Monday, August 26, 2019

Comments by drt

Showing 57 of 57 comments.

  • A very powerful story, Angie.

    I am still suffering from the effects of benzos. I know the feeling of pure adrenaline, and it is scary as hell. I never knew anything remotely like it. I’ve gone to the ER about 7 or 8 times and been hospitalized 5 times. I even developed cancer, which I’m sure wouldn’t have happened had I not taken the benzos. But I had so much inflammation and adrenaline that my body was probably filled with inflammation. My bp was always sky high. After finishing Klonopin, I was in the ER one day and mentioned benzos. “Withdrawal lasts only a month,” the doctor so confidently said. HA!!!

    It’s absolutely amazing to me that word about these terrible drugs is so slow and SO PAINFUL for the people affected. But I have seen the part I play in this. After that run-in with the doctor about withdrawal only lasting a month, I never told any of my doctors about benzos. And I’ve been to many, many doctors.

    After over 5 years, this still isn’t over. I made many mistakes and have sensitized my CNS too many times. I’m learning, but it’s been a very slow process.

    My hope is that VERY SOON the correct information will get out (because there’s a lot of talk of benzos now, but the accurate information is very hit and miss) and doctors will FINALLY be able to give correct information instead of giving people very dangerous, clueless info. Rehabs ought to be banned for benzo patients.

    Thank you for this. I feel so, so sad that people have taken their lives because of benzos, but there are many others who have also, yet their loved ones don’t know why.

  • These were EXCELLENT podcasts!!! I’m so thankful and thrilled that there has been such a sea change in getting the word out and in having such eloquent and intelligent speakers. James, you did a wonderful job asking all the right questions. The podcasts were phenomenal. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

    I have been hampered by neurotoxic brain injury for almost 4-1/2 years after the last dose of Klonopin (I cold turkeyed .5 mg. Ativan before switching to K). Like many others, it has been a very difficult journey. Now I have a few symptoms which persist, one especially difficult which has been with me since the beginning. Unfortunately, I developed PTSD as an offshoot of all I’ve gone through and spend most of my time alone.

    Wishing the best to all of you and indeed hoping that benzos will be understood SOON by the medical community and that informed consent is a common practice. Hoping there is some sort of genetic test to pinpoint who will suffer.

    Again, I am THRILLED that such informative, wonderful podcasts were aired on World Benzodiazepine Day!!!

  • Excellent article, Dr. Breggin! I’m so happy that you keep writing articles and talking about this terrible tragedy. I find that major newspapers remain mum about what drugs were being prescribed to shooters. In the case of benzodiazepines, I have found complete ignorance (or not wanting to face the truth) from doctors. They seem to assume it’s not the pill’s fault. In fact, they side with the drugs and not the patient who is suffering. This has GOT TO STOP.

    THANK YOU for your continuing fine work!! You are a real gem!!

  • “Many prescribers don’t realize that benzodiazepines can be addictive…”

    I wish people would stop using that word “addictive” or “addiction.” It puts the onus on the patient rather than where it should be. Iatrogenic dependence is the phrase that needs to be used. There are very few who take benzos who are addicts. They’ve instead duly taken their pills as prescribed by the doctor. Ativan and Xanax have such a very short half-life, however, that the patient is left with even more anxiety due to the GABA having been hijacked by the benzos in order to enable the calming effect, which in turn causes glutamate to begin to run rampant. This causes tolerance withdrawal. The patient must either up their dosage or switch to a longer-lasting benzo (Valium is preferably better over Klonopin).

    I wish I had known all this, but I didn’t start researching until I had terrible vertigo while out walking. No one told me anything about benzos except my sister. When I told her about taking Ativan, she said, “I hope you don’t get addicted.” But I wasn’t worried because I wasn’t “one of those people.” A lesson learned the very hard way…

    I’m so glad that there are more and more articles about benzos. At four years out, I don’t know how long I have to go to be rid of the terrible CNS damage. Thank you for this, Zenobia!!

  • My heart breaks for your story and for all you have gone through. I was just reading about benzodiazepines and know from personal experience how very potent they are. I can’t believe that doctors remain extremely ignorant and STILL CONTINUE prescribing them past two weeks. Imagine, this has been going on for over 50 years after Valium came out. These terrible drugs need to come out of the woodwork as one of the worst pills taken past two weeks due to the dependency issue. I’m so sorry that your wife became dependent and couldn’t get off. It seems that that’s what started the domino effect of your child’s life. It is very sad.

  • I had an eating disorder long ago. It started out with my sister always worrying about her weight, so I started weighing myself. Maybe I wanted to be in solidarity with her. But I also had a lot of feelings of lack of self-worth. I was a hideaway binge eater. I remember that I would hardly eat anything for three days, then by the fourth day I’d eat a tremendous amount for my body weight and spend hours on the couch, my skin hot to the touch and feeling very sensitive and raw. I hid like this for a terribly long time. I went to an OA group one time, but couldn’t stay there. I felt uncomfortable. I was of normal weight. I went to therapy for awhile, but the woman had a hard time believing me.

    What stopped it was one day shortly after I was married. There was a turkey dinner, and I was eating the grease from the turkey and consuming a lot of food. I went upstairs to throw up (I didn’t usually do this) and heard a voice tell me that if I continued to do this, I would die. That voice made me so scared that I quit. However, I didn’t quit weighing myself. It wasn’t until I was hospitalized that I realized the uselessness of weighing. That was entirely freeing. I haven’t weighed myself since – almost 6 years ago. Yet my weight remains pretty much the same. I can tell by the jeans I wear. I don’t follow any diet.

    I think there can be a lack of self-worth in ourselves as people. I used to hear my family talk about so-and-so and what people looked like. It seemed that there was a great deal of interest in how someone looked and not in what they did. I internalized that. I put all my worth on a scale, and if the scale didn’t say a particular number, I was very depressed, many times prompting binges. It was all or nothing.

    I haven’t thought about this for years and at that time took no drugs for it. Personally, I think it’s best to go to someone to find out the source of the problem. I didn’t realize I had lots of rage and covered it up by eating, sedating myself, so that I wouldn’t have to confront my feelings. Feelings weren’t something that I could talk about with my family. Drugs, in my opinion, would have made me numb, but wouldn’t have solved the problem.

