Friday, March 24, 2023

Comments by Cole

Showing 79 of 79 comments.

  • The DSM-5® Handbook Of Differential Diagnosis’ ( Chapter 1, Step 2 is titled: “Rule Out Substance Etiology (Including Drugs of Abuse, Medications)” and yet there are so many stories of people being Rx’ed/taking these psychiatric drugs and their doctor denying or being totally unaware that the drugs can cause the psychiatric symptoms they are touted to supposedly treat.

  • You are one anecdote. So am I. I can take your anecdote and raise you a “I have suffered for over eight years in what’s called a ‘protracted withdrawal syndrome’ by some, but what really is persistent symptoms of neurotoxicity post cessation.” I have extreme impairment, including to both short- and long-term memory (in addition to a plethora of other physical, mental, and psychological symptoms); this all happened from age 25 to 40– including the five years of drugging and then the many years of “protracted syndrome” (aka neurotoxicity). The suffering trying to come off these drugs, albeit too rapidly as ordered by a medical doctor, was so severe that, for many years of this syndrome, I considered ending my life.

    No one said that the scans proved or disproved anything. It was made clear that “the results warranted further research.” I commented with the information solely because I knew of its existence and believed it relevant to the discussion. Dr. Lader called for funding to investigate further if I am not mistaken, but he was never granted the means to do so.

  • The early work of Professor Malcolm H. Lader and his colleagues documented the first indication of anatomical brain changes associated with benzodiazepines using CAT scan, which revealed abnormalities in at least half of the patients examined in the study, with two patients having definite cortical atrophy. The patients were either dependent on or experiencing a protracted withdrawal syndrome from, benzodiazepines. The results warranted further research as they were suggestive of brain damage.

  • One thing to consider:

    In regards to measuring success, you say: “The analysis documents that ATMC’s holistic treatment process can significantly reduce a client’s dependency on pharmaceuticals, if not eliminate use entirely.”

    However, I am familiar with three people who attended this ATMC and 2 of them have protracted withdrawal lasting many years (more than half a decade in each case) and the third is now not only reinstated on the benzo he went to ATMC to get off of, he is now a polypharmacy patient on many other psych meds bc the too-rapid ATMC benzo withdrawal left him in such bad shape he was then drugged with even more meds (gabapentin, Remeron).

    I went to a detox center myself, much different than ATMC of course, but similar outcomes as I was also removed too-rapidly from psychiatric drugs, including benzodiazepines and others. On paper, I might look like a “success” statistic because I have remained psych med free for the last 8 years. In reality, like my friends who attended ATMC (the 2 I referenced above who remained med free), I am very unwell and have been since I walked out of the detox center’s doors (I am lucky I survived what happened after I left, actually – psychosis, suicidality, etc). I am unable to work or function in society, I live in crippling pain, and I suffer from a long list of other disabling symptoms that persist since that center negligently removed me from psychiatric drugs far too rapidly due to time and money restraints (and just bad overall practice guidelines in general).

    I am certain I would’ve been far better served tapering at home, at my own pace, under the care of a taper-wise prescriber. I’d also have the many thousands I paid them to cripple me.

    Unless someone was going to get free of psych meds with minimal issues to begin with, which we are currently unable to predict who will be who, I don’t see how, with the restraints these places have (limited time because of cost to patient), ATMC and similar places can do right by people who many of which would be better served tapering very slowly in an outpatient setting over the many months and often years it takes people to be free of these chemicals to spare themselves protracted injury.

    In summary, psych medication free does not always equal success.

  • Soma (Carisoprodol) actually metabolizes into a benzodiazepine.

    “Carisoprodol itself has a half-life of approximately 2.4 hours. Meprobamate is considered an active metabolite and also has anti-anxiety effects, much like a benzodiazepine. But, from a toxicity standpoint, it more closely resembles the sedative properties of barbiturates.”

    “Carisoprodol itself has a half-life of approximately 2.4 hours. Meprobamate [a metabolite of Soma] is considered an active metabolite and also has anti-anxiety effects, much like a benzodiazepine. But, from a toxicity standpoint, it more closely resembles the sedative properties of barbiturates.”


  • My psychiatrist — who is benzo-wise because of me and who, in tspite of knowing nothing about this, was willing to listen, read, and learn — admitted to me that she did, in fact, have patients that she recognizes, only now, as having been in benzodiazepine withdrawal that she misdiagnosed as having worsening “mental illness”. She also apologized to me for what was iatrogenically done to me, although she had no hand in doing my damage, she was only there to support me in cleaning up the wreckage of my life and health after a different psychiatrist had me on 2 benzos and a Z-drug for years.

    If the psychiatrists don’t believe the withdrawal syndromes are real or think they’re “as mild as coming off of coffee,” the correct diagnosis is not even in their differential diagnosis — it’s not even on their radar. So, of course they’ve “never seen it”. Sadly (for the patients), this is how it goes and the lucky ones figure it out for themselves, although usually too late once they’ve chased their tails for years and been polydrugged into oblivion treating the symptoms of benzodiazepine tolerance/interdose withdrawal with more and more dangerous psychotropics.

  • I thought this too, but then had pharmacogenomic testing that came back indicating normal metabolism of the drugs I had been taking and that had injured me and caused the neurotoxicity or protracted withdrawal. I asked the forensic psychiatrist I see who ordered the test (who is above average on the psych drug injury awareness scale – in other words, she believes me and has educated herself) if the pharmacogenomic testing was any indicator of whether physical dependence and subsequent withdrawal syndromes/NT would develop and she said “no”.

  • Sorry for any errors. Benzos also result in severe cognitive impairment (for the first few years off of them I couldn’t complete puzzles designed for 5 year old children)

    The last paragraph should read:
    “Everyone would be best served if patients left on these drugs long-term were tapered extremely slowly from the jump, so they aren’t ever in a place where they’re made so ill they need a new drug to survive the toxicity of the initial drug that they were CT’ed from or told to reduce too rapidly.”

  • Dr. Shipko,

    Thank you for your continued contribution to MIA with your articles about managing the complex nature of SSRI dependence, withdrawal, toxicity, etc. I always enjoy reading your entries.

    First, I just want to ask why you settled on 15 years as the chosen time-frame?

    Second, this comment “I also want to shout out to the online benzodiazepine support groups, and make a request. Medicine is filled with difficult choices, and I ask that the benzo community consider withdrawal akathisia as a possible valid indication for the drugs.”

    We, the benzodiazepine community, have the same aloneness in the wake of losing everything. Everything.

    We have the same suicidal ideation and action. We look at our doctors desperately afraid and don’t tell them we want to die either for fear of institutionalization.

    We are even more scared than SSRI folks because our drugs are controlled substances and we’re constantly blamed for our misery and called “drug addicts”, or worse, our drugs are refused and we’re not allowed to complete sane tapers.

    We have the same akathisia and tardive akathisia. (I called mine “delayed withdrawal” when it happened)

    We suffer the same “anxiety” and “despair” and “depression,” in quotes because there’s no words that explain the horror or do it justice. (I haven’t met many SSRI patients who were cut off from their drugs, refused a taper and called drug addicts)

    In other words, I saw my own benzodiazepine toxicity situation in what you just described for SSRI patients. Have you seen this study (Cochrane) that concluded the withdrawal reactions from both were similar:

    I think the reason the benzodiazepine withdrawal support community (myself included) has a problem with this is because you have previously made statements indicating that you don’t think benzodiazepine withdrawal is as serious or severe as SSRIs (please correct me if I’m mistaken on that as I do not wish to misrepresent you).

    Many of us, myself included, have experienced severe and life-devastating withdrawal from benzodiazepine discontinuation which included the same akathisia you describe here (mine started at 4 months post cold-turkey from benzodiazepines. I wasn’t taking any SSRIs). Our comrades in the support groups we are members of have jumped out of windows, off bridges, hung themselves, shot themselves and drove their cars into concrete barriers on the highway. So, yeah, we’re a bit wary of a benzodiazepine as a solution since it’s outcomes can be equally horrific and aren’t much different from what you just described, so we logically wonder if you’re setting these people, who already have SSRI toxicity, up for more horror down the line. How long will you leave them on the benzo at the same dose? Will they develop tolerance? Will it be recognized as benzo tolerance?

