On November 12th, 2015, the third anniversary of the day that I abruptly stopped taking benzodiazepines, my dear friend, J. Doe, published a two-part article here on Mad in America examining the language that is commonly used to describe benzodiazepine (benzo) iatrogenesis. Iatrogenesis occurs when the activity of medical professionals, or their promotion of products or services as beneficial to health, injures the patient. J. Doe wrote these articles one paragraph at a time, over a period of nine months, in a condition that can only be described as a living nightmare. While bed bound and steeped in disassociation and cognitive dysfunction–wrestling chronic fatigue and barbaric nerve pain J. Doe wrote. They painstakingly researched, structured, and combed through their work in a state that allows most little more than the energy to sleep.
It was passion.
Not only did they complete their work, but these pieces are easily the best writing available unpacking the problems with bad language in the benzo community and beyond. For years, J. Doe would cringe at the casualness with which addiction-based language was used in the community. And though a vocal minority felt the same, the problem persisted presumably because “old timers” (people who have been in the benzo community for many years) were accustomed to addiction-based language, while “newbie” sufferers (those new to the community) were simultaneously being indoctrinated to use the same pervasive vocabulary.
My friend wondered if anyone had truly considered the price we were paying for addiction-based language. After all, the inappropriate use of this language when J. Doe first discovered and attempted to research a solution to their own tolerance and toxicity to benzos is what led them to cold-turkey in a detox facility resulting in years of debilitating suffering. After four years in hell, J. Doe mustered the will to speak to this problem.
This two-part article, point for point, displays the inaccuracies of using addiction-based language to describe benzo-dependent sufferers’ experiences while examining the dangerous narrative that regrettably follows. The author reminds us that click-bait language that lumps physically dependent people in with addiction and addiction protocol is not only inaccurate, but it’s also wildly dangerous.
These articles are long. Even longer for those of us who struggle to read at all. Hell, they had to be long– people don’t stop using crutch language easily and for nothing. J. Doe wanted to pay the subject the respect that it requires. When the articles appeared in November, many read them, but that didn’t feel like enough to me. I wanted a summary of these articles captured in a Youtube video so that those in the thick of benzo neurotoxicity could tune into these ideas in a way that might be more easily digestible. I hoped more benzo sufferers would begin to question how they describe (and allow others to describe) an illness that remains decades behind in understanding and recognition. I also wanted to draw attention to the content again in hopes that more medical professionals would read and understand the crucial distinctions in language surrounding this problem.
This video is simple, but the information in it is paramount. We have to stop using addiction language to explain physiological dependency. Please watch the video or read J. Doe’s articles to find out why. Thank you to my dear friend. You are selfless to the point of absurdity. I’m honored to know you and work with you on projects like this. Thank you for your contribution.
J. Doe’s articles:
- Don’t Harm Them Twice: When the Language Surrounding Benzodiazepines Adds Insult to Injury (Part I)
- Don’t Harm Them Twice (Part II): What Can Be Done?
Editor’s Note: The pseudonym “J. Doe” and the pronouns (they/them) will be used to describe an anonymous author discussed in this piece.
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.