    A very good article, Julie, and I would hope that more people would be aware that, although a person is of normal weight, they could very well be a binge eater.

  • Oh, yes, the cognitive effects can last for a very long time, even years after stopping the drug. Reports are just trickling in, but benzos in the meantime are still being given past the 1- to 2-week period. I think 2-4 weeks is far too long. People become dependent very easily on these drugs.

    I think studies have been so few because this seems like a miracle drug to doctors. It works fast, people seem pleased, and all is well, right? Well, not so. The damage is being done to the nerves. And since nerves are all over the body, problems can cover a huge range.

    I wish I could redo my life. I would NOT EVER take these pills again. I would say to anyone, if you want to get off, go very slowly. That way the CNS is less compromised. It’s all about the neurotransmitters. You have to take care of them.

  • You’re comparatively lucky, Melissa, that the neurological damage from the benzos didn’t go on after stopping them. There is a sizable population of people who suffer for YEARS after the last dose. Not only did I suffer while on the benzos and tapering (I did make a mistake and cold turkeyed .5 mg. of Ativan. I was taking 1 mg. Ativan periodically and didn’t realize I’d built up a dependence, a terrible thing to do), I was switched to the infamous Klonopin. I didn’t know any better. I would have chosen Valium, a milder drug that has a long half-life. Both A and K are horrid. I have been in hell for almost 4 years after the last dose. Though symptoms are slowly getting better, the operative word here is SLOWLY.

    I’m surprised that doctors won’t recognize this as a huge medical disaster. People who take these drugs say they need them because they’re “anxious.” Well, the reason why anxiety persists (and WORSENS) is because the drugs conveniently hijack the GABA, those important neurotransmitters that are calming. In rushes the glutamate. So when a person becomes dependent on the drug and has to take more, it is because of the decreasing GABA and the increasing glutamate, the excitatory neurotransmitters.

    Yet some people get off these drugs easily THE FIRST TIME. No one knows why. Others are left with debilitating symptoms, not knowing why, with numerous trips to the ER or hospital.

    Something has GOT to be done about these drugs. I can see them for triage purposes, but not for long-term (meaning over a few days) use. You should not even take them for three weeks. Some people are that sensitive. I knew someone who took Ativan for 19 days, and she spent more than a year in recovery.

    Will we ever reach the doctors? I myself don’t say much about my plight to doctors. They look at me as if I’m on another planet. It’s useless. I just suffer in silence, but my poor family has taken quite a hit. The effects of this will be with them forever.

  • There are many ways to go in BB. They have General Taper Plans, Titration Taper Plans, and Substitute Taper Plans. Anything you want. I haven’t found that it “uses the Ashton Manual like a bible,” although people can adhere to that if they choose to. There are many doing micro tapers, and they have a Daily Micro-Tapering Support Group in which members give advice, etc. There is a Long Hold Support Group as well.

    I was on a different forum at the start of my taper, and they didn’t offer any of that. I wish I had been with BB at that time.

  • You’re fighting to save YOUR life. I get that. No one is going to take your benzo away if you act like you are here, fighting to the death to defend them.

    No, I’m saying that there are people who have committed suicide and who, like me, are years out from the drug and still having problems. There are people who are now taking the drug and have terrible side effects. What tipped me off to the fact that Ativan was causing damage were the dizzy spells I got. When the dizziness turned into vertigo, I knew I was in trouble. I received NO help from doctors. NO help at all. They didn’t understand and still don’t. We need to educate them. They apparently get a lot of their info from pharma reps, who know nothing and simply parrot what they’ve heard from their superiors.

    We need to defend these people who have taken benzos and have suffered immensely, have lot their incomes, their families, their friends, their whole way of life as they knew it. Maybe we were too trusting with our doctors. We weren’t familiar with “don’t trust your doctor” yet. We need to get this out into the open, where it belongs, and WE WILL. We’ll keep pushing, and neither you nor anyone else can stand in our way.

  • You’re the type of person we, as fellow survivors, have had to fight for almost 60 years. You’ve had your time to be heard. Can’t you get it into your head that some people have suffered damage to their CNS because of benzos? Maybe you got off scot-free the first time. Don’t ever take them again. They’re like playing with fire.

  • Excellent article, Angela! Thank you for bringing benzo awareness to the fore.
    I feel sad, having been stuck in this for 40 months now. I’m still having terrible chemical anxiety. I have thought of death, yet I know I won’t do anything because I have a son to think of. I keep looking at the end of this, wanting so much to be there.

    WHEN will doctors understand this? WHEN? I get nothing but stares. I’m sick and tired of it. Unfortunately, the chemical anxiety makes my blood pressure go frighteningly high, yet the pills don’t seem to do anything when I have this type of anxiety. It is pure agony.

    THANK YOU for your work, Angela!!!

  • Unfortunately, I’m having awful chemical anxiety today (40 months out) and cannot write much, but I want to THANK YOU, Jocelyn, for all you’re doing for the benzo community. You have been tireless in your efforts to sound the alarm about these drugs.

    I’ve been to a number of medical people and have, many times, been given a diagnosis of GAD. However, I have NEVER in my life before benzos experienced the debilitating chemical anxiety that I have. I have often thought of what it would be like to die, yet I have a son to think of. Normally I would never have those thoughts, but going through this has caused me to think of them.

    Blessings to you, and keep up the excellent work!!!

  • Thanks so much, Alison, for keeping us up to date on this! It’s so needed! So happy this hearing took place, and for many it’s been very, very difficult recounting their stories. Finally, after half a century, something is being done.

    I never would have known such a thing existed if I hadn’t gone through it myself. It’s been over three years now and not healed. I continue to have hope, though. It’s hard speaking to doctors and nurses about this subject. They have no clue. It is disheartening and frightening to know that I am not understood and that my anxiety becomes something that a drug will cure. In reality, time is the true healer, and throwing more drugs into the fray makes the whole benzo journey that much more difficult.

  • Thank you, Richard, for attending the forum discussion and for speaking out about benzos. Yes, you’re absolutely right. It is a Mount Everest to climb.