    Also, I took issue with in another article you wrote you seemed to overlook that the benzodiazepine withdrawal must often be handled with great care as one can become physically dependent on benzodiazepines very quickly (a week or a few) in some cases. If someone is initiated on huge amounts of Valium (I think it was 100mg in your case you presented?) and then dropped to 60mg (a 40mg “cut” or 40% of the dose), it is very possible that the huge drop in dose resulted in benzodiazepine withdrawal and suicidality your patient had (not to mention what contribution ‘kindling’ might add since there is already SSRI toxicity at play). There’s also a chance of a paradoxical reaction to benzodiazepines or a worsening of the SSRI toxicity condition.

    That said, if someone is on the brink of taking their life, there has to be options offered, so I appreciate the rock and hard place. However, the patient should always be given informed consent (and not a watered down version about how severe and disabling benzodiazepine withdrawal/toxicity can be) as well as the opportunity to do the same microtaper techniques from benzodiazepines as they do from SSRIs (that you discussed you were having success with in another article you wrote for MIA) when it’s time to discontinue the benzodiazepine.

    I am 5 yrs off of benzodiazepizes, but have been in w/d from them for 7 yrs because of a failed reinstatement attempt 4 months after the CT (I was on two at the same time and Ambien, all prescribed by a negligent psychiatrist) and I am still largely bedbound from that benzodiazepine cold-turkey (there are reports of 10,12 year healing times as well both online and from the withdrawal charities in the UK), and I believe you think that’s not possible, that the withdrawal from benzodiazepines is much easier, doesn’t last long, etc?

    Lastly, it is my opinion that the taper plans presented in your book for how to withdrawal from benzos would seriously maim some people. Many on benzodiazepines have to do a many years long microtaper (very similar to the one you described in one of your articles here on MIA that you were attempting and that kept your patient functional) in order to not suffer horribly and to remain functional.

    So, I guess…the benzo withdrawal community would probably like to shout out to you to stop minimizing benzodiazepines and the toxicity that results from them, as it’s equally as horrific as what you just described here for SSRIs. And I guess the question is…when does the ride through psych drugs end? What if the withdrawal from benzos given for SSRIS is as equally as horrific, then what drugs do they get initiated on to get off the benzos and on and on…

    Everyone would be best served if patients on these drugs long-term were tapered extremely slowly from the jump (or the drugs, so they aren’t ever in a place where they’re so ill they need a drug to survive the toxicity of the initial drug that they were CT’ed from or told to reduce too rapidly. Of course, there’s a million other solutions too like informed consent and prescriber education, etc – but I’m not holding my breath. Thank you, again, for your contributions.

  • Now benzo people who you were mad at for focusing only on benzos are responsible for opiate regulations too? lol. You really do have an idealistic view of the world which is not based in reality. You realize states are calling “states of emergency” and the governors and legislators are passing opiate regulations and have been for a long time right?

    I really am done now with our discussion. Utopia would be nice, the_cat. It doesn’t exist though.

    Be well.

  • No one is “demonizing” benzos for intermittent or short-term use. If someone is having a panic attack in the hospital, a one time dose of benzo is not using them long-term.

    So, by your logic, if people protested and got Thalidomide off the market (just as an example) for causing birth defects and then the pharma company came up with a new drug that caused problems, it’s the fault of the people who got Thalidomide off the market? Yeah, sorry – I think you’re misdirecting responsibility. Sorry, but the victims of this drug don’t bear the responsibility of psychiatry’s and pharma’s failings.

    The victims of these drugs aren’t going to be silent like you’re asking us to (and essentially trying to guilt us into). We were maimed and badly injured by this class of drug and are going to tell our stories and fight for change where people get informed consent and where new would-be victims are protected (and at least know what they’re signing up for, unlike what happened to most BZ victims) and that long-term prescribed dependents aren’t ripped off dangerously into CTs.

    Or we can just sit by like you propose and allow more bills like the one in Hawaii to pop up without any protections and let people get screwed anyhow, which will happen anyhow. I’m sure you’ll blame the victims then too like you’ve blamed us for the prescription monitoring program and everything else that doesn’t fit into your eutopian view of the world which is unrealistic.

  • Yeah, a bunch of sick victims of prescribed benzodiazepines looking to tell their stories and warn others about this class of drug are responsible for the prescription drug monitoring program that already exists and has for some time. And the one bill we’re asking people to support in Massachusetts that calls for informed consent and protections for long-term benzodiazepine patients to be allowed to stay on them or taper off at their own speed is really the “war on drugs”. You don’t read to comprehend, the_cat, you read to respond.

  • Oh I didn’t avoid it, I’m just done having a discussion with someone who twists everything around and cherrypicks information to suit their own rant.

    If you think a third degree burn patient on an IV morphine drip in the hospital is the same as a heroin addict in regards to behaviors/treatment required, etc – Im not sure what to tell you. It’s a basic concept. Do you call people on SSRIs addicts too? And accuse them of abusing their drugs? Or just benzo people? Beta blockers? Corticosteroids? Are they all addicts too?

    I don’t plan to interact with you further, so have a great day.

  • It is clear you have an agenda – one in which you want to apply your experience to everyone else (and call them liars when they tell their story). You sit on here and moan about psychiatry labeling and dismissing and harming people and then when people share their stories, you call them outright liars. Sounds awfully hypocritical to me and like you’re doing the exact same thing. Along with your perpetual cherrypicking of information and taking it out of context in an attempt to back up that agenda you have.

    If you want information on the other psychiatric drugs you insist people are going to be put on if benzodiazpeines are regulated, write it yourself. You spend all day on here leaving angry rants, surely you could do something more productive? I guess submitting some information you’d like presented is a lot harder though than whining on the internet all day.

    People are using w-bad to share their stories in a collective nature to warn others about prescribed benzodiazepine dependence and withdrawal, and we don’t have to get permission from the angry Mad in America commenter the_cat to do it. There’s a documentary coming out about benzodiazepines soon too – and not all the psychiatric drugs – just benzodiazepines. In fact there was another one not too long ago by Shane Kenny. People are allowed to focus on one class of drugs and on one topic and a certain group in that topic (people who took them as prescribed) without running it past you and without taking on the entire psychiatric drug epidemic.

    Great chat the_cat.

    P.S. it’s Klonopin or Clonazepam, not Clonopin.

  • You’re really good at making sweeping generalizations and assumptions, the_cat…the problem is, none of them are actually factual. If your experience consisted of doctor shopping and hitting the streets for benzos, please own that. But don’t assign that to other people, as for many that was not the case.

    Myself, I lived in tolerance withdrawal for years (not knowing what it was) and saw the same treating MD the entire time and never “hit the streets”.

    If you can’t understand the fundamental differences between a physiological/physical dependence and an addiction with clear definitions, I’m not sure how to help you. Using the correct terminology helps people who KNOW they’re not addicts and who don’t identify with addiction because they’re “taking a medicine my doctor gave me”realize that this message applies to them too and that they’re at risk. It also protects the people who used them appropriately from being misdiagnosed with a “substance use disorder” which they don’t have and from being “cut off” because people like you stigmatize and generalize that everyone on benzos is an addict and has addict behaviors, which is false.

    If you’re worried about the other drugs, as are we, there’s plenty of anti-psychiatry movements you can join. We aren’t responsible for all of the problems in the world or that psychiatry has created. If you don’t like our organization, don’t participate. I’d urge you to get yourself educated though and to really work on your generalization/assumption problem.

  • The legislators are getting involved whether you like it or not – whether any of us like it. Far better to try to influence and guide them than for them to be left to their own clueless devices.

    I did live this and am still living it. And I never “liked” how benzos “worked”, as they didn’t work for me. They CAUSED anxiety and terror and panic like I’ve never experienced in my life. I wanted nothing but to get off of them forever (and I have). Now had I only been allowed to taper properly, I wouldn’t be stuck in year 7 of neurological disruption from them.

