not been out to bars or nightclubs in over a decade. There was one exception, but I drank two soda waters and being the only non-drinking person in a rowdy crowd half my age, with all that smoke tearing up my contact lenses? It became so boring, so quickly – that I left within an hour.

    I did not drink much in college or even in my twenties, despite having moved the great party Southeastern epicenter.of midtown Atlanta in the early nineties. I actually mentioned this to my psychiatric nurse this morning. In those days, the depressive effects of alcohol kicked in so quickly that I after a couple of glasses of wine on the weekends, I went home by midnight or maybe one o’clock. And back then? People did even go out until eleven! The more I unwind my relationship with psychotropic medications, the less I even think about it.

    I was indoctrinated into the language of “addiction” by psychiatrists and subsequently by twelve-step programs who love to perpetuate the myth that once you have this problem, you can never get better, not without sacrificing your active, independent mind to a “Higher power,” which amounted to nothing in my opinion more than nosy group-think. It appears to work long-term for maybe 5% of the people who become seriously involved, but most people appear to get better after a few years and then move on, having unraveled the underlying issues.

    If psychiatry works for you. I urge you to approach it with great caution, but otherwise but so be it. If twelve-step programs work for you, who am I to pass judgement? If religion works for you, I completely support you, as long as you remain tolerant of others, So I will be more careful in the future about using the language of addiction to talk about people who have suffered greatly from psychiatry and its medications. No, we are not addicts – at least that’s what my recent, personal has taught me.

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  24. Thank you so much for this article Robert. A heart-felt and visceral read.

    You’ve been through so much. My heart goes out to you. Recovery from benzodiazepine or z-drug withdrawal is an odyssey. I came off a z-drug almost 3 years ago and have suffered greatly through protracted withdrawal. The World Health Organization considers the z-drugs (zopiclone/Ambien/Lunesta) to be, for all intents and purposes, benzodizepines.

    The truth is that this is a very difficult journey for a small minority of us – approximately 10 to 15%. The prescribing physicians do not know much about discontinuation syndromes or even the proper way to taper and withdraw from these medications.

    I hold out much hope for your healing though and am here to tell you that it does get better. I’m almost healed now. I too have uncoupled from psychiatry in my bid to regain my health.

    I do hope that you continue to update us as you heal and I look forward to your next blog post. You write beautifully.

    Finally, I am very sorry for your recent loss. I am no stranger to loss and grief and that too is a long and difficult journey for many of us. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Vancouver

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  25. Thanks for your kind and sweet response.

    I have my good days and my bad days. I was always confused by the difference between z-drugs (hypnotics) and benzodiazpines. A long time ago, I read the Wikipedia page for zolipidem (Ambien) and it classified zolipidem as a nonbenzodiazipine, but Wikipedia is hardly first-class research so I asked my doctors (general practitioner and psychiatrist) and was told that it was indeed not a benzodiazepine, with a different molecular structure. Not being a doctor, I took their word for it – and I will never do that again. Technically, it might not be a benzodiazepine, but there is clearly enough overlap that the long-term comeuppance is the same, but the dangers of mixing the two at high dosages never entered the conversation. Bottom line, its their job to know better. I would be culpable only if I was buying them illicitly or being dishonest with my doctors or pharmacist.

    I do want to point out, not in disagreement, but out of sheer bewilderment…how could psychiatric practitioners NOT know about protracted withdrawal and its devastating effects?

    1) According to Toxic Psychiatry by Doctor Peter Breggin (1991) the correlation between extended withdrawal and Xanax extends back into the earliest studies on Xanax in the eighties. According to him, these studies showed that withdrawal could last from six months to one year, after only six-months of taking this medications. So they have known for decades but much like the tobacco industry, they are not going to admit it, given the risk of widespread civil litigation, and the significant amount of funding the A.P.A. receives from the pharmaceutical companies.