    I believe that whatever pill a doctor prescribes, he/she must also possess the tools to get the patient off slowly and safely. It seems only right that doctors have this responsibility. I think we wouldn’t find as many people on drugs if that was enforced. Unfortunately, this isn’t taught in medical school.

    Thank you so much for your dedication and work!! I appreciate it very much!!

  • I am so thankful for Richard’s answer, ever ready for the truth regarding benzos to be told. And thank you also to Steve. You both make a world of good sense. It’s such a joy to read about those who support us in benzo withdrawal. It is a very, very lonely journey. Most of us are groping around in the dark, searching for answers, and looking to the Internet, trying so desperately to find pieces to the puzzle. We know the pitfalls of going to a psychiatrist, and many of us shy away from doctors because we’re not believed. Benzo withdrawal can last for a very long time. I’m entering my third year shortly, and as a senior citizen, this has been the most challenging time ever in my life.

    Thank you two from the bottom of my heart.

  • I think the Medscape article doesn’t show ANY understanding of these pills at all!! I read the article and was angry. First of all, the term “as needed” is a loaded term when it comes to benzos. What happened to me is that when I took the pills sporadically, they built up in my system, anyway, and soon I developed anxiety and panic attacks. Naturally, since the bottle said “as needed,” I took another pill when the panic or anxiety reached high levels. That in turn caused a cascade of symptoms down the line, something I had absolutely no understanding of. I wasn’t given any warnings to speak of by the person who prescribed them to me. I didn’t realize that dependence on such a small pill (Ativan) could be so rapid. I do wonder if I was given a dose to take every day if I wouldn’t now be in protracted withdrawal, because I’m now in my 34th month after stopping Klonopin (the drug I was switched to because of its longer half-life), and it’s not over yet.

    Doctors DO NOT understand this drug. They tell patients that it’s okay to cold turkey or do a rapid taper, little realizing that it’s like ripping the CNS to shreds. Not only that, it can cause a kindling effect, which makes withdrawal that much more difficult and can cause the symptoms to last much, much longer, as in years. Doctors simply don’t know what we experience in withdrawal. It is horrendous. Only the very strongest can go through it. We are belittled, laughed at, looked at as if we’re from Mars, by doctors and family members. There is nowhere to get support except through online sources. Having been a member of BenzoBuddies has truly been a lifesaver. Who can understand what’s happening when the nerves have been shattered? I was out walking one day and felt my face go numb and slack on the right side. That was quite scary. Luckily it only lasted for about 10 seconds. And I could read posts from others who mentioned the same thing. In other words, I wasn’t alone. But it is sad that we have no one to confide in, in person.

    There are few people that I’m aware of who have abused these drugs. Most have been taking them as prescribed. Yet they are very, very potent. I can’t stress this enough. It’s easy for me to see how I became dependent so easily. Sometimes I would take two pills instead of one. I had reached tolerance withdrawal. One pill wasn’t enough at times because of breakthrough anxiety due to the pills. I had never had a panic attack before benzos, and although I was nervous at times, NEVER have I suffered the type of anxiety I have gone through while on the pills and after. Then I developed vertigo, which was quite scary because I’d never experienced it before. I had high blood pressure as a result of benzos and would take a couple of pills before seeing the doctor. I was careful to make certain there were pills left in the bottle at the end of the month, but if I think back then, I know there were times I was sweating it out.

    Some people get off these drugs the first time easily. I wasn’t one of them. I wish so much there was a test you could take to determine if you’d have a bad reaction to the benzos. It’s been nothing short of hell, though in my 34th month out, I have regained a sense of normalcy in some respects. I still have anhedonia and anxiety. My head still feels “stuffy.” I get dizzy every day. But I’m no longer agoraphobic, and I don’t have to lean against a building for 20 minutes to wait for the dizziness to pass. Most of my other symptoms have left, only showing up periodically and then leaving. I am left with the most stubborn of symptoms, but I truly am looking forward to complete healing, even if it takes another year. (I was only on the drugs for 20 months, and that included tapering.)

    The benzos are a very misunderstood pill, especially by doctors. I had one doctor, who saw me in the hospital when I ended up with hyponatremia after I stopped Klonopin, tell me flat out that the drug was out of my system (after a month) and that I shouldn’t have any symptoms. He forgot one very important thing: the CNS, which has been badly crippled. And nerves take a very long time to heal.

    “The average daily benzodiazepine dose was equivalent to about 2.8 mg/day of Ativan (lorazepam, Valeant), but 11% of the patients were getting what the literature has deemed a high dose, which is 6 mg/day of Ativan or more,” she said.

    Another thing doctors don’t understand at all are the doses. 2.8 mg. of Ativan is A LOT. I was only on .5-1 mg., and that was enough to cause extensive damage.

    “The majority of the patients in the sample (60%) had been receiving benzodiazepines for 5 years or longer.”

    Doctors need to realize that this pill CANNOT be prescribed this long unless it’s a severe case. These pills should only be prescribed for two weeks maximum, and then safely tapered down. I know someone who was on Ativan for 19 days. A year later she was still going through symptoms because she had just stopped taking the drug and didn’t taper. (Actually, I think personally that they should only be given out for days. That’s it.)

    The doctor had better be willing to give informed consent if a case is severe enough to warrant a longer go of benzos. Also, to be knowledgeable about the many and varied symptoms a person could have. Few doctors are aware of this. Wikipedia has a good sample. That’s a good start. I say “good start” because there are many more symptoms than are reported there. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzodiazepine_withdrawal_syndrome

  • And you are right about the ridiculous tapers that doctors prescribe. Even pharmacists are guilty of this.

    If I had done a micro taper or a slower taper, I think I wouldn’t have had the extreme amount of symptoms barraging me. I had no idea how potent these drugs can be, and I’d been dependent on Ativan for quite awhile. I went too fast in my Klonopin taper, and now I’m paying for that. I see a lot of mistakes I made during the process, but it’s all water under the bridge.

  • Richard, thank you for supporting H4062. I just listened to the hearing. You have a strong voice, and I hope that this passes.