  • And yet you conveniently ignored all the other suggestions given to people like finding a different cooperative doctor, showing them tapering information, etc if the one you have won’t cooperate. Sorry, but we’re talking about people in bad situations here where they have an option of being cut off and sent into potential years of torture or asking that the doctor consults the monitoring program (which they have access to anyhow, all they have to do is log in and look) or gives a drug test once in a while. Sorry, but I think some people would much rather pee in a cup here and there until trust is built than be thrown out without their medication into a severe state of CT withdrawal. In a perfect world, you could just go to another doctor (which was suggested) to find a “benzo-wise” one, but it’s not a perfect world. Some people live in small towns and only have a few to choose from, etc. So you suggest they adamantly refuse anything and just go CT in order to be a martyr? Good idea.

    The reality is: a lot of measures to control BZs are probably coming down the pipe, and we can have our hand in the legislation or we can just sit back and let legislatures make harmful legisltations that will hurt tons of the people. The other reality is, a lot of doctors are just refusing to prescribe now bc they’re getting letters telling them they prescribe too many benzos and that might take some “hoop jumping” on the parts of people already physically dependent. We don’t condone it, but sometimes if you don’t want to die or suffer, you have to play by their rules and be active in making suggestions that might help yourself, even if it’s the wrong way for the medical professionals/governing bodies to go about it.

    Me? I would’ve peed in a cup ASAP if it meant I didn’t get CT’ed and could taper properly.

  • This sentence specifically appears in W-BAD’s Mission Statement: “W-BAD does not seek to restrict access to these drugs for those who feel that they may benefit from them, nor does it seek to force anyone to stop or reduce against their own will.”

    But, you’re too stuck on this “prohibition” rant and throwing around false accusations to actually read and decipher what is actually going on.

  • And I believe you even read the bill wrong – as I’m not positive the drug testing in the bill is for BZs, as the majority of the Hawaii bill is an opiate bill. The only reason it was on W-BAD’s radar is bc it does mention BZs, but is an insufficient bill in regards to protecting BZ patients and providing BZ patients the informed consent they deserve.

  • Again, you did not read. No one is asking anyone to “jump on the bandwagon”. We are asking people to CONTACT the legislators behind this bill and attempt to have it amended so that it doesn’t harm BZ patients as it is written.

    The red was added after you posted on here and complained, so W-BAD attempted to clarify so that others, like you, wouldn’t be confused (since you were obviously confused).

    It’s not a giant conspiracy theory like you think. It’s an effort to contact lawmakers WHO ARE GOING TO MAKE THESE BILLS HOWEVER THEY WANT THEM if someone doesn’t step up and contact them and attempt to make changes in them or influence them so that they are better bills.

    I think if you’d pause for a moment with the accusations and actually read what is being asked of people, you’ll see that we DON’T agree with the Hawaii bill as it’s written, which is why an entire campaign section exists asking people to contact Hawaii legislators to have it amended.

  • I don’t think you read correctly, The_cat

    The Hawaii bill is NOT W-BAD’s bill. Hawaii legislators came up with that all on their own. W-BAD’s campaign section is an attempt to get the bill amended to one that includes informed consent, and that makes protections for people who are already iatrogenically dependent on benzodiazepines. Perhaps this needs better clarifying on the site.

    Please see the amendment in red:

    Go here: and read the sample letter for Hawaii.

    W-BAD does not support mandatory drug-testing for taken-as-prescribed benzodiazepine dependent patients.

  • It could also be from the chronic use of opiates. You can reach tolerance on those and they cause rebound pain (much in the same way that benzo tolerance causes worsening anxiety even though they’re prescribed as so-called “anxiolytics” for anxiety). I’ve conversed w many folks who actually had less pain once they tapered off of their chronic prescribed use of opiates.

  • Thank you for sharing your story Jarret. Every time someone is brave and transparent and puts their story out there, I believe it has the potential to save someone else from a similar plight. Congratulations on your freedom and wishing you continued healing.

    I’m not sure if Mad in America wrote this part of your bio: “17-year prescription drug addiction to benzodiazepines.” or if you did, but I would implore either of you to change it for accuracy to “iatrogenic dependence” or “prescribed physical dependence”.

  • Great article, Kelly.

    However, I agree w/ the above posters on the supplements. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is not a lack of GABA but, in fact, an inability for the down-regulated receptors to properly utilize GABA in absence of the benzodiazepine. In some cases, the CNS’ of people in benzodiazepine withdrawal so sensitized from neurotoxicity t hat they will have reactions to supplements – causing worsening suffering.

    Lastly – I’d just like to ask if we can get away from the language that blames the victims of this iatrogenic insanity. “Pill popping” and “kick the habit” are terms that conjure up thoughts of addicts who go out seeking to get high. Let’s be real: most of us thought we were “helping” ourselves by taking “medicine” our doctor said we “needed,” without informed consent or fair warning, until we realized it was all a giant fraud and it too late – we were caught in this cobweb of iatrogenic physical dependence. It’s hardly a “habit” to kick when you just thought you were being a compliant patient, taking medical direction under the guise of “treatment” from someone who *should* have your best interests in mind. Please don’t injure us again with your poor choice of words to describe what really happened to us. Trust me when I say, we’ve been through enough without having to defend ourselves against that misconception over and over again – not to mention the social repercussions and stigma that result from it.

    Thank you for drawing attention to this problem.

  • I got accused of having one too! By the psychiatrist that caused my weight loss and the therapist in her office! They told my dad that they thought I’d had an eating disorder as well.

    I had seen, a multitude of times, my PCP complaining of “inability to eat” and “weight loss”. They’d run basic labs, and always just refer me to the psychiatrist when they found nothing. What person with an “eating disorder” goes to the doctor repeatedly asking for help b/c they can’t eat and are losing weight??

    The problem was polydrug neurotoxicity and tolerance withdrawal to the three benzodiazepine drugs they had me on simultaneously.

    When the benzos caused depression (they’re CNS depressants and I was on the equivalent of about 105mg of Valium), the psych added Adderall for “depression” (the SSRIs caused severe reactions w each one she tried). The Adderall killed my appetite and caused weight loss. I was down under 90 lbs. I was also so depressed and in tolerance from the benzos, I couldn’t function to feed myself or complete ADLs. Then when I was losing more weight and accused of the so-called “eating disorder,” I was prescribed 45mg of Remeron which caused me to plop a chair in front of the fridge in the middle of the night when it kicked in after taking it before bed. I still never gained any weight though b/c that’s the only time I’d eat – the lack of appetite kicked back in as soon as the morning came and I took my first dose of Adderall and I woke up to my benzo interdose morning hell.

    A drug for the adverse effects of the first drug and then more for the adverse effects of the second one…and so on and so forth. And then blame and label the patient for the symptoms and effects of polypharmacy. That was my living hell for half a decade. Sigh.

    Now my living hell is the withdrawal from them. But I’m off all six of them – and I’m a normal weight. Don’t have – and never did – and eating disorder.

    I’m so glad to be free from that fraud that is psychiatry. Now if my nervous system will just heal from the toxic insult.

  • Two problems with your statement:

    1. Benzodiazepines aren’t recommended for use for more than 2-4 weeks, including taper.
    2. Benzodiazepines taken long term actually CAUSE panic and anxiety. Ask anyone who’s become physiologically dependent on them after long-term use which was worse – the tolerance withdrawal and drug withdrawal panic, or the issue they were prescribed them for. I’m willing to bet all I have (since I’m a victim of benzos myself and know the answer) that of them would trade the crippling disability that inappropriate (more then 2-4 weeks, including taper) prescribed benzo use caused and, instead, would choose to go back in time before ever taking benzos and find an alternate way (of which there are many) to address the underlying issue (even if it was panic) for which they were initially prescribed the drugs.

    Panic won’t kill you- but benzodiazepines can (and many times do- I’ve watched a lot of support group members trying to withdraw take their lives over the years). For me, the reason I was prescribed them was stress at work. Well, now, I’m unemployed because of crippling (and near-deadly: I, too, almost took my own life due to the severity of it) withdrawal that’s persisted for over half a decade. So, in one sense, they “worked” by creating so much disability I could no longer work (that was sarcasm). There is better than this. And if you’re going to argue that some people might be willing to take the risk – well, then, at the very least, they deserve informed consent to know what they’re getting into ahead of time, and their condition should be so severe their doctor has to find a way to plead their case as unique and unusual (risk versus benefit). Mass, irresponsible, and medically negligent, without informed consent prescribing shouldn’t be the norm – of which is the case currently.

