Benzo Buddies is in fact a dangerous place especially for the vulnerable. It is not a support group at all if anything it is a place where people go to commit mental suicide and sometimes actual suicide. I should know I was one of those people. A little bit of backstory: I have been on 3mg alprazolam for over 10 years that is 1mg 3 times a day and I have hit tolerance long ago. It does not do anything to me anymore and I do in fact get interdose withdrawals.
Now not everything that they say is wrong but that is the thing about these places: it has a modicum of truth to support the rest of its crazy. So things like withdrawals, interdose withdrawals, tolerance, dependence, etc. are all very real things but with that said when you add a group of very hyperaware people into a group you are going to have disastrous consequences and this is exactly how it happened to me. Long story short was this, I was going to die.
With my myriad of health problems on top of my mental issues, I had it in my head that there is no way I could put my body through the ringer like these people have done and go through that amount of suffering for that long. If these people who also have mental health problems are basically doing everything short of dying all day every day, what chance does a guy have who was newly diagnosed with congestive heart failure, addison’s disease, diabetes, late stage rheumatism, macular degeneration, asthma, and a low seizure threshold from the meds? Over a period between 28 to 35 my body fell apart with this series of maladies.
My reason for needing to come off of the benzos I had been prescribed was quite simple. I had other deadly issues that I needed to deal with and the combination of meds could be fatal. Similar to taking alcohol and benzos one may potentiate the other or have an adverse affect. I was very scared.
I went to Benzo Buddies because when looking online you see three types of information on benzo withdrawal. You see the “detox” centers that make up about the first 5 pages of a web search like a vulture. Next you will see Benzo Buddies which is almost exclusively the only group for people who talk about benzos at all and lastly you find a few sparse abstracts from studies done on PubMed. There was not a lot of information out there, so I made the dire mistake of joining Benzo Buddies.
From day one I was welcomed. But creepily, I noticed a strange trend. I came into the whole idea of getting off the benzos with a sense of positivity and that left very quickly when I saw the flood of “OMG I WANNA DIE, JESUS SAVE ME NOW” posts. I was startled. I felt sorry for them and then I started reading their stories. Honestly it scared the hell out of me. I mean come on, they have a manual and everything and it seemed they had the market cornered and knew just what to do about it. But no one was getting better unless by better you mean they aren’t killing themselves everyday, which did sometimes happen.
The more I read the more disturbed I became. Out of my many diagnosis one of which is OCD. I couldn’t get the stories out of my head – it was starting to take over my life. Surely thousands of people as a collective cannot be wrong, right? I got very depressed, I began thinking even if I go into a detox program my body could not handle the major sedatives that it would take to ween me off and even if it did I would be in hell. I am agoraphobic and co-dependent. I have not been able to ride ina car or leave my wife’s side for more than a few minutes in years. I would die alone, all alone in some phenobarbitol haze in a run down detox center that was built for opiate addicts and drunks. Pretty much a prison for those in psychological despair and even after that I was told that the withdrawals would last years. I would be in an unbelievable hell for an undefined amount of time and screaming and crying trying just to keep my sanity and in sheer terror and pain.
That is what I was taught at Benzo Buddies. There was no real healing and the further I slipped into the dark the more my brain although suicidally anxious, depressed, and still even then something in my brain kept telling me that this is not adding up.
When I first did research on my benzo (alprazolam) I checked for all the usual things but then the OCD took over. I have called Pfizer’s medical support team to see how it is manufactured I was gathering all the data that I could to combat my ignorance and by the end I found quite a few problems with Benzo Buddies belief in “healing” which just seemed like a place to scare the hell out of others. Here are a few things I learned after doing research, talking to dozens of pharmacists, reading medical journals and abstracts from previous studies and the like.