    At two and a half years out, I’m still not healed. I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that, due to the impairment of the nerves. an antibiotic or some other drug given may cause heightened anxiety in a former benzo patient. This may be years after the last dose and suddenly the person is thrown into the cataclysmic state that they experienced when first getting off benzos. The CNS remains very sensitive long after the fact for a lot of people. Doctors don’t understand this. They’re answer is “the drug is out of the body.” But the nerve damage had already taken place when the drug was given. The nerve damage can continue for years.

    Since I took benzos (Ativan and Klonopin) and am now considered as having a “generalized anxiety disorder,” there is nothing I can do to explain to my family and the doctors that this is the result of the benzos. They won’t hear of benzo damage lasting this long. I can’t defend myself because doctors don’t believe it either. All I can hope is that someday the news about benzos lasting for a very long time will come out in the open. By that time I plan to be healed. But it will help those suffering for an extended period to not feel so terribly alone.

  • Jyl, thank you so much for your story?

    Would you mind saying what drugs you were on that caused your interest and passion in artwork to disappear? How long was the interest gone? I’m asking this because at 23 months off benzo drugs (was on Ativan, then was switched to Klonopin to taper), I’m still experiencing anhedonia, with no interest in former hobbies/enjoyment.

    I’m very happy that you’re able to do beautiful artwork again!!

    Thank you very much!

  • Thank you for your answer, Katie, and I agree wholeheartedly with your comments.

    “In the absence of objective measures of both disease and recovery, it is unacceptable to discount the subjective experience of the patient. The perpetuation of this sham requires agreement amongst all of the licensed professionals employed in the mental health system, to follow the doctrines issued by Biederman and his like-minded colleagues, and deny their professional duty to patients.”

    Very well said.

  • Unless doctors read the raw data of clinical trials, they don’t get the full story. Reading Dr. John Abramson’s book, “Overdosed America,” he took the time to research the raw data in clinical trials when he had questions in his mind about some of the drugs. That’s when he realized that the trials were shams. “Psychiatry Under the Influence” takes a deeper look at the issue.

    Big Pharma has woven itself so completely in the medical system that it’s going to take a very long time to unravel all the damage that’s been done: Doctors getting perks from pharma companies; pharma reps touting the newest pills; primary care doctors being given very little information in medical school about drugs yet prescribing them daily (which seems unbelievably incredible to me – and quite frightening); medical schools funded by Big Pharma; Dr. Califf a bedfellow of Big Pharma. These are only a few of the huge obstacles that need to be faced. But will they be?

    The news about the truth of clinical trials generally comes out decades after the pharma companies have made a boatload of money.

  • Unfortunately, in my situation, primary care doctors have been clueless when it comes to understanding pills. I’ve been told some very incorrect information regarding getting off a blood pressure pill, for instance: “Just quit taking it and updose on the blood pressure pill you’re already on.” Well, that turned out to be rubbish, as I went through hellish dizziness, housebound, for a few days before figuring out my own slow tapering plan. Doctors say that patients need to taper slowly off drugs, yet the tapering plans they recommend are extremely fast in many instances (especially in the case of benzodiazepines) and can contribute to years of torturous withdrawal.

    Why are primary care doctors even allowed to prescribe drugs? I’ve read that they get very little information about drugs in medical school, yet they seem to be doing most of the prescribing these days. In fact, prescribing drugs appears to be one of the fundamental aspects of their practice. Please correct me if this is wrong. Their continuing cluelessness about drugs, their side effects, interactions with other drugs a patient is taking, and poor knowledge about how very toxic drugs can be to the CNS continue to floor me.

    If doctors are listening to, and believing, what pharma reps are telling them about drugs, that is another very dangerous slippery slope. From what I’ve read, pharma reps usually have little knowledge about pills except through information they’ve received and have duly parroted to doctors. And the information they impart is skewed to benefit big pharma and not the health of a patient. Of course they’re going to tout the benefits of the pills and discount the dangerous side effects. That’s their job – to push the drug!

    When will the insanity and stupidity end?

    Something has got to be done about this, and soon. And God help us, as even more prescribing will be done, due to depression screening, by primary care doctors who, for the most part, know next to nothing about drugs. There are those doctors who are very wise regarding pills, but there are too few of them.

  • I think that having those around us who are able to listen to what we say without judgment, without disparaging remarks, could do a lot to help lower depression. Instead so many people go to psychiatrists in order to have a listening ear, then they’re sent home with antidepressants, benzo drugs, or other pills.

    The depression screening raises a lot of red flags. Depression doesn’t stay forever, although we think it will. If someone went to the doctor, feeling depressed that day regarding a death or bad grade, for instance, and states on the form that they’re depressed, would that person then be given a prescription or would the doctor spend time asking about the source of the depression first? Would doctors even have time to do this? Unfortunately, the prescription pad has been much too handy for doctors. A person could end up being iatrogenically dependent on a drug simply by being depressed by a life event that anyone going through the same thing would be depressed about.

    Another thought is that a person could be depressed due to a drug that person was prescribed previously. What then? Doctors frequently overlook this fact. Would the person then be prescribed another pill on top of the one that was causing depression? Polypharmacy could result, further exacerbating depression and adding even more symptoms to the mix.

    I tend to think that depression screening is yet another ploy by big pharma to gain more customers. I have little trust in the medical system after what I’ve been through. The time it takes to taper off antidepressants and benzo pills, for instance, plus the added years for additional withdrawal, can last far, far longer than the initial depression that a patient originally had.

    In the U.S. there tends to be the notion that the more busy and productive a person is, the more that person is looked up to and admired by others. I wish that there were more people trained – in volunteer or stipend positions – to simply listen to what people have to say, maybe a cell phone/telephone service if the person calling would want to remain anonymous. Not a suicide-type service, but way before it gets to that. Someone on the other end of the phone who would listen, offer tips, and be genuinely interested in what the caller says, no matter how long it takes the caller to explain. There is too little of that in the world.

  • To the principal: What about the parents who don’t understand that what they’re getting into could be very risky for their child and for the family in general and could impact both child and family for years?

    There are all kinds of pitfalls here. Those of us who understand the dangers of pharma pills look at this with a much closer lens and see this in an entirely different – and I would say very realistic – light.