    Benzos are not a long-term panacea and should never be prescribed as such – they don’t cure anything. They are a temporary band-aid at best, and anything longer is actually counterproductive.

  • This…

    ‘The current generation of students don’t put up with the things we used to,” Wessely told BMJ Careers. ‘Derogatory comments about race, sexuality, and gender are not common now, and when they do occur students complain. We want them to become the people who call others out when they denigrate psychiatry and mental health.'”

    …coming from a profession who didn’t remove homosexuality from it’s DSM until the 70s? and who still labels transgender people as having “gender dysphoria” (only recently changed from “gender identity disorder”). And how about how psychiatry profiles, harms, and discriminates against minority ethnic groups?

    Oh, the hypocrisy.

  • 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.

  • Instead of slapping another bandaid (and a potentially danderous one- Ketamine- a drug) on depression…when we know so very little about the human brain. Why don’t we start looking for the root cause of their depression. Before injecting these people w/ Ketamine does anyone look at their diet? Their lifestyle? Do they try exercise, therapy, support? I follow a lot in paleo community and post after post, I see people leaving testimonies that their depression and anxiety completely resolved after they changed their diet.

    What are the long-term consequences of this Ketamine use? Do we even know?

    And what if someone is lacking the enzyme to metabolize Ketamine? Do you even test for that? Or just throw the drug at patients like a dart to a dartboard and see what happens?

    I’ll pass. Already had one psycho-pharmaceutical nightmare- and that’s one too many.

  • Very important topic. Thank you for sharing. I’d say it’s completely normal for the body to experience feelings of grief, depression, despair, anxiety when all of society and sometimes even your own friends and family don’t understand you or discriminate against you. That is the body’s way of telling the person experiences those emotions and feelings that something is wrong and it needs to be paid attention to. It is the world that needs to change- not the transgendered folks- they should be able to be exactly who they are. I have taken a lot of interest in educating myself on trans issues recently – and have watched a lot of videos of a certain child transgender expert (out of LA, I believe?- her name has slipped my mind) who insists this is not so-called “mental illness” at all and shouldn’t be treated as such. People need to get educated.

  • That’s funny. All you have to do is hang out in or poll the victims in the psych med withdrawal groups and ask them “how many of you were told you needed these drugs for a chemical imbalance in the brain?” and you’ll see exactly how much they use this narrative.

    I, personally, saw an “addiction medicine specialist” for benzo w/d (I wasn’t addicted to anything, just dependent but after no help at all from about 10 doctors, many of them psychs, I tried him) and he denied that benzo w/d was possible and held up a plastic brain from a model, pointed to a random spot on the brain w/ a pencil and said “your problem is a chemical imbalance in your brain…RIGHT HERE” for which he went on to tell me I needed Lexapro. My problem was benzo/polydrug toxicity and withdrawal and I knew it- just couldn’t get ANY of them to STFU and LISTEN and believe it was possible and not some “underlying disorder” re-emerging (of which I never had a disorder to begin with as I was put on meds for stress at work).

    Frauds, liars, cons … the lot of them. It’s never their fault- always BLAME THE PATIENT or deny, deny….when that fails….LIE! “We never said that” – the hell you didn’t.

  • Dr. Shipko,

    Lots of us having success w/ microtapering SSRIs.

    i.e. dropping the liquid Prozac into a measured (w/ a syringe) amt of water and removing a microgram amount via syringe per day. As long as you know your drug to liquid ratio and then how many mLs you’re removing daily, you can remove any “cut” size daily you’d like. The concept is that if you want to remove 1mg per month, it is much more gentle on the brain and CNS to remove 0.0333333mg per day instead of dropping by 1mg at a time and waiting a month or more while suffering in hopes of stabilizing. So long as the person stops right away at the first sign of w/d sx, holds at their current “cut” until the w/d resolves and they stabilize, then adjusts (to make smaller) their daily cut size when starting up again if it needs to be reduced, it is largely tolerable and keeps people out of w/d (the person doing it really has to listen to their body- if you “push through” worsening symptoms- which are a sign you need to stop/slow down the rate, you will deteriorate and continue going downhill).

  • “Blissful apathy” isn’t the first choice of words I would use to describe my use (as prescribed and directed by my psychiatrist) of benzodiazepines. Apathy, yes, to the point I no longer wanted to live at times. Blissful…never.

    Tolerance withdrawal which developed quickly led to a multitude of symptoms and suffering which was anything but “blissful”. I was incredibly ill, developed multiple health problems for which I saw multiple specialists- none of them identified the benzos/tolerance as the cause. My life fell apart, I became depressed and suicidal, lost my job and became so agoraphobic I could no longer function, so cognitively impaired I could no longer read and so anxious I could barely stand to exist.

    I’d also like to point out that a substance being “addictive” (having the potential for abuse- which is a behavior) and a substance carrying a risk of dependence are not the same thing. Many people become iatrogenically dependent (which is a physiological process in the body that occurs when exposed chronically to a substance) on benzodiazepines simply by taking them as directed by their doctor for any period longer than the recommended short-term use of 2-4 weeks. Most people who become iatrogenically dependent do so because they were not given informed consent by the prescribing practitioner.

    The withdrawal syndrome they can produce is unspeakable horror that can persist for months and years.

  • You say “Let’s be clear that if a woman is suicidal when she stops her medication, then it certainly sounds like she needs to keep taking her medication.”

    This is one of the biggest mistakes the medical profession makes- mistaking a withdrawal syndrome for a return of the “underlying illness” and an indicator that people do, in fact, “need” their medication.

    If the pregnant women you speak of are discontinuing their medication quickly (as I assume many do, as they’re already pregnant and wish to get the drug out of their body so as not to affect the fetus- most good tapers of SSRIs last for 9 months or longer, which would continue to expose the body- albeit to decreasing levels of the drug over time) – the suicidal ideations and actions are more than likely from abrupt withdrawal/cessation of the drug.

  • I agree with Glaucus here. Over the years during my 5 years in support groups I have witnessed many people have reaction after reaction to adding supplements to their withdrawal regime. And if they were lucky enough to avoid reactions, they just didn’t get any benefit at all. And if you speak with the support charities in the UK who have been assisting people in psych drug withdrawal for many decades, they will all advise NOT to add supplements, other drugs. I’m not sure how you can advertise this program without having actually withdrawn successfully.

    From speaking with people who’ve used this program, it appears that there’s been many disappointments when the tapers they suggest are too fast and the individuals crash into severe withdrawal and the overpriced supplements they sell don’t do anything to stop that. I have also spoken to many people who, when this happened, they were kicked off their support page and basically told that they must have done something wrong, that the program is not the problem. The people singing their praises as testimonials were most likely people who wouldn’t have had major problems withdrawing from the medicine to begin with, as many people get a “free pass” and come off without problem (i.e. those who aren’t kindled, it’s their first withdrawal, they haven’t had reactions/CTs/reinstatements, etc). Others are not that lucky. Remember correlation doesn’t always equal causation. Just because someone took their supplements and had an easy withdrawal doesn’t mean it was the supplements that helped. They may have had an easy withdrawal anyhow, without them.

    It’s a shame when vulnerable and desperate people are promised things with a hefty price tag only to have it fail, especially when we’ve all been duped by Pharma/western medicine already and wound up caught in this first trap being made iatrogenically dependent in the first place.

    Ultimately, the rate and speed of taper and listening to your body’s signals as you reduce is what allows people to get off of the medication without severe suffering. Many people microtaper their SSRIs (and other psych meds) on their own with great success and save themselves the money spent on useless supplements that haven’t been proven to assist in withdrawal and often times can make people worse and pricey compounded formulas. If you know what you’re doing and get help from people who’ve done it before you, it really all makes sense and works. Your previous taper failed b/c your cuts exceeded your body’s ability to make repairs at the rate and speed you reduced (too large of cuts and too fast of speed coming off). It’s really that simple.