    Now, they are starting to admit it, but with a twist that provides them with the huge legal loophole required to escape a class-action lawsuit. The withdrawal and risk of cognitive impairment exists, they now admit, but the brain heals from this impairment over a period of time. Ethical psychiatrists, however, contend that the damage could be permanent, though no one really knows for certain. Without that certainty, the pharmaceutical companies and the A.P.A. will not face the consequences in the courtroom, like the tobacco industry did in the nineties, and they know that. Unfortunately, enough people will have to die too early to establish an undeniable statistical correlation before there is much chance of stopping them.

    2) I cannot be the first patient at M.U.S.C. to have gone through this gauntlet. (I met an eighteen year-old kid in the “detox” unit at the hospital when I finally decided to get off benzos and antidepressants…who told me he was on thirty “bars” of Xanax a day! I do not know drug-related street slang, so I thought he meant milligrams. And so I thought: Oh my God! How are you walking and talking? How are you not comatose or at least sleeping all the time?

    Later, I asked my psychiatrist, what is a “bar” of Xannax? He stated that a “bar” was 10-12 milligrams. So this poor child was on 300 milligrams of Xannax a day – if he was telling the truth – and still presented as a completely normal person. This anecdote demonstrates how tolerant your brain can become to these medications, and the more tolerant you become, without signs of immediate impairment, it’s easier to justify taking higher doses to achieve the same effects.

    3) The first responders I have spoken to (addiction specialists, psychiatric nurses, fireman, paramedics and even then police) were all aware of protracted benzo withdrawal, which makes it harder to believe that psychiatrists don’t know about it. While going through the peak of withdrawal, my only relief were these intense 8-10 mile runs on the elliptical. For the first time in thirty years, I passed out after a nine-mile run. I felt better in fifteen minutes, and a huge bottle of Gatorade, but understandably, its a liability issue for the gym, so they had to call out the whole three-ring circus: the fire department, the sheriff’s department, the paramedics. The fire department was the first to arrive and the first words out of the firemen’s mouth were “Have you been through any medication changes? I responded: “Oh boy have I ever!” His next question, with my prompting, without informing him that I was a psychiatric patient, was “Was one of those medications Clonapezpam?”

    When I replied yes, let me tell you, he had quite a soapbox prepared on the subject. He went off – and these are his words – about how can he know that you don’t taper people off these medications in less than one year, while these “jackass doctors” don’t know any better?

    When I shared that anecdote with my psychiatrist (omitting the word “jackass”) his snide response was, “If I wanted advice about fire prevention, I would speak to a fireman. If I wanted advice about medication, I would speak to a doctor?” I am baffled by the cognitive dissonance between first responders who deal with this issue – the seizures, the fainting spells, the freaking out, the suicidal ideations as opposed to everyone with an MD, unless there is just something that corrupt about their training.

    4) In my experience, many psychiatric medications have a way dumbing you down so that you cannot think straight enough to seeing that you are drowning in the side-effects and unpredictable permutations of interactions, happening inside the brain – or even worse, your psychiatrist misinterprets the side-effects and interactions of too many medications as symptoms of an underlying disorder, so they diagnose you with a disease you don’t have and prescribe yet another medication.

    Its part of a cycle that leads to a downward spiral with often lethal consequences. As one frank example, I did not have much of a libido for a decade. Because of the drugs, I did not care much either. I was too apathetic and oblivious. Its a catch twenty-two situation. The drugs crushed my sex drive but I did not care that much because I had no sex drive. I also rationalized that “I’m now in my forties and I was never driven by sex like a lot of men I know, so this is probably also part of a natural process.” I even had my testosterone levels checked and the results were “low normal” for someone my age. The psychiatrists RECOMMENDED testosterone injections in low dosage every two weeks on top of all the psychiatric medications I was taking. I took them for a couple of months, but did not notice much difference. By this point, I was so sick and tired of doctors and medications that I spoke to my general practitioner and we decided to discontinue them about three months later. Let’s just say – when I stopped taking antidepressant, that libido came roaring back, all dressed up with no place to go.

