After months of silence, Dr. Jordan Peterson, the wildly popular Canadian psychologist, author, and political figure, joined his daughter on The Mikhaila Peterson Podcast to discuss his struggles with chemical dependence. In early February, Mikhaila posted a video explaining that her father had traveled to Russia in early January to undergo a sedated rapid detox for benzodiazepines. In that preliminary update, she lamented that Dr. Peterson had nearly died and had been in intensive care for weeks. On June 30th, having recovered enough to make a public appearance he recorded a moving interview during which he shares his personal experience with benzodiazepine dependence and withdrawal. He also comments on the “epidemic” of the over-prescribing of this highly addictive drug. He notes that while users who do not abuse the medication may not experience psychological dependence, physical dependence is inevitable and serious withdrawal symptoms can set in after ceasing even relatively low-level prescriptions. He also describes a condition called akathisia, which can be a symptom of withdrawal, and includes irritability, fidgeting, restlessness, and extreme discomfort. The interview concludes with an emotional but understated “Thanks for your help” from Jordan to his daughter. She responds, “Well, I wasn’t going to give up.”
It would be easy to comment on this story about the dangers of medically risky treatments like rapid detox, or to blame the medical community for over-prescribing, or even to deride Jordan Peterson as a hypocrite whose advice loses credibility. But as Dr. Peterson points out, if one waits for a perfect person to learn from, they will spend their whole life waiting to learn. The truth is that dependence and even addiction can happen to even the most capable, intelligent, morally upstanding people. And while recovery is not always easy, it is possible and it is worth it. And like Mikhalia, Cardinal Recovery isn’t going to give up!
If you have concerns about a developing dependence to prescription medications like Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, or other benzodiazepines, reach out for a confidential assessment.
[00:00:00] Benzodiazepine use. So using it. Well, this is part of the reason we’re doing this. This part Kastor video as well. It’s to let people know these are very widely. Prescribed drugs and they are not safe to take for more than two weeks or a month at the absolute maximum.
[00:00:20] And if you take them longer than that and you end up addicted, you’re going to be or dependent, which means that you’ll suffer withdrawal symptoms on their cessation. You are gonna be one sorry person. Some people, you know, have a better time of it when they stop their use than others. But enough people have a terrible time so that it’s an absolute. It’s a it’s a medically induced epidemic, it’s a complete bloody catastrophe here. It’s probably worse than the opiate epidemic. And that’s really saying something. So and I don’t know if I’m out of that or not. You know, I mean, I’m I have a hard time believing how much better I feel that I did two weeks ago.
[00:00:57] It’s it’s it doesn’t seem plausible. So, you know, it’s possible that things will just deteriorate for me again, although. I wouldn’t. I don’t feel like that at the moment. I feel like. Put back together in an important way. Fortunately, one thing I’ve been able to continue doing through all of this is I’m writing a new book and it’s it’s due in the middle of July, and that’s going quite well. And I was able to do that even when I was in these different clinics hospitalized and all these different clinics, although I don’t think I did any writing in Russia now.
[00:01:36] Not well, not until the very end. Yeah. The very end you did before we went to Florida. You were editing.
[00:01:44] Yeah, well, I remembered one other thing we’re going to discuss. You know, some people. OK, first of all. I’ve had a tremendous amount of support from family members and friends, like, really I mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again.
[00:02:00] People have gone far beyond the call of duty to help me and Tammy and I in the last year and a half. And there’s been an unbelievably.
[00:02:13] Massive outpouring of public support, which has really taken me by surprise in some sense because, you know, it’s one thing to be to express your condolences. If you’re discussing someone who, like my wife, is suffering from something clearly of her, not of that’s clearly not of her making cancer, for example, but a dependence is more ethically questionable. Right. Because you think well, everyone thinks, well, you know, what did the person the person obviously made some errors in choice that contributed to this.
[00:02:52] And that’s a reasonable objection. But and despite the fact that.
[00:02:59] There are many people who.
[00:03:02] Found that their opinions didn’t align with mine. Let’s say the proportion of negative comments I got about what I was going through was very small. So that was really something.
[00:03:15] But nonetheless.