  • Thank you for sharing this excerpt of your book. I can feel your frustration with the practitioners that you visited. I can also totally relate. It reminded me so much of the time back when I had stumbled across Matt Samet’s story and “the lightbulb” went off for me that it was more than likely these drugs making me sick. I got ZERO help from the psych prescriber or the therapist I saw in her practice who insisted it was my “mental illness” that was “refractory” to treatment and if I went off the drugs, I would be more “mentally ill” than ever, despite only starting these things for work-related stress (the SIX pills she had me on had made me sicker than ever and it couldn’t possibly be the so-called “treatment”, it HAD to be ME that was the problem).

    Then I saw a new psychiatrist who mocked my agoraphobia I’d developed from tolerance and didn’t see why I couldn’t just go outside with ease. He also decided that I needed the medication BUT I didn’t need both Xanax and Klonopin both like the previous psych thought, so I should just CT the Xanax. Which then, of course, put me in a partial CT state b/c I’d dropped a huge percentage of my benzo dose.

    Which then led me to a detox center (as I was desperate by this point to feel better and to get off these drugs) which insisted I was an “addict” and needed off only the drugs they deemed “addictive” but I needed MORE of the other psych meds (which also cause physical dependence and that I couldn’t tolerate now that I was in benzo CT without having severe reactions to them).

    Then I saw another psych, ER doctors, cardiologist, etc in full blown CT withdrawal who told me that I couldn’t possibly be in benzo w/d b/c “the drug is out of your system” and that I “had a chemical imbalance in the brain” while they pointed a pencil to some part of a plastic brain to indicate where this supposed “imbalance” was located in my brain.

    So, the detox center said I’d “die” if I continued to “use”. The psychs said I “needed” the drugs to be “well” and to “treat” my “mental illness”. The ER doctors and cardiologists didn’t believe me. F*CK!! WHICH WAS IT?!! All I wanted to do was to FEEL BETTER and get my life back and for someone to HELP ME!

    All along I was just DESPERATE to be HEARD and for someone to LISTEN TO ME. I feel that from you too in this writing. and the ridiculous chasing of your tail that happens so often in these cases just looking for solutions without much help from the medical community. We can’t even get adequate healthcare in the tolerance/withdrawal situation because absent some doctor taking into consideration the withdrawal, they will come up with a differential diagnosis without including the drugs/w/d and thousands of dollars later, after much wasted time and frustration, you still have no answers b/c you can’t find a knowledgable practitioner that will say “it’s the drugs!”. UGH!!

    Thank you for sharing your story with us and I wish you all the best with your continued writing of this book. I look forward to reading more about your struggles through this iatrogenic illness.

  • Nicotine is an addictive drug. People seek out cigarettes. No one’s doctor tells them “you NEED nicotine because you have a nicotine imbalance in your brain”. People CRAVE nictotine and yes, tolerance develops and they increase the amount they smoke over time. Dependence is present in addiction. Addiction isn’t present in dependence alone.

    People become dependent on beta blockers. Do we try to force them to say they’re “addicted” to their beta blocker? Or a beta blocker addict? NO. But when they try to stop abruplty, they get withdrawal b/c of a physiological dependence to it after long term use.

    People who are burn victims and hooked up on morphine drips for long periods to tolerate the pain aren’t called addicts when their doctors have to wean them slowly off the opiate. Their body has become dependent on it though over time and they can get withdrawal if they stop abruplty, hence the weaning to get them off over time. But they weren’t abusing the drug or ordering opiates online or taking more than they were supposed to. They had no choice but to take the opiates long term for pain control.

  • Not to mention, Ally and myself are 27 months off of this stuff. We’re not addicted to it, our body hasn’t seen it in over 2 years. At this point, it’s DAMAGE. It’s a physiology that can’t work because the body became dependent on it’s presence to funtion and now it’s no longer there and has to recover from the downregulation. How can you be “addicted” to something you haven’t even ingested in well over 2 years time? Makes no sense.

  • My story includes “addiction counselors” like you and in the grand scheme, they did me FAR more harm than good trying to convince me I was an “addict”.

    I was RIPPED off of 3 benzos, adderall CT and left in a severe state of psychosis until I ultimately became so suicidal that I had a very serious suicide attempt. I needed to be reinstated on the benzo ASAP to stop this (I also had a seizure) but b/c the rehab center and addiction counselors put in my file that I was an “addict”, I was left in this state by the ER until my father could get me out of there and find a psychiatrist with a brain that was willing to reinstate me so that I didn’t lose my life. Even then I was so terrified of the drugs b/c of what they’d done to me that it took me FOUR long months of extreme suffering and psychosis to agree to go back on them to save my life.

    They also LOAD people up on psych drugs in addiction facilities and try to force people in to NA and AA which do absolutely nothing for something in severe CT withdrawal from psych meds who are in such severe states.

    When i was on them and tolerant to them but didn’t know, I was just told I was “mentally ill” and believed that narrative. But had someone presented me a story about someone calling themselves a benzo addict, I would’ve written it off and said “that doesn’t apply to me b/c I take these medications as directed by my doctor who INSISTS I need to be on them for life”. Psych med users don’t identify with it and that’s b/c they’re not addicts.

    Perhaps people who aren’t victims of this themselves and who haven’t lived it firsthand and experienced the abuse in the rehab facilities and addiction-driven groups or known what it feels like to take a prescribed drug and want NOTHING MORE than to GET OFF OF IT, but can’t without a slow methodical taper, b/c the body revolts every time you try to stop it abruptly, shouldn’t try to chime in and define what kind of language we choose to describe our experience.

  • I can guarantee you (b/c I was one of them at one point) people taking prescribed psych meds as directed by their doctor aren’t walking around thinking they’re “addicted” or “addicts”. I’ve never met someone taking an SSRI who said “I’m addicted to my Lexapro”. If you want your story to educate that this can happen to people who are just taking the medication like they were told, they aren’t going to relate to the “addict” terminology b/c they’re not abusing it, nor were they ever told it could cause dependence and severe withdrawal syndromes.

  • You are incorrect.

    “Addiction—or compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences—is characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance and withdrawal. The latter reflect physical dependence in which the body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect (tolerance) and eliciting drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased (withdrawal). Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugs—including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed. Thus, physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction. This distinction can be dificult to discern, particularly with prescribed pain medications, for which the need for increasing dosages can represent tolerance or a worsening underlying problem, as opposed to the beginning of abuse or addiction.”

  • You are such an amazing writer, Melissa. Going through my own benzo w/d, I can relate to everything you write.

    However, your use of terminology is just confusing, as you say…

    “…a book whose unintentional beginning came after I became addicted to Ativan in 2010. After a year of following my doctor’s orders for daily use to treat insomnia, my body began to fall apart.”

    And then you say… “You are my community. This story is mine but my hope is that it will illuminate the story that is ours – the one that isn’t being told loudly enough. The one of iatrogenic illness and its prevalence. ”

    If you state that you followed your doctors orders and you’re then calling it iatrogenic illness, please stop saying you “became addicted” to Ativan. You developed a physiological dependence. It’s not the same thing. They are very clearly defined in medical literature as being very different.

    If your intention is to tell your story to draw attention to the struggles of a community of people, don’t do them the disservice of being written off as “addicts”. I think one of the MOST important things we can do when we tell our stories is to portray this accurately so that EVERYONE reading knows this can happen to them or their family members, most ESPECIALLY the people taking their “medications” as directed by their doctors.

    When I read another person’s story back in 2010, right when I discovered the drugs were making me sick, I remember thinking to myself, “he’s so sick because he was addicted to the drugs, so he must have abused them, I have not. I took them as I was supposed to, so I can probably stop them and be fine”. You know what came next…I was not fine and was left in a brutal state of cold-turkey withdrawal.