  • Thanks so much for this article, Sera!

    I can’t help but think that this SOS curriculum is an attempt to lead the way into an “indoctrination into the fold,” so to speak, by big pharma. It’s chilling, to say the least.

    I used to work at a middle school in the office. Were kids upset? Yes. Were their hormones raging? Yes. Did some get in trouble much more than others? Yes. Were emotions out of control at times? Yes. Did kids get depressed at times? Yes. These used to be known as normal emotions during pre-puberty and puberty, and for the more difficult students, parents getting together with counselors and teachers to work on good strategies was used frequently to help solve problems.

    Now it seems as if big pharma is taking advantage of this period of time in a child’s life to start developing the idea that these pre-puberty/puberty emotions are NOT normal and need to be “quieted” with pills.

    The younger, the better to indoctrinate into the muddy, slimy world of pills that will be difficult to get off of once started, not to mention being labeled in medical records for years afterward or for life. Many parents, wanting the best for their children, are likely to follow whatever is suggested by the SOS curriculum UNLESS they understand the bottom-line message.

    I feel for the parents who don’t understand that this is what is happening. Fortunately, Sera, you DO understand the underlying message. I just wish that parents would see what is truly at stake here.

  • 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.

  • Richard, you took a tremendously strong stance and showed great courage. Bravo!!

    What will it take to move the mountain of ignorance and greed? I truly believe that it’s going to take a grassroots movement to become one very strong and forceful voice en masse. Certainly there are doctors who feel the same way we do regarding opioids and benzodiazepines, but their voices have been too faint.

    Regarding benzodiazepines, I’m stunned at what I’ve heard from so-called “professionals,” doctors, when they expound on their “knowledge” about this class of drug. It would be entirely laughable if it weren’t so sad. There is absolutely no consensus in the medical community as to what constitutes a high or low dose, how long the drug ought to be taken (1-2 weeks in my mind, having been dependent on Klonopin within a 3-week period of time), what a proper taper is, what withdrawal symptoms a patient is exhibiting during withdrawal (it’s not that uncommon for a patient to have 50+ symptoms during the course of withdrawal), and a foolhardy lack of knowledge to even identify that a patient is presenting with signs of benzodiazepine withdrawal AT ALL during a doctor visit. Unfortunately, and all too dangerously, many doctors tell patients to simply stop taking the drug. How stupid is that? Extremely.

    I’ve been reading articles about the dangers of opioids a lot lately, yet benzodiazepines within that same dialogue are still brought up in whispers, not loud enough to even make a dent in the discussion, not even important enough to demand much attention. What a terrible shame. Yet people have been suffering immensely for over 50 years now, many for very long periods of time – 2, 3, 4+ years after the last dose.

    THANK YOU, Richard, for your bravery, your deep compassion, your insistence on doing the right thing no matter what.

  • “There are certain basic medical principles that seem to go out the window in psychiatry i.e. that if a substance improves an emotion, it will have to be paid for with interest at a later date.”

    Fiachra, you are absolutely right. Pills for the most part only mask symptoms. They do not cure. The piper always has to be paid down the line, and meanwhile the interest has started accruing two- or three-fold while the drug is being taken if long-term. Rebound/withdrawal can be extremely difficult and can last for months or years.

    We need to stop the mindset that a pill will be a quick answer. Because it’s not a quick answer at all but is rather a very slippery slope. A slow process of damage to the mind and body develops over time. The person taking the pill no longer has control over his/her body.

    Yes, the piper always needs to be paid at some point, and depending on how high of a dose and how long a person took the drug, the cost can be extremely high.

  • Thank you for this very informative, well-written article, Johanna.

    I’ve been very unhappy to read that Dr. Califf has been nominated to head the FDA. My thought is that although he’s very knowledgeable, the botched clinical trials will remain, and there will continue to be ghostwriters and underhanded tactics to rush drugs through, in fast-track fashion, meanwhile burying important information that would be hidden from the public, as to the raw data of these trials, and probably from most doctors as well unless they do some solid research. Most likely doctors will use the shoddy clinical information via Abstracts and unknowingly prescribe drugs with dangerous side effects to their patients.

    It’s all about money. Patients are pawns in the medical industry conglomerate. We’re sitting ducks, basically. If we refuse to take the drugs that doctors prescribe, we’re known as non-compliant and can be dropped by doctors. Unfortunately, children, women, and the elderly are those who bear the brunt of the suffering. It’s downright criminal, and yet it keeps happening decade after decade with no end in sight.

    “Brave New World” indeed.

  • Warmac, I’m so sorry for what you and your son have had to endure. I believe that your son is making the right choice, to eschew all pharma pills in order to assist in repairing his nervous system.

    I was completely naive about pharma pills before being prescribed them. The only experience I had to compare them with was smoking marijuana in my earlier years. I’d had no problem getting off that, and I concluded that pills would be easy to get off of as well. Since finding out that I was entirely wrong and going through unbelievable withdrawal, I’ve done a lot of reading about drugs and big pharma. I read Robert Whitaker’s “Anatomy of an Epidemic” and “Psychiatry Under the Influence” as well as other books.

    Not ever again will I have the same trust in doctors, when it comes to drugs, that I had before. My feeling is that doctors in general know very little about drugs and especially about drugs taken long-term (that is, past a few weeks or even much less a period of time with benzodiazepines); nor do they know about all the interactions that may result from a number of pills being taken concurrently. I believe that they’re only guessing when they say that a drug is well tolerated for long periods of time as each body reacts to a drug differently. When two or more drugs are added to the mix, it’s anyone’s guess as to how a person’s mental and physical state will react.

    I wish all the best for your son. He sounds like a very intelligent man, and his terrible experience with drugs will certainly help him to be a strong advocate for himself in all matters now, not just medical.

  • In talking to my son about Adderall, he confirmed that it is very prevalent on his college campus. He’s working as a Ph.D. student and is close to finishing his studies. I’m so very thankful that he hasn’t taken this drug. Having seen me suffer throughout benzo withdrawal for a couple of years (over 27 months counting tapering), I think he’s more sensitive to the endless problems pharma drugs cause in general.

