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LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM

Bitter Pill Indeed

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.  

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Kind words for Accidental Addict

Because it's just about impossible to secure reviews for a self-published book, I entered my memoir, Accidental Addict,in the Writer's Digest Contest for Self-Published books, hoping to get some attention. When I didn't win, I figured I'd been ripped off for the hundred dollar entry fee just like everyone else who entered.
What a nice surprise, then, to now receive this short "critique." Somebody actually read the book after all. I've posted its entirety on my Accidental Addict web page, but these are the lines that pleased me most as a writer. We so want people to "get" our books. Also, as a human being healing from this trauma, nothing feels better than kindness, and knowing that my story has been heard:

"Her witty depictions of the depths she is forced to wallow in, over and over, will warm the heart of every other smart baby boomer woman who feels alone while surrounded by family and marks of alleged success. I dare anyone in that reader category not to consider Crew a personal friend by the end of this memoir." Read More 
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ACCIDENTAL ADDICT: a True Story of Pain and Healing....also Marriage, Real Estate, and Cowboy Dancing

I’m excited. I love crossing things off a To-Do list, and for almost four years now the only thing on it has been GET WELL. Now I’m crossing that off . FINALLY. I am so glad to be looking forward to a life that’s about more than struggling to recover from the nasty job opioid painkillers and the benzodiazepine Xanax did to my brain in conjunction with my total knee replacement surgery.

Maybe only someone who’s been through withdrawal from prescription drugs can fully understand what I mean by this, but that’s okay. I’m hoping my new book, ACCIDENTAL ADDICT, will help people understand what this long drawn out healing process entails. It's surely baffling to the loved ones of those in our situation.

More importantly, I hope people will read about my pharmaceutically-induced trainwreck and get the warning I never had. I like to picture somebody sitting in their doctor’s office being offered Xanax and going, “Are you kidding? You think I want to wind up like that woman in ACCIDENTAL ADDICT?”

ACCIDENTAL ADDICT: a True Story of Pain and Healing….also Marriage, Real Estate, and Cowboy Dancing. It’s gone to press—or however that should be put in the digital age—which is another huge item off my To-Do list!
To view a two-and-a-half minute YouTube book trailer,click here.

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The Death of Prince

When I heard Prince had been found dead, I right away thought: drugs. No, not necessarily a heroin overdose, but when people in ever greater numbers are dying too young–found dead—and there’s been no talk of going downhill from cancer, no car accident, well, the involvement of prescription drugs is certainly what springs immediately to my mind.

True, Prince’s autopsy report hasn’t yet been made public, but it wasn’t long before Percocet was mentioned, and today we get the story that Prince died just one day before a famous addiction specialist was scheduled to fly to his aid. This is revealed as a tragedy of timing, as if he missed being saved by just one day.

But it’s not that simple. When it comes to getting off narcotic painkillers, money’s little help. As I suffered through withdrawal coming off of Oxycodone after my knee replacement surgery, I’m sure a sympathetic doctor holding my hand and encouraging me would have been better than the help I got—which was basically nothing—but in the end, it’s all down to the addicted patient. The most famous, high-priced doctor around pointing out you have to stop taking the drugs will not spare you the horrors. Doctors don’t have a whole lot of tricks in their bags for helping people deal with this addiction—never mind that in so many cases the addiction began at the prescription pad of some fellow physician.

What they don’t talk about in most addiction stories is just how long a person has to feel perfectly horrid long after they’ve stopped “using.” Is this because so few people ever actually get off this stuff and have the story to tell? Even in tales of recovery, it seems to me the physical difficulties are downplayed. I wonder if it’s possible that addicts feel they’ll sound whiny if they talk about this. Maybe they think others wouldn’t be sympathetic because they are, after all, addicts?

Maybe that’s the way I felt before I went through this myself—as judgmental as the next person. Now I have nothing but the sincerest admiration for anybody who can get themselves off these brain-damaging drugs and stay off. Since I have nothing to feel guilty about, I have no problem speaking up and pointing out that withdrawal is truly hell, and our medical system better get its act together in a hurry to deal with restrictive new prescription protocols for opioids, and all the people who are soon going to be ushered off of their painkillers and into this horrid illness.

I’m hoping my upcoming memoir—Accidental Addict--will help shed light on all this. I’ve been receiving some wonderful pre-publication endorsements, including this one from Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Executive Director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing: "I hope this timely book gets widely read. Linda Crew’s experience has been shared by millions of Americans and many have lost their lives. The medical community has accidentally created an epidemic of addiction by overprescribing narcotics, and now everyone, including prescribers, needs to know how easily these drugs can destroy lives."

So sad about the loss of the talented and popular Prince, but for every famous person who dies this way, there are thousands who die without headlines, becoming only another statistic in the CDC’s alarming new reports of the rising rates of overdose deaths from prescription drugs.  Read More 
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