1. There is no such thing as a stable blood plasma level of benzos in your blood, ever. Depending on what benzo you are taking differing things such as smoking, eating, your age body type, body weight, lifestyle choices ect. All of this is going to change the amount of benzodiazepine in your system every single dosage every single day. Some medicines will make it stronger, some foods weaker. There is no real baseline. So how in the world were these people who are suffering these massive withdrawals having such effects when using water tit-ration and cutting a dose down by 1/300th of the starting dose? If they did not feel the effects of eating too closely to taking a pill or smoking or exercising which can drastically change the amount then why is a 1/300th of a drop affecting them so much?
2. The 1/300th number was not something I pulled out of a hat. Normally people would take the daily dosage, dilute it into 300ml of water and withdraw a certain amount. that should mean that in 300 days your body is cleared of benzos. But how did they factor in for manufacturer’s variances and stop-loss on the process itself? If such small cuts and even micro-tapering with a jewel scale using a nail file is so imperative. Why did they not notice that each pill you throw in your mouth before the taper could have had a +/- 20 percent active ingredient? How did they not feel that from pill to pill it could have varies so greatly but during a taper something as small as .03 is unbearable?
3. What about the people who you do not hear about? Sure, Benzo Buddies has a ton of people but not nearly everyone who has ever been on benzos. “Alprazolam is not only the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine, but it is the most commonly prescribed psychotropic medication in the United States, accounting for more than 48 million prescriptions dispensed in 2013”. That number is only rising it is now the 11th most prescribed medicine in the world… PERIOD. That is just alprazolam that does not include its other benzo brethren. Now, if it basically had these crushing, debilitating after effects from a biological standpoint we would be in the mist of an epidemic that would be global and there would be so much information on the subject that there would be whole schools of science devoted just to it, but if you do a quick search you find very little. Just rehabs, Benzo Buddies, and a few abstracts.
4. What about the pregnant women, the elderly and the infirmed? These people have to be taken off these meds quickly at a much faster rate than most people on Benzo Buddies who often try over a course of years. What about them? Why are we not hearing en masse about the insanity of people screaming on the sidewalks unable to walk , talk, having massive breakdowns on a huge scale? Why is it so obscure and confined to one group?
5. The GABA idea. Yes when you have brain trauma it needs time to heal but what struck me as being off about the Benzo Buddies idea is the fact that 10-25% of people who are on benzos long term suffer from protracted withdrawal. During this time the brain is “healing” and could take years. But if it truly had a long lasting biological effect shouldn’t it happen to almost everyone who has been on benzos long term? I mean wouldn’t that number be much closer to 90% given that it is altering your brain and that those who do not have protracted withdrawals are actually the black sheep?
6. Everyday pains turn into withdrawal. If you break you arm and you take Vicodin and then 4 hours later you are in excruciating pain are you having a Vicoden withdrawal? No, you are feeling the pain coming back and you need a new dose. When you take away the benzos the same thing happens and it is much, much more noticeable with the shorter acting ones from my experience. You have a bunch of very anxious people, which is they they are taking the meds to start with and are hyperaware suddenly reducing or stopping benzos. Every smell, twinge, tickle, noise, etc suddenly becomes a withdrawal while remaining completely unaware that you felt and noticed all of those things previous to taking benzos and it is just now returning.
Mass hysteria is a powerful force. I have no doubt that these people are suffering but I often wonder if it is needlessly. If they had not had an outer influence telling them of the horrors of what life will be like, the hell they will go through and other needless war stories, how different would it had been? What brought us as a collective to search for a group to share this with? Mainly it is fear and it is fear that permeates Benzo Buddies and throws people into a state of utter dismay. It had me wanting to die and I felt hopeless until I realized that we are looking at just a small fraction of people who have ever taken the medication and not the millions upon millions who are off of it and who do not have to come there to cope. I almost lost my life because of them and that is not support. You never know who is reading nor do you know how desperate they are. To claim to be the pillar of knowledge on the subject to me is dangerous and irresponsible.
I have no doubt that the people there are plagued by anxiety and that what they feel is very very real but I also believe that it is cyclic. I believe it will happen therefore it does. I just hope others, even though scared out of their wits, will notice that seeing all the anxiety of others is not going to help them at all.