    Good writing and journalism tells the truth and paints an accurate story. I know you point out multiple times that this is a story of iatrogenic illness and that you took the drugs as directed by your doctor, so I don’t see why there’s a problem with taking the final leap and using “dependence” or “physiological dependence” over “addicted” and “addict”? Sure, “addicted” appeals to a larger audience, but it’s not accurate. The UK, I’ve noticed, will use “involuntary addict”. That’s better. But, still incorrect. I just think the accuracy of language here is important, b/c if you’ve ever been called a “drug addict” or been accused by someone of abusing this stuff as a way to write off your story and blame the victim, you’ll know how bad that feels.

    Thank you for sharing this excerpt with us. I am looking forward to your book. All the best to you.

  • Jedimom,

    Have you done any research into long term use of SSRIs (Paxil) and depression/anxiety? There is information that long-term use of SSRIs actually cause depression. Many people report them exacerbating anxiety as well. You should also investigate long-term use of Lorazepam and how benzos are central nervous system DEPRESSANTS so they actually cause depression. Not to mention how in long term use they worsen anxiety because of tolerance and interdose effects? They aren’t indicated for long-term use and are supposed to only be prescribed intermittently or for short-term use (less than 2-4 weeks). Both drugs also carry risk for physical dependence and severe withdrawal syndromes (so, they need to be tapered properly if one chooses to discontinue them)

    Perhaps your drugs are part of the problem. They were for me and many others.

    Here’s the Ashton manual in regards to the benzos:

    I’m sure you can find some information here as well on withdrawal:

    Best of luck to you.

  • I was initially prescribed Xanax for ‘work-related stress” (if that’s a “mental illness”, the ENTIRE WORLD is “mentally ill) after starting my first new job straight out of an intense graduate program. Up to this point I was a highly functioning and capable professional with no history of so-called “mental illness”.

    Within a few months on the Xanax, I was experiencing what I now know to be tolerance, interdose withdrawal and toxicity and I became suicidal.

    Enter Psychiatry, their drugs, bogus labels…5 years later, spellbinding, lots of manipulation to believe the labels by my doctor and therapist, I’m on a total of SIX Psychiatric drugs and I am physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologicaaly sicker than I had ever been in my entire life. In the latter 2 years of the 5, I took FMLA twice and then ultimately wound up having to resign from my job because I could no longer function in that capacity (or in day to day life, really).

    Once I found out the drugs were my problem, I stupidly (was unaware of the need to taper and the prescribing doctor was having none of it, insisting that I “needed the drugs for life”) detoxed in a facility that was more than glad to take 40k off of me and label me an “addict” for AS PRESCRIBED use of psychiatric drugs.

    Now, over 4 years into cold-turkey withdrawal and I am still unemployed and on disability for what I’m sure SSD considers a “mental condition” but really is (and has been all along) iatrogenic illness strictly and solely from the prescription polydrugging, toxicity, tolerance and protracted withdrawal.

    I would’ve been a tax-paying, contributing citizen all this time had psychiatry not maimed and crippled me and stole my ability to function on all levels, other than basic activities of daily living. Now I am a burden collecting SSD. The financial repercussions on all levels are immense.

    Perhaps the “success” and “treatment” in their eyes is that I started out with work-related stress….and now I can’t work! So, they solved that problem, didn’t they?!

  • Hey Meaghan,

    Amazing story. Thank you for sharing. I am just curious (as I’m in my own psychiatric drug withdrawal syndrome currently) to exactly how long you’ve been completely psych med free? (if you detailed that and I missed it, I apologize, as I’m having my own set of cognitive issues thanks to the iatrogenic damage)

    Keep going! I hear it gets better and better with time.

  • We SHOULD all band together. The problem is, what I see happening anyhow, is that people in the FQ toxicity community are turning TO psych drugs (most likely recommended by some ignorant doctor) that are JUST AS HARMFUL as the FQ they were just damaged by. You won’t heal drug damage with more neurotoxic drugs and you might just make it worse. Of course, some of the psych drug victims get severe withdrawal or drug reactions from, say, benzodiazepines and then frantically start taking APs, ADs and whatever else in an attempt to “fix” themselves as well and wind up, ultimately, causing more harm. I don’t blame these people for being desperate (I am too), but common sense tells one that if a pharma poison is the cause of your destruction, taking another one is probably a terrible idea.

  • The more times you go on and off a benzo you “kindle” your nervous system. Each subsequent withdrawal can be worse than the one prior. Some people get a “free pass” with the benzos where they can get off one or a few times unscathed, which leads them to be utterly confused when they try again to come off, expecting to be fine as they were on discontinuing it previously, and find themselves suffering a hell they never knew existed when they do finally get dependence and withdrawal. Your escalating dose sounds like tolerance is developing quickly.

    More on kindling:

    You can read more about tolerance (and the benzos in general) here:

  • Ahhhh, the old “take a poison to cover up the effects of another poison” argument. Problem is, then you get dependent on benzos and have to go through the nightmare of coming off of those. Good luck with that. It’s a hell on Earth I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (other than the doctor who got me involuntarily dependent on them, that is).

  • I have found, just in the small capacity that I’ve been able to reach out to people online (I am sick in my own withdrawal right now), that people don’t listen or are comfortable in their denial. Medication spellbinding is real and it is powerful and some of these people are not ready to hear the truth. I have been name-called and told I was not sensitive to “mental illness” by trying to direct them to the truth. The psychiatric brain-washing runs deep and people are still very trusting of their doctors over the layman messenger. The good news is, in spreading the truth, there are SOME people who’s lightbulbs go off and who “get it” and if you can save only a few, it’s better than none. And, people can’t unhear information once it’s been presented. Even if they reject it, down the line when they get sicker and sicker from the drugs, perhaps they’ll remember the information they were given and do some more research on their own. We can only hope.

  • I started weeping when I read this. My FIFTH year of withdrawal (I was cold-turkey’ed) starts in October. Some days, I don’t know how to go on. I want most to heal. Second most, I want them to stop doing this to innocent unsuspecting victims. Thank you for writing a book. I just want people to care about this because it’s so, so wrong and inhumane. I look forward to reading it, as I have enjoying reading all of your blog entries here on Mad in America. Thank you for continuing to fight for those of us still in the death camp. I can only hope to join you on the other side one day.

  • Mad in America, PLEASE use proper terminology when speaking of benzo patients, otherwise you are just harming them and their cause further.

    Above, you say: “The Boston Globe interviews people who became ever more severely addicted to sedating benzodiazepines without realizing it…”

    If you aren’t abusing the drug and you don’t even realize what’s happening, it is called dependence, physical or physiological dependence, iatrogenic dependence. Some people do use “accidental addiction” which is a better term than just “addicted”, but is still largely improper based on the definitions of the two.

    “Addiction is a biological and psychological condition that compels a person to satisfy their need for a particular stimulus and to keep satisfying it, no matter what.
    It is a compulsive behavior that demands more and more drugs, regardless of the consequences that lead to dysfunction.”


    “Dependence is a physical state that occurs when the lack of a drug causes the body to have a reaction. Physical dependence is solely a physical state indicating that the body has grown so adapted to having the drug present that sudden removal of it will lead to negative consequences such as a withdrawal reaction. This can occur with almost any kind of drug.”

    Thank you.

  • Thank you for the article.

    The only problem I have is how you have opened your “Point of Return” program in an attempt to profit off of desperate and suffering people caught in the prescription drug trap by their doctors by selling them ridiculously overpriced supplements that 1. won’t work for withdrawal and 2. might make them worse.

    All of the charities in the UK who assist people in withdrawal syndromes advise NOT to add supplements and herbs and things because of the vast number of people over the last 20 some years they’ve helped that have had setbacks or gotten worse from supplements and herbs. If you have a documentable deficiency, like iron, that is one thing, but that is not what you are advertising through your program.

    Not sure how what you’re doing is much different than the Pharm companies who push useless and harmful products on people for profit. You saw an opportunity where a vast number of people are desperate, sick and suffering and decided to make a business out of it by selling them supplements that are in the hundreds of dollars in cost (when most people in severe drug withdrawal are already having financial hardship b/c they have lost their jobs due to the withdrawal syndrome and cannot work, but they are desperate for relief, so they will grasp at anything they think might possibly help them and are truly vulnerable in their condition.)