    I use this anecdote of an example of how they continue to solve drugs with more drugs with considering the root of the problem. Until recently, I had never heard of an “iatrogenic” condition, which is an illness – for lack of a better word – caused by medical intervention. Clearly, this is an example of how iatrogenic conditions arise and become compounded by a complicity of ignorance or apathy by all members of the medical profession. But they are the DOCTORS – they have not only taken an oath to do no harm, they are well paid to adhere to that oath, so there is no excuse. They should be able to recognize medication-related problems from the underlying condition.

    And I intend – somehow (legally) – to hold them responsible.

    I need to hear from more people like you!

    Thanks again for reaching out.

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    • Robert,

      You make a great deal of sense. I went to a talk given by Robert Whitaker in the fall where he spoke also about the “guild” interests of psychiatrists. There is a lot of blame to go around and the good ones need to speak up more forcefully.

      Others have spoken about http://www.benzobuddies.com. For me, finding this forum was a true godsend. With over 20,000 members now from all around the world, there is a collective wisdom on this site regarding all things benzodiazepine and increasingly z-drugs. You can find out how to safely taper, what withdrawal side effects are most common and there is collective support for anyone embarking on this journey. This should be the first place you go if you are on either the z-drugs or benzodiazepines. I do hope you find your way there to share your wisdom and gain support.

      Like many others on this site, I will never again be silenced. I have undiagnosed myself and have been well now for many years without psychiatric medications. The z-drugs were the last remnants. I’ve recently started a group for people coming off benzodiazepines and/or z-drugs on Meetup.com and look forward to spreading the word throughout my community. We are not alone and our collective voices are growing and powerful.

      I know you will continue to heal, as so many have before you. Our bodies have an amazing capacity to heal, given the right conditions and basic building blocks like good nutrition, exercise, adequate rest and sleep and managing stress levels. We are the sane ones here – we’ve woken up to the madness and taken all the right steps to regain our health.

      Best of luck and keep us posted. Look forward to hearing more of your thoughts!

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  26. Thanks for sharing your experience, Robert. I thought I was the only one.

    I’ve been on a comparatively small dose of clonazepam (0.5 mg to 1 mg depending on how anxious I am) for years. I tapered off it for a while a few years ago and had a horrible experience with protracted withdrawal. Like you, I was afraid of everything for months. And I had an obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with death. I would see skulls and dead bodies dancing in front of my eyes night and day. I couldn’t sleep. And I was certain I was going insane.

    I wasn’t as strong as you. I went back on the clonazepam as soon as my doctor offered it. Now I’m trying to go off it again and I’m scared.

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  27. I don’t think one can say with certainty that there is a definite link “yet” with the use of benzos and development of dementia. Just read a recent,very detailed and thorough study printed in Forbes Magazine on Feb. 2016 that disputes that connection. So I think the jury is still out on that one.

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  28. I am an addict in long-term recovery who has worked in the field of chemical dependency treatment for many years. I have had thousands of clients and I can say that folks coming off bzs and alcohol (combined) often have the worst – most protracted and severe – withdrawal symptoms I have ever seen. And many of these people only started taking bzs after they consulted with their provider about their drinking and anxiety. It is a commonplace for doctors to prescribe alcoholics benzos to alcoholics on the logic that the bz will “treat” the anxiety that is driving the drinking. I have never seen that happen, even once. For that matter, I have never seen a psychiatrist successfully treat an addict or alcoholic. Yet they run the show. A giant big pharma scam. So long as the addict continues to relapse he serves as a cash cow for the industry. Thus we are told that opiate addiction is a “chronically relapsing” condition. False and misleading and dangerous.

    Robert, you are strong and brave and doing the right thing. Thanks you for speaking your truth.

