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Dear Doctor, What Do You Really Know About Benzos?

I’d like to introduce you to Gobbo Films’ new documentary project, As Prescribed. I’d like to reach out to those who have had personal experience with benzodiazepines and have learned about the weaning process, as well as those who have observed someone managing a harrowing discontinuation process. I’d also very much like to reach the unlucky survivors whose doctors offered a rushed taper plan or, even worse, encouraged them to stop taking a benzodiazepine abruptly, forcing them into a cruel cold-turkey protracted withdrawal experience.

Director Holly Hardman and Cinematographer Petr Cikhart with Dr. Jon Samet.

I hope that the film serves to enlighten, educate, and, in some meaningful way, to help end unnecessary suffering. There is much to do. One of my chief goals is to convince doctors and healthcare providers to do the right thing:

  1. Doctors/healthcare providers need to support patients through an educated taper.
  2. Doctors/healthcare providers need to consider whether or not they will continue to prescribe benzodiazepines for anything other than a short-term course (2 weeks maximum)

I’m a bit late starting this blog. I had plans to get this blog up and running in early January, but the site launch was delayed when I suffered a concussion this past December. On a pitch black winter night, interrupted for a few dazzling moments by a surprise fireworks display, I stepped off a deck while looking upward and fell smack dab onto flagstone — a direct hit to the left side of my skull. Fast forward through almost five months of unceasing post-concussion symptoms, and here I am feeling recovered, albeit a bit floaty with minor tinnitus.

In some ways, my concussion experience wasn’t altogether dissimilar to benzo withdrawal. Though to my surprise, the concussion laid me out in a way that Klonopin discontinuation never did. Perhaps my brain will always be vulnerable. In the months following my accident, I was too dizzy and concussed to function well enough to go about my regular routine, though my neurologist assured me that I would get better if I just stayed away from computer screens (ha!) and stress (haha!) and found time to get plenty of rest (√ — somehow managed that). But, and this is a huge BUT, there was no derealization, depersonalization, unceasing insomnia, weeks-long migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, malfunctioning vagus nerve, spontaneous choking, tremors, incessant itching, akathisia, excruciating pain…I hope you get the picture. For those of you in the know, does it all sound too familiar?

Let’s go back a few years — I was one of the lucky ones. I’m not saying that I was in any way lucky to have been prescribed Klonopin. Hardly. I was lucky because when I determined that there was no good reason to continue taking a medication that was given to me originally for CFS, then reintroduced after 9/11 for PTSD, my doctor supported my decision to stop. After all I was long past PTSD; I was feeling content and happy. I found the Ashton Manual on the internet, and my doctor listened when I told her about Dr. Heather Ashton’s research and the manual. Though there were complications, and it took longer than anticipated, I made it. Over 100 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines are written every year. It can be assumed that hundreds of thousands are in the throes of benzo tolerance and withdrawal without proper help or support from a doctor, and just as many whose central nervous systems are now being hijacked by the benzo beast.

As a community of sufferers, survivors, and awareness advocates, those of us who know the flip side of benzo use need to let our doctors and healthcare providers know that when we told them we weren’t feeling well, we were not asking them to make us feel worse. We were never asking to have our CNS so alarmingly compromised or so fully damaged that much of our basic human functioning was effectively destroyed for months, even years. Let’s demand that members of the medical and psychiatric professions stop prescribing these medications with the misguided assurance that they are safe and non-addictive. They are anything but that.

And to those who are still at the mercy of benzodiazepines, I say stay strong, be positive, and know that the brain wants to right the wrong. The brain is plastic, and wants to heal.

And know that we can effect change if we join together and speak out!

Please get in touch!