    I’ve talked to many people in the psych med withdrawal support groups over the years that I, personally, have been suffering who have complained about your program and how you “guaranteed” them that supplements X, Y and Z would help them and not only did they not help with their severe symptoms from a cold-turkey or over-rapid taper, they made them feel worse.

  • Reading your book doesn’t really help people, like myself, who are already in protracted benzodiazepine withdrawal. I do realize that, like the SSRIs, had most people who were on benzos tapered properly from the beginning, then they wouldn’t experience the more severe and protracted withdrawal syndrome. However, the problem is the same: if you don’t find the information in time and your doctor cold-turkeyed or over-rapidly tapered you, which most of them do out of ignorance–and then months down the line you feel like you can’t take it anymore once the delayed w/d sydrome (or tardive akathisia as you call it) kicks in, reinstating the benzo (just the same as the SSRIs) DOESN’T ALWAYS work. And then, you might find yourself back on the benzo either 1. worse 2. no better or only mildly better and then having to find a way off again — which can lead to kindling and even worse outcomes in the end, in my own personal experience.

  • How can you disagree about benzodiazepine withrawal frequently being protracted? There are thousands of us LIVING IT. The charities in the UK flooded with people coming off BOTH benzos and SSRIs and becoming protracted. I am one of them. The study done by the Cochrane foundation found that benzo w/d and SSRI w/d only differ in a handful of symptoms but are otherwise one in the same and to call one “dependency” and not the other is foolish. Perhaps since your focus is on SSRI folks, you are biased, but that doesn’t make your opinion fact.

  • Mistake correction: Should read “How do you know that you’re not making the same mistake that Psychiatry makes when they blame the “underlying condition” when the condition might actually BE withdrawal?”

  • Dr. Shipko, Thank you for another informative article. However, one brief comment.

    You state: “I have been profoundly influenced by a patient I saw who had a state of tardive akathisia that was so intolerable that they were extremely suicidal. Valium was prescribed and when the dose got up to 90 mg of Valium they calmed down and suicidal thoughts stopped. Two weeks later, out of concern about the high dose of Valium, I reduced it to 60 mg, and the akathisia came back and the patient committed suicide. The patients with tardive akathisia are pretty much all suicidal to various degrees, and the benefits of benzodiazepines need to be considered in certain patients.”

    How do you know that you’re not making the same mistake that Psychiatry makes when they blame the “underlying condition” when the condition might actually withdrawal? Here, in your defense of using benzodiazepines, when you say that when you reduced the benzo from 90mg to 60mg “the akathisia came back”. That could very well be the case, if you’re assuming that the benzo was “covering” the akathisia from the SSRI. However, benzodiazepines, when the patient has been on them for any length of time over a month or so, ALSO cause severe withdrawal syndromes and delayed withdrawal syndromes (I know, I’m living it) and I think you’re overlooking the fact that you REDUCED THIS PERSON BY 30 MILLIGRAMS OF VALIUM in one go!! You cannot do that to someone who is dependent on benzos and not expect a severe withdrawal reaction.

    There are people starting out on 80mg of Valium (or 4mg of Klonopin) when they begin their tapers and they DO NOT EVER drop by 30mg equivalent of Valium. They remove perhaps 5-7% of their current dose over a month’s time to keep from deteriorating into severe withdrawal but a 30mg drop from 90mg is a 33%+ drop and would be intolerable to almost anyone who is dependent on benzos.

    I have had SEVERE akathisia and also the delayed withdrawal syndrome from benzos myself (it took 4 months post cold-turkey for it to “kick in”). I do understand that sometimes there are severe cases where suicide is a risk and the patients need relief and reinstatement of the SSRI fails, so you choose benzos to give them the relief they need to not take their life. However, if you’re going to use them in these cases, you need to apply the SAME conservative method of tapering to those as you would to SSRIs and not drop someone by 33%+ when you “become concerned about the high doses” you put them on.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • That’s funny. Because I would’ve answered YES to all those questions when I was POLYDRUGGED on multiple psychopharmaceutical drugs that destroyed my GI system and caused me to have multiple blood tests and invasive procedures (2 colonoscopies and 2 upper GI scopes) in my early 20s — all of which came back normal. Never once did the doctors suggest to me that their drugs could be the actual cause of my GI distress (and the plethora of other symptoms I was complaining of).

    When the “treatment” is worse than “the cure” (even though none of those drugs actually cure anything). Now I know I was being poisoned, so it all makes sense.

    Good article and very valid points.

  • Really great story! I have always thought that psych survivors need to unite in a way much like the gay community did to fight for rights and to expose the truth. What that looks like? I don’t know. Thank you for sharing your story and I am so glad to hear from another person that it gets better– I am still waiting at nearly 19 months off benzodiazepines and 3.5 years off the Seroquel, Remeron, Adderall, Neurontin and Trazodone.

    Whatever the case, thank you for using your experience for good to contribute to the psych survivor movement and to help bring other victims to the truth.

  • Dr. Datta,

    In the article above, you say: “In the inpatient setting, I rapidly tapered her off a number of her medications, and treated her with intensive brief psychotherapy. Nothing bad happened.”

    You need to be aware that many of these drugs (benzos and SSRIs especially) can cause what’s referred to in the psych drug withdrawal support communities as “delayed withdrawal”.

    It happened to me and it’s happened to many others I speak with daily in the support groups. I, too, was detoxed from benzos and a polydrug cocktail in an inpatient setting. I am sure that the doctors there thought “nothing bad happened” as well, b/c in that first month off the drugs, I appeared seemingly “OK”. I did, in hindsight, have some symptoms and signs that the withdrawal was lurking below, but they weren’t severe enough for me to know what was happening. Specifically, I had one episode of choking on food where it got “stuck” in my esophagus and severe constipation. No one in the detox center seemed concerned.

    It wasn’t until I got HOME that as the weeks and months passed that I deteriorated into full blown, severe, acute withdrawal. The worst of it didn’t START until 3 months later. When I tried calling the center who CT’ed me, they didn’t return my calls and washed their hands of me. So, I was discharged from their “care” and they, I assume, believed “nothing bad happened”, yet I was at home, with my family in psychosis and suicidal from a withdrawal syndrome that took months to become severe.

    This happens all too often. Even if some people seemingly rapidly detox and do “OK”, there are thousands of others who DO NOT. It is for this reason, that patients should NEVER be rapidly taken off of their medications and everyone tapered slowly, as you have no way to know ahead of time who is going to be who. And if you’re not following them for months after their detox, you won’t know, unless they come back to you begging for help down the line. At that point, however, you have already put them into a severe withdrawal syndrome at which time reinstating the medications may or may not work to stop the syndrome so the patient can become stable again and taper. In my circumstance, going back on the benzo DID NOT stop the w/d syndrome (I was in CT w/d for 4 months and had a suicide attempt b/c the suffering was so barbaric, I could not cope any longer) and I was left in a constant state of withdrawal, even back on the drug. I had to taper off of the reinstatement.

    My CT was in October 2010. I am still in withdrawal now, after having tapered off 18 months ago. And it is still crippling. I know, had I never been detoxed, and had I been given the chance to taper properly from the beginning, that I wouldn’t be this crippled and suffering this badly.

    Thank you for this article and for listening to my comments.

  • Daniel,

    I am always impressed by your work and this piece was no exception. Mainly I value your no BS approach, your blunt realism and your honesty in regards to this topic. I read this and found myself saying “yes! yes! yes!”. A lot of people want to tiptoe nicely (like the MD who responsed above) around the truth. Meanwhile, people are dying and being maimed and suffering great losses at the hands of the lies of psychiatry. I think it’s fair to call it inhumane, barbaric and torture. Thank you for speaking out for those of us damaged by psychiatry and their drugs and “treatments”.

  • I can’t say enough about for tapering support and guidance.

    I go there and link people to the information there all the time when they need help with tapering off of one of the many prescribed psych drugs.

    The admin (Alto Strata) of the site is very knowledgeable and helpful and with a simple search, you can find very detailed tapering instructions and important information on just about any prescribed psychiatric drug out there (i.e. can the pills be split? What size doses to the come in? Is the drug available in liquid for tapering? Is it water soluble for a titration? etc).