[00:03:18] One of the things I wanted to talk to you about today was the. What’s the old saying, physician, heal thyself, right? I wrote a self-help book. I’m a psychologist. It’s like, what? Why the hell didn’t I see this coming? And. Why wasn’t I more cautious, and I think those are our reasonable question, why should people take it well?
[00:03:38] And then that’s the next question is why should people take anything I say seriously because of that and. I guess what I would say is if you’re going to wait to learn from people who don’t mistake, don’t make mistakes or don’t have tragedy into their life, you’re going to spend a long time waiting to learn something. And the second thing I would say is. In my lectures and my writings, I’ve never suggested that I was anything other than one of the people who also needed to learn this lesson.
[00:04:14] These last I was when I was 17 and had my ankle and hip done. I took OxyContin, a high level, high dose of OxyContin for a year. And getting off of that. I experienced physical withdrawal, no psychological withdrawal. So I know I like lots of people, aren’t aware of the difference between psychological and physical.
[00:04:33] And that’s how see the abuse. The difference between abuse and dependence.
[00:04:37] Yeah. And physical withdrawals means your body gets used to the drug that you’re on. And when you take it away, it’s as if your body’s missing something.
[00:04:45] Yeah. So with what I had with the benzodiazepines.
[00:04:49] Yeah. So it’s actually difficult to find. It’s nearly impossible to find physicians that know how to treat neurological damage done by benzodiazepines.
[00:05:00] And so, you know, maybe we’ve. Well, we’re confident enough that we’ve come out the other side of it, at least to some degree, that we were willing to. Risk making this. Interview this video. So, yeah. You know, the reason we’re doing it, apart from telling people that.
[00:05:21] They should be exceptionally careful with benzodiazepine prescriptions and like a very large number of elderly people are prescribed benzodiazepines. Most of them women. But plenty of men, too. And that’s. You do that at your peril. It also increases the risk of dementia quite substantially. So that’s a lovely additional benefit.
[00:05:43] So watch it. It’s. It’s a. It’s a catastrophe that benzodiazepine are being prescribed the way they are so broadly. And so there’s that. But then also. I don’t know how you’d say it. Because people had been party to my certain elements of my private life and me to theirs per perhaps that it was morally obligatory to. Bring people. Who are interested? Up to date on what’s occurred. So, so far, so good. You know, it’s been nice to see you and Andre get a break for at least a couple of weeks.
[00:06:35] And it’s been really nice not to be terrified out of my mind for one of the things with benzodiazepine dependence is it increases your seizure really after you stop taking them. So this is how serious to give an example about how serious this physical dependency can be is for some people, even on a low dose of benzodiazepines, if they become dependent on it and stop, they can have seizures.
[00:07:00] That’s how that’s how intense the brain changes can be.
[00:07:04] So you on each seizure increases the risk of the next one.
[00:07:08] You’ve been at a seizure risk for six months. You’re still if you’re not on anticonvulsants. So then. You have tremors everywhere and your seizure risk. That’s ridiculous, for six months after taking after stopping.
[00:07:24] Well, that’s very accurate. I haven’t completely. Well, it is interesting, too, because I was so appalled by what the benzodiazepines had done that.
[00:07:33] Well, I I went from four milligrams a day to zero last May, and that wasn’t. Tolerable.
[00:07:41] So I went back up north, part of the reason you did that, people would be like, why would you do that? You’re supposed to taper. First of all, if you don’t know about benzodiazepines, it’s not obvious that you have to taper. But we are. You have also went to a psychiatrist. Yeah. Deal with your worsening anxiety that you thought was mainly attributed to mom’s cancer. And his suggestion was try ketamine and stop the benzodiazepine. Right. So that was the first psychiatrist we tried. Yes. Right.
[00:08:09] And we went to we saw at least five of them in different areas before we got to Russia.
[00:08:17] So I don’t remember what. I think it’s one prescription either in seven or one prescription in nine in the United States is either for opiates or benzodiazepines. So that’s a huge obviously a huge proportion of the prescriptions.
[00:08:34] And there’s it’s very probable that someone in your family is currently taking benzodiazepines or will be prescribed them in the future for long enough to develop a dependence. It’s like people need to know this. It’s not good. Those drugs are for short term treatment of strip stress induced anxiety or for surgery.
