Maybe the word is finally getting out. It's about time. The New Yorker's April 8th edition features an article called Bitter Pill: Why do we know so little about how to stop taking psychiatric drugs? It follows the story of a young woman named Laura Delano, who began taking prescribed psychiatric drugs in her teens and suffered her doctors' layering on of more and different drugs (19 medications in 14 years) before she finally figured out for herself what her doctors weren't telling her, that to get well, she needed to go off the drugs, not take more.
I'd heard of Laura because she would be mentioned on Benzobuddies.org, a site I used to visit, where people tried to help each other wean off of the class of psych drugs known as benzodiazepines—Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan and others. She had gone public with her story on another site, Robert Whitaker's Mad in America. A Canadian benzo buddy of mine had met up with her for coffee, so,when I saw this in The New Yorker, I already knew her as a real person and I was just glad somebody was paying attention.
I have written before about Robert Whitaker's eye-opening book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, but it bears repeating. I bought copies for each of my kids with instructions to read cover to cover if they ever hit a point where a doctor suggested they or their family members be prescribed one of these drugs.
Laura Delano says it was reading Anatomy of an Epidemic that changed her life, gave her the idea that just maybe, instead of taking more pills, she ought to be taking fewer. It takes a long time to undo the damage these drugs can do to a person's brain, but healing is possible and she's recovering.
Sadly, there are many people like Laura, who have endured years of being polydrugged, and find little help or support from doctors when they try to get off. I think my own story, detailed in Accidental Addict, and endorsed by Robert Whitaker, is probably even more common—middle-aged women who are unsuspectingly damaging their brains with doses of Xanax so small they think surely it couldn't be a problem.
Here's the bottom line as I see it: if you are taking prescribed antidepressants or benzos but are just coping, not really doing well, maybe even coming up with weird new symptoms, please consider that your drug regimen might actually be your biggest problem. Please don't waste energy worrying if you must take on the label of "addict." The only question is, are you better off on these drugs or off of them? And don't rely on your doctor to have your back. His signature on the prescription pad will not save your brain.
Read Anatomy of an Epidemic. Check out the stories on Mad in America. Read my book. See if any of this sounds like what you're going through and then, please, get busy saving yourself.