    All of the work is already done for you in regards to research and posted in one central location for you to use as an aid to coming off of these drugs appropriately. It’s a forum, so others in the same boat also post about their experiences and tricks they’ve learned along the way to make tapering easier, etc.

    Lastly, this was a really great entry on MIA and I appreciated everything the author had to say. It’s all true! The bracelets are a great idea! I’d buy one and some for all my family/friends as well. Thank you!

  • This was an amazing letter. Anyone harmed by Psychiatry (or any other specialty) should write one. They need to know what their “treatments” are doing to people. Plus, once you plant a seed in their mind, they can’t “unhear” the information. They can claim ignorance as a lie, but then they have to look in the mirror every day and live with themselves (even that isn’t a deterrent for some, I’m sure).

    Thank you for being a voice in this, Lisa. My experience with coming off of these meds has been very similar to yours. Abuse, trauma, misdiagnosis, lies and denial from the medical and psychiatric system.

    I will be writing a similar letter to the doctor who destroyed my life with these soul destroying poisons as well.

  • I forgot to leave my normal disclaimer after I described my experience and don’t want to be responsible for scaring someone into a cold-turkey: NEVER stop these drugs cold-turkey. TAPER…SLOWLY!! Join one of the support forums on facebook. Read and the new, updated version of the British National Formulary for tapering guildelines which have slower schedules than the Ashton Manual:

  • Benzodiazepines *almost* killed me. I’m in my 3rd year and 5th month of withdrawal from them- with no signs of the tortuous HELL that is “withdrawal” from them letting up. I put withdrawal in quotes because the drug is long gone- it’s been “out of my system” after a barabaric cold-turkey, followed by a reinstatement and a lengthy taper. Now, I’m just dealing with a completely disabled and down-regulated brain and central nervous system from taking them AS PRESCRIBED BY MY DOCTOR for 5 years. I’m told I’ll recover…we’ll see.

    That said, this was a great article to read. My only qualm is that we need to start using proper terminology. Dependence and addiction are NOT the same thing. Yes, people can and do abuse benzos. However, for the most part, the people I have met in the “benzo trap” are victims of IATROGENIC (caused by a doctor) DEPENDENCY. We were made dependent on the benzodiazepines against our will by our doctors. Had we had informed consent about the dangers of these drugs, most or all of us would’ve refused to take them. We never abused them. We took them as prescribed, thinking we were being compliant patients. The compliance- taking them everyday as we were TOLD by our medical doctors to do with no warnings about dependence or withdrawal- is what caused the dependence. It is truly involuntary intoxication, which is discussed more by Dr. Breggin here:

    Thank you for telling the truth about these evil drugs which cause a suffering that is so far beyond the realm of human experience, that I can’t even begin to describe it in words. But it’s beyond bad. It’s beyond hell. It trumps everything I’d ever considered to be a “worst nightmare” and takes it to a whole other level. Psychiatry kills and so do the general practitioners who prescribe the psychiatric drugs that psychiatry is responsible for promoting and bringing to fruition.

  • Does anyone know for sure if Justina has been medicated w/ psychiatric drugs over the last 13 months?

    When I hear that she will be released back to the care of her parents, I worry most that she will be cold-turkeyed from any psychiatric drugs that she may have been on all this time, which could have severe and devastating consequences if her family isn’t educated on a slow and gradual reduction program.

  • I never suggested we teach people to “say no to drugs and turn in their label of addict for a psychiatric label”. I don’t think people should use psychiatric medications at all, nor do I agree with labeling people. What I DID suggest was using proper terminology to describe something that is widely misunderstood.

  • Well, see, see THERE is where you’re wrong. “Looking to block out the pains of their lives”….not everyone who is prescribed benzos was looking for that or anything. Many people are put on these medications for back pain, muscle pain, menopause, insomnia, car accidents, eye twitches. Just because these are psych meds, don’t assume that’s the only reason they’re prescribed. A lot of people weren’t “looking” for ANYTHING but to follow their doctor’s instructions for a simple PHYSICAL health problem.

    To be called an “addict” is totally off-base.

    I am not going to change my opinion on this. The terminology is incorrect, unless you abused the drug.

    People who were made iatrogenically dependent shouldn’t have to live w/ the stigma of being an “addict” or be blamed for this or written off by their doctors, families and friends b/c people don’t understand that this is a physiological problem that was caused by nothing more than following your doctor’s instructions.

  • Actually you called yourself “clean and sober”. If you want to refer to yourself as an “addict” and be written off as someone who abused her medication, that is your choice.

    I chose to use properly terminology for all the reasons I listed above. The charities in the UK have fought for YEARS to get doctors and the general public and doctors to see that this is NOT addiction and these people are simply victims of iatrogenic dependence through no fault of their own. We undermine their work by turning around and wrongly calling ourselves “addicts”, in my opinion. Even if you say “accidental addict” it’s better than using rehab/12-step terminology, in my opinion.

    I’m not the only one who felt this way- a number of other people who read this told me via private message that it “pissed them off” too when they read this.

    I still appreciate your story and your struggle and that you were brave enough to share it. I just don’t like a group of victims to be represented publicly as something they’re not by one person b/c the terminology is incorrect. That’s all.

    Best to you.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. However, it’s not a story that I would share with friends or family in an attempt to get the word out b/c of your title and the terminology that you use in your writing.

    It’s hard enough for benzodiazepine victims to get support and validation from the medical community, friends and family members b/c they’re already disbelieved or simply written off as “addicts” when in the majority of cases this is NOT TRUE.

    There IS a difference b/w dependence(iatrogenic) and addiction and it’s even spelled out clearly in medical literature. I don’t see the people in the antidepressant withdrawal communities calling themselves “addicts” – because they’re NOT. They didn’t abuse their medications either. They took them as directed by and at the suggestion of their doctor. But they are still experiencing horrific withdrawal syndromes when attempting to stop their drugs. This is because of a physiological dependence, not a compulsion to “use” or “get high”. Big difference. Having withdrawal from something does not make one an “addict”. People get withdrawal from beta blockers for blood pressure.

    Perhaps it’s because benzodiazepines are a controlled substance. I don’t know. But it’s incorrect and it undermines our suffering and puts the blame on the patient which is incorrect. If we keep referring to ourselves as “addicts” then doctors are going to keep shipping people w/ iatrogenic dependence into rehab centers to be cold-turkeyed from their drugs- which we know causes severe withdrawal, psychosis, seizures and sometimes death and is the number one risk factor for a protracted withdrawal syndrome. I know because this happened to me. I was sent to one. Three years later, I am still suffering. I was also called an “addict” by the rehab staff and was treated like a street junkie and sat and rocked in bed in CT withdrawal while all the heroin addicts were outside playing basketball. It was extremely traumatic for me as it was barbaric and inhumane what I was put through. Until we start using properly terminology to explain this to people, it won’t stop.

    We are VICTIMS of no informed consent and of iatrogenic harm. Until we start holding the doctors responsible for this and stop blaming the victims and calling them “addicts”, when nothing is farther from the truth, nothing will change. Referring to ourselves as “addicts” gives the medical profession an “out” because they can BLAME THE VICTIM (which they do anyhow) and call them an “addict” instead of taking responsibility for CAUSING this dependence in unsuspecting patients.

    It’s time we start using the correct terminology in order to educate the general public as well as the medical professionals about this. Otherwise, there is confusion.

    I remember when I read about benzodiazepine withdrawal when I was taking prescribed benzos myself and was ignorant to the truth about them. The stories I read were just like this one, where people were calling themselves “addicts”. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh, well no wonder they’re suffering- they ABUSED their drug. I am taking mine like my doctor told me to, so nothing to worry about”. That is the message you’re sending to people.

    Unless you truly ARE a benzodiazepine addict and you were abusing these pills like an addict uses heroin or alcohol, you shouldn’t call yourself one. If you’re doctor prescribed these medications to you, you took them as directed and became DEPENDENT on them unwillingly, you’re not an addict.

    Terminology is IMPORTANT when you’re discussing this and attempting to educate about this topic.