    The overabundance of Adderall usage on college campuses is extremely troubling. Not only would i ask where is the outrage, I also would ask why the doctors prescribing these drugs remain so completely ignorant and clueless about the devastating effects these drugs can cause? Why aren’t these drugs being monitored? Although doctors may seem to think they’re “helping” a student by dispensing the drug, the fact becomes very clear that students soon begin feeling that their continued performance in college depends on taking the drug.

    It’s also very troubling that primary care doctors, in particular, are not understanding that there is withdrawal that can last for months or years. I’ve read many posts from people who say that their doctor never told them anything about a particular drug or told them to just cut the pill in half, in order to quickly taper off, or that the patient can just stop taking the drug altogether. Most troubling is that they also tell patients that there are no side effects and that the drug is well-tolerated.

    What is our world coming to? Like another poster, it sounds ominously like “Brave New World.” Absolutely terrifying, really, when you think about it.

  • J. Doe, thank you very much for these very well-written articles. I have been in withdrawal for almost two years now. Although my symptoms are lessening to a great extent, there are still parts of my mind that feel like empty spaces. Will joy and excitement about my life ever return? I wonder.

    Unfortunately, I previously used the word “addiction” when explaining what I’ve been going through. That has stopped. I notice that some (or most?) articles on benzos also tend to use the word “craving” when speaking about these drugs. What craving? What feeling of pleasure? I didn’t ever have those. So that word usage connected with benzos has to be changed completely as well.

    I wish all doctors would read your articles. It’s baffled me that the uncontrolled prescriptions for benzos has continued to go on for over 50 years. But having read “Psychiatry Under The Influence,” about the misleading information concerning a Xanax trial that was mentioned, it seems clear to me now why Xanax has become the top-selling benzo drug. Doctors have unwittingly used this botched information to prescribe the drug to their patients. The result has been untold misery for many people. And I’m betting that a great deal more are in tolerance but are not aware that the reason is due to the benzo pills AND NOTHING ELSE. How many of these people have been or will be put on multiple drugs for symptoms that are due to benzos only? And why do doctors continue to have their heads in the sand?

    I’m optimistic that more articles are coming out about benzos. Yours are excellent.

    Thank you, J. Doe!

  • Another travesty. WHEN WILL THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY EVER WAKE UP???

    I cannot imagine how a baby could cope with benzodiazepines. It’s taken years for me to recover from benzodiazepines. I’ve been in withdrawal a lot longer than I ever took the pills.

    Why are doctors recommending these horrendous drugs except only in very, very short-term cases (days only)? The very life force of an adult can be sucked out quickly by these drugs. I can only imagine that infants must deal with much, much more agony that could indeed be very long term and may impact the rest of the infant’s life. The problem is that NO ONE KNOWS. Not even the “experts,” doctors.

    And when it comes to autism, doctors ought to start being very aware of the idea that drugs could cause this.

    Although doctors are known for not having enough time as it is to do research on their own, people’s lives are at risk if they continue to reassure patients that a drug will work, especially in pregnancy. The truth is that THEY DON’T REALLY KNOW. They’re just guessing. There are no guarantees with pills, period.

    And I’m so very sorry for your loss, ang. My heart goes out to you as well.

  • I’m hoping that this helps get the dialogue started about something that has been going on for decades and continues to this day. Will the presidential candidates face this problem squarely if confronted by global health experts? How many of the presidential candidates have ties to pharmaceutical companies?

    Unfortunately, doctors continue to use false information from botched clinical trials to guide them in prescribing pills to their patients. This is nothing short of criminal, these misleading studies, yet nothing has been done.

    I’m all for transparency. I do wonder, however, what will come of this with the presidential candidates. I feel that Bernie Sanders would definitely be one who would say yes to this. The others? I really wonder. Still, it’s a start. Something has to be done about the mess the U.S. has been in for decades with no restraint, literally leading to many deaths due to such faulty information. It’s a shame, a tragedy, a travesty.

  • Thanks for your reply, Bradford. I think reading what Robert Whitaker, Peter Breggin, Dr. David Healy, Dr. John Abramson in “Overdosed America,” and others have to say about the medical/psychiatric bedfellow system that’s going on would be helpful. I think any positive changes that are made will have to be done by regular, everyday people not wanting to take it anymore and marching, doing whatever we can to change the system so that we can all feel like human beings, that we’re listened to instead of in and out of the doctor’s office within 10-15 minutes.

    For me, no more benzo drugs. They’ve messed up my life considerably. I want to feel whole again, able to do what I used to without mental and physical torture.

    Good luck to you, Bradford!

  • Bradford, I was prescribed .5 mg. of Ativan as needed. I didn’t take it every day at all, but I started noticing right away that around 4 in the afternoon I would begin feeling anxious and didn’t know why. It was like the Sundown Syndrome or something. The bottom line is that I didn’t realize that I’m one of those persons who is extremely sensitive to pills.

    I landed in the hospital initially because I had a mini-stroke, extremely high blood pressure, extremely high platelets, and a bulging blood vessel on the right side of the back of my head due to the high blood pressure. These were caused by taking NSAIDS and stopping, starting and stopping. And I didn’t bother to check my blood pressure, which was terrible on my part. I was in a state of denial, really naive that OTC drugs could cause such a terrible thing. When I got out of the hospital, my bp still didn’t go down below 200, and my platelets were over a million, so I had to be admitted right back again. PTSD followed me around because no matter what doctor I went to, none of them were able to tell me what was happening. I ended up doing a lot of research on my own.

    Benzos, unknown to me, also made my bp swing like a pendulum. My bp would go very, very high, then would be normal. This was even after being on 3 bp pills, 2 at the maximum dose. Again, NO doctor told me that benzos could cause such a vast fluctuation in bp. It’s like they either don’t know anything about these drugs or they’re hiding the truth. I had so much dizziness and vertigo from the cocktail that I’ve had to get off the bp drugs just to feel that I could walk without immense fear of collapsing from the dizziness. I finally was able to get over the anxiety spikes and panic attacks that the benzos caused for so long (till probably month 20 out).