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  29. I don’t know if anyone is still listening, but I wanted to say thank you.

    I did eventually manage to taper from all medications. I have not taken an antidepressant in five years, and I no longer suffer from depression or persistent suicidal thoughts. It took years to taper from benzos, but I made it, and I no longer suffer from panic attacks. I am still dealing with some lingering symptoms like mildly annoying tinnitus and bothersome nerve pain, but I healthier both physically and mentally than in years.

    I want to thank everyone who wrote supportive comments. For what’s its worth, this article was something of a flashpoint for me. Somehow I found the energy and strength to unravel my relationship with psychiatry forever. It was a long and painful journey made even more complicated by constant ethical and HIPPA violations, but I am free. Again, I hope you will accept my sincere gratitude.

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  30. I googled my topic and up popped your blog. I see noone has replied since last year but I just have to reach out to you to thank you to have the courage to share your journey. You have inspired me to want to share the most incredible journey of mine thru the madness of being taking off 88 5 mg tabs of diazepam a month for a total of being prescribed it for a decade. I almost didn’t luve thru it and spent over a year in a psychotic state before having such panic and fear of my delusions that I went into cardiac arrest believing that I was choking to death on a throat full of worms that were blocking my airway and i was actually not able to breath due to gagging and choking. I was dying and all alone a 4:00 am. I called 911 and saved my life. I didn’t wake my husband because he had to get up so early to go to work. I am ready to take fellow victims on a journey of crazy that started November 2012 to January 2014. I am now in a good place to start to reclaim my life somehow though I will never be the high functioning , go getter, social butterfly, reach up for the stars and accomplish all your hopes and dreams and keep climbing the ladder of success. I have come to terms with the new me that is never going to be that girl I was. The new me is well enough from all the brain damage I did to myself with the benzo that took away my anxiety I developed after some very traumatic events that rocked my world. I really could use some advice and feedback on knowing how I’m going to deal with this terrible life changing decision that my psychologist who I trusted and respected so much took away all that I had in life and left me a shell of a person who doesn’t leave the house except to go to my dr appointments. Since I had to be hospitalized in a mental health center off my rocker , I no longer can work as an RN with I worked so hard to get. I was a single mom of 3 daughters and no child support working 3 jobs and in nursing school at the same time and managed to graduate with honors. I worked in a hospital on the med/surg ward and I loved my job. It fit like a glove and I am not bragging when I say I was very good at my job and never cut corners or not give my 100% to each patient in my care. I wasnt ready to give that up after the work I put in to achieve my dreams. I was still had student loans. I had a group of friends that Some were from gramma school that I dropped due to the condition I was left in. My best friend got sick with lyme disease and was near death and begged me to come help and take care of her. She supported me all thru nursing scholl and my moms death and for gratitude I had to refuse. I had just been released from the hospital and she didnt know about the nightmare I had been living in for over a year. She will never forgive me. How could I tell her how insane I was and still was so sick when she was so proud of me for reaching my goals and being so strong. I think I want to get a copy of my medical records from my dr, who did this to me. I think I want to meet with him and tell him how he almost killed me. I know it was out of ignorance and lack of being up to standards of practice by researching the result of cold turkey withdrawal. I want to edycate the dr.s and I think my experience is shocking and would be a story that proves how dangerous and cruel it is to put patients thru. I have all the proof and the story is so horrific it will cause quite a sensation around the world. I am not the kind of person to sue or seek revenge but I don’t want this great teaching moment to go to waste. Please write me back and give feedback of my story. I promise that when you hear it all that its so shocking, you will never forget it. I’m feeling well enough to start taking baby steps to form some sort of plan to tell my dr. s and other professionals that added more suffering to the withdrawals with some of the actions they took when I was sick. I have the best husband in the world who took over running the house and cooking, driving me to my appointments. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was thinking I was acting and thinking normal. Thank you for your story and I would like to know how you are now and hear more of your story.

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