    Like you, I feel that doctors aren’t giving us the answers we need. I do research on my own, but I can say that I’m really afraid to see another doctor. I went to one in April, and she told me that I’d need to be put on a statin even though I don’t have a problem with high cholesterol. Without even taking any blood tests, she was pushing the drug. I’m going to need to choose another doctor. It’s a scary jungle out there with the medical community these days, and I wonder how much Big Pharma has proliferated and has really influenced doctors to a tremendous degree.

  • Making them pay for any treatment related to addiction and withdrawal – that would be great except for the fact that until medical begins even acknowledging that these drugs’ effects can last for years instead of not more than a month, nothing of substance will come about. I would think that treatment for those in withdrawal would be the best thing, but medical staff would find out very quickly that it’s not like heroin addiction. No, benzo withdrawal lasts far, far longer than that.

    This has been swept neatly under the rug. I’m betting that many doctors know how dangerous these drugs are but won’t say anything that would upset the “status quo.”

  • I agree with you on some points, Bradford, but I do not IN ANY WAY agree that benzos are not the problem. They cause immeasurable harm to the central nervous system, yet patients don’t realize this until they’re tapering and have actually gotten OFF the drug entirely. Nerve problems can continue for YEARS after discontinuance. This is a problem that is conveniently shoved under the rug. I’m wondering if one of the reasons it’s being shoved under the rug is that benzos are very convenient for doctors to prescribe.

    I absolutely agree with Barry that benzo use ought to be only 1-2 weeks max. That’s it. Unfortunately, doctors keep prescribing these pills because patients are unaware that they’re so terribly insidious. They can eventually suck the soul out of a person. Certainly that’s what I’ve been experiencing. And it’s an absolute travesty that the elderly are given cocktails of drugs. As I mentioned, the dizziness and vertigo I’ve experienced while on a cocktail of drugs besides benzos has been debilitating to the point of being housebound.

    Read “Psychiatry Under The Influence,” and you’ll get a history of psychiatry and the rise of the DSM, which is a way for psychiatrists to gather ever more “customers” to the Big Pharma “family.” I read about the marijuana use disorder. The ridiculousness of disorders cropping up each time a new DSM comes out would be entirely laughable if it weren’t so very sad. Will there be, at some point, a happiness disorder? I wouldn’t put it past the APA.

    Benzos remain a tremendous problem because they lull patients into thinking that they’ll solve problems and that people can lead better lives while on them. God help someone who decides to taper off or get off completely cold turkey (which I would NOT EVER suggest anyone do – extremely dangerous – taper slowly, by all means). Then you will find how difficult these drugs are to wrestle with. No one can imagine the living nightmare that awaits. I’ve heard over and over again that most people get off easily the first time. If that’s the case, then STAY OFF. Don’t go back on. The risks of kindling are very, very great.

    I wouldn’t be saying this if I hadn’t been going through absolute hell myself. And I’m STILL going through it, at 27 months out counting tapering (thought it was 28 months, but it’s 27). It’s been like a prison sentence. The months keep piling up. I’m getting better, and sometimes I have “windows,” thankfully. But most of the time it’s a true mental and physical battle.

    Anyway, I could go on and on about this because it’s been the worst thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life so far (and I’m 63). I’ve learned my lesson in spades to stay far, far away from these drugs for the rest of my life. The term “anti-anxiety benzo drugs” is a laughable oxymoron. You’ll get more anxiety than you ever dreamed after discontinuance of these drugs. Yet remaining on them is also difficult as tolerance builds up. In the end, I’m extremely grateful that I’ve gotten off the drugs no matter how torturous it’s been. Getting off the drugs is doable, but it’s very, very hard.

  • I agree totally with you. I worked in a convalescent hospital at 18 years of age, and although I knew nothing about pharma pills back then, I certainly was astounded at the number of pills patients were given during each round. And as you said, they were drugged up if noncompliant. Just a very difficult thing to see when young, and it’s made an immense impact on me now that I’m in my 60s. I will do everything in my power to not be put in one of those homes. The patients lose their sense of self, their dignity, their quality of life, their freedom. And they’re forced to take the pills. Very sad.

  • I need to add that I’m in my 60s, so I can understand what the elderly must go through while being on a cocktail of drugs plus benzos. I was prescribed Ativan for a PTSD issue. On Ativan my blood pressure fluctuated so wildly that I was kept on three blood pressure drugs. Less than 10 months after being prescribed Ativan as needed, I suffered horrific tolerance withdrawal and panic attacks. During these times I thought I was having a stroke. I’d had a mini-stroke less than a year prior to this, so it was particularly scary for me to go through this. I was switched to Klonopin, and at that point daily dizzy spells began as well as extreme vertigo (with the room spinning out of control for 20 minutes at a time). I thought for certain that I was going to die, but I made up my mind to continue with tapering no matter what. The decision to taper from Klonopin was easy, but doing so was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

    The dizzy spells have lasted for over two and a half years. That, and vertigo (which last less frequently after awhile, thank God) were so debilitating that I’ve had to taper off all of my blood pressure drugs while still going through benzo withdrawal. I still have one bp pill to finish tapering off of and remain dizzy most of the time. Altogether, counting tapering, I’ve been at this for 28 months. Gradually, symptoms have improved, but cognitive problems still remain as well as bad physical pain. I’m certainly not done with withdrawal yet and wonder if my joy and excitement about life will ever come back. Interests I used to have are no longer. In other words, there’s a blank space in my brain when I think of activities I used to be very involved in. I’ve remained agoraphobic and prefer being alone, still a shell of my former self. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS. Since doctors refuse to address the issue of benzo withdrawal lasting past a month, family and friends feel that those of us in continual suffering must be making it up or it’s all in our heads.

    Because I’ve experienced the dangers of being on a cocktail of drugs as well as benzo pills, I feel that elderly patients suffer tremendously from the numerous drugs they’re given. The combination of all the drugs can be a deadly cocktail, causing falls, fractures, immobility, and loss of exercise. I remember vividly going out and walking, how frightening that was. During dizzy spells while out walking, I’d have to lean against buildings for 20 minutes at a time. Intersections became dangerous to cross, not knowing if I would collapse or not. After awhile the fear of going out was so tremendous that I only did what I had to do and that was it. The dizziness is mostly gone while walking now, but I still suffer from dizziness at some point during most days.

    Will doctors ever come around to understanding that benzos are a particularly dangerous drug to keep giving to the elderly? Why has this been going on for OVER 50 YEARS with nothing being done?? I cannot understand this and am very angry.

  • I’m saddened that this keeps happening to the elderly. For one thing, drugs make it easier for the staff to handle their patients. Give the patient in room whatever an Ativan to quiet her down. Pills come in very handy for control purposes, and since they work so quickly, why not just keep up with a steady supply so that day and night shifts will be easier to deal with.

    Benzos are an insidiously dangerous drug. I’ve learned that the very hard way, being addicted to both Ativan and Klonopin. In the U.S. they ought to be a Schedule I drug, but instead marijuana is in that category. For some reason doctors continue to give their spiel to patients of “withdrawal shouldn’t last past a month at the most.” However, talk to a pharmacist and the story is usually very different. My next door neighbor, a pharmacist, clearly told me that benzodiazepine withdrawal can last for years. Why the disconnect between doctors and pharmacists? I feel that the truth is being hidden from the public. Few doctors want to part with this dirty little secret. Best keep the lid shut tight.

    Pressure from the public will be the only way to change doctors’ outdated and dangerous orthodoxy. Everyone else in the medical field seems too frightened to take a step, which I can understand since other colleagues may blacklist them.

    Why do doctors keep prescribing benzos to their elderly patients? Because they can.

  • Richard, THANK YOU SO MUCH for shedding light on the elephant in the room, benzodiazepines.

    I have struggled with withdrawal symptoms for almost two years, after an 8-1/2 month taper. I was prescribed Ativan for anxiety (and given absolutely no information on side effects and potential addiction). I was one of those patients who trusted what doctors prescribed for me (not any longer, though). Once I realized why I was experiencing such bad symptoms (by searching online), I asked my primary care doctor if he would help me taper off. He said no and prescribed Paxil, which thankfully I didn’t end up taking. Instead I joined an online forum and was switched over to Klonopin for three weeks, then began tapering off that. I’m still experiencing cognitive difficulties. It’s been nothing short of pure hell to get through withdrawal with all its very unpredictable, frightening symptoms.

    The tapering part of the process, although very difficult, was made a bit easier because I had a goal of being off at a certain date, which I looked forward to. The really difficult time has been going from month 12 to month 18, after tapering was finished, since I had no idea when symptoms would begin to let up. It seemed never-ending. In month 18 I finally began to see more accelerated progress, although I have no idea how to integrate back into society because I’ve been mostly agoraphobic.

    One of the most troubling aspects of benzos is that VERY FEW primary care doctors understand these pills, and very few know that a low dose is still very potent and can lead to a long withdrawal. No doctor seems to understand what “short-term” means in benzo usage. People have been addicted in a few weeks or less. I certainly was addicted very quickly to Klonopin.

    Also, very few doctors know that withdrawal can last for months or years. Two doctors flat out told me that withdrawal should last only a month, max. They both said it with such authority that I wondered where they were getting such incorrect and potentially dangerous information. Who is telling them this? Pharma reps? Word of mouth from other doctors? Botched clinical trials? I’ve heard of doctors telling patients to just quit taking their 8 mg. of Xanax, which can lead to seizure and a very protracted withdrawal. How is it possible that PCPs don’t understand the nature of the benzo pills they easily write prescriptions for? They seem to be, for the most part, clueless. Although no studies have turned up regarding the amount of ER admissions there are each year due to benzos, I’m betting that it’s a great number. I went to the ER a few times due to extreme anxiety while on Ativan.

    Unfortunately, lack of knowledge in the medical field about benzos has led to scant informative articles on the subject. The patient’s family and friends don’t understand why the person they see before them, who visibly looks okay, is constantly complaining about symptoms. The complaints (absolutely legitimate) can go on for months or years, leading family and friends to turn their backs or feeling that the patient is just trying to get more attention. Or the patient isolates himself or herself. We sufferers become part of a secret club of sorts that communicates with each other because there is little, if any, outside understanding or compassion, particularly from doctors who scoff at our symptoms and think it’s all in our heads. Lives have been shattered, bankruptcy has occurred because the patient couldn’t work, marriages have fallen apart, people have committed suicide because they can’t handle the continual torture of withdrawal and don’t understand why they’re feeling the way they do. Or the patient has had to give up and go back on the benzo drug.

    I can’t tell you what a breath of fresh air you’ve been, Richard, in bringing the benzo problem to light. Because there are no long-term studies done on benzo drugs, there’s no reliable information on how many people go through such hell in withdrawal, not understanding what they’re up against or for how long. Polydrugging is a very real problem because doctors don’t understand, either, and prescribe yet more drugs for the patient to take, all too readily, which can delay healing and lead to more side effects.

    Due to the exploding opiate epidemic, it’s time for benzos to come out of the closet and to be dealt with once and for all. Patients SHOULD NOT EVER be told by their doctors to just quit taking benzo drugs. They need to be carefully tapered off. Doctors need to get on board and research the drugs within this classification. Hopefully, because the opiate epidemic is in the headlines, benzos will also be a large part of the discussion also and will be researched INDEPENDENT of pharmaceutical companies.

    This is very long, but thank you again, Richard, for talking about a very real problem that could be an epidemic in itself, which few people recognize, and, mixed with opiates, can be fatal.

  • “Rather naive”? The doctor doesn’t understand that what he’s engaging in is potentially very damaging to the medical community as a whole in terms of ethics and “do no harm.” I certainly wish “no drug ads” would be a reality in the U.S. There’s a vast drug epidemic here, and not many people seem to notice or care. Drug commercials are ubiquitous. Meanwhile, medical and pharmaceutical companies reap tremendous profits from patients’ suffering. For the most part drugs mask symptoms and that’s it. Meanwhile, the drug may be causing offshoot problems in other parts of the body that could be much more harmful than the original reason for taking the drug. Drugs are not to be trusted and should only be used in dire circumstances or for short term. I’ve learned through very difficult circumstances. Had I been more aware, I wouldn’t have gone down such a rough path. But better late than never.