[00:08:59] They are used in surgery and things, right?
[00:09:02] Yeah, but as a as a long term treatment, there are complete catastrophe.
[00:09:09] Yeah. And not everybody, like, you know, they’ll be the person or two that will say, well, I took them and I got off. Yeah. And that’s true. But if you it seems if you look at the statistics, if you’re older.
[00:09:22] Oh. And September saying they’d gotten off of multiple drugs and that benzodiazepines had been the most difficult by far on people with experience with opiates as well or heroin or something.
[00:09:34] Said benzodiazepines was a completely well I’d had bouts of depression before. Before last fall, let’s say, in my life, and I would have to say those were among the most. Among the worst experiences of my life, but I’d have to say that after searching long and hard for something that was worse than depression, I finally discovered it in our Zia.
[00:10:01] His depression was. Remember, we talked about that, right? And because you had suffered bouts of depression as well as the arthritis and. One definition we degreed on was that being depressed was like.
[00:10:20] Hearing that your dog had just died. Yeah. Remembering that continually and that is why they died.
[00:10:25] And yeah, you thought that and there was a dog you actually like a lot. You thought, well, that’s bad, but it’s not nearly as bad as depression. Not even close.
[00:10:34] Right. Not even close. I thought it was going to be as bad. But then my dog died and I was like, not. Depression is way worse. Sucks the joy out of absolutely everything came and see colors vividly, like the joy out of seeing colors which you don’t even think there’s joyous in it with that. But right.
[00:10:51] Cause well, with severe depression you lose positive emotion and gain a lot of negative emotion. But with this act, it’s easier. It was like all of the negative emotion associated with depression, plus a very high level of anxiety. Plus no positive emotion at all. Plus the inability to ever relax, even for a moment.
[00:11:13] And so it was.
[00:11:18] I wouldn’t recommend it, yes. Watch the hell out for.
[00:11:24] Benzodiazepines, they’re.
[00:11:27] Probably not your friend, or if they are, they’re not your friend for very long.
[00:11:32] Yeah. And one of the weird things I was prescribed Lorazepam for sleep. I didn’t take it very often because I found it didn’t work very well. Thank goodness.
[00:11:43] I think that for me. It’s no overstatement that to say that for me, the consequence of benzodiazepine withdrawal were worse than death.
[00:11:57] So, yes, that’s what it looked like from the air.
[00:12:00] Well, it it you know, you don’t want to say something like that lightly. You know, but. There were lots of times, plenty of times when.
[00:12:13] It would have been preferable, as far as I could tell, just not to be there then to experience what I was experiencing.
[00:12:21] When you when you’re in pain, people who are and I mean, being at a certain level of pain is like that. If you’re walking around and you know anything over, really, like a seven. Or in a you can’t stand it. Yeah. So that’s what it looked like from the outside.
[00:12:38] Well, the other thing that that that the benzodiazepine withdrawal did that was absolutely dreadful was produce a sense of time distortion. So this was really obvious when I first woke up in Russia, like. The first day that you and I could speak again, you were wheeling me around in the. Isle of the Corridor of the intensive care unit. We were gonna wheel. I was gonna be wheeled around till it was time for time to eat and. I must have asked you how many times in ten minutes what time it was.
[00:13:16] Probably. Every 45 seconds.
[00:13:21] Probably something like that, yeah. And that’s because for me, it felt like. You know, a substantial amount of time had passed an hour, two hours, something like that. Some terrible amount of time. And so not only was I in pain and experiencing extremely high levels of anxiety, the duration of time had extended so that it was really unbearable. It was like the days were just lasting forever. And that’s I think that actually disappeared quite a bit.
[00:13:53] As the Accademia disappeared and it isn’t the case now. Thank God.
[00:13:57] But it was it was brutal. It’s funny even now, you know, because it’s somewhat stressful to have this conversation. I can feel if I lift up my eyes, my eyebrows, a bit like you might when you’re interested in something. I can feel the. Tremors and tremors in my forehead. And that’s partly stress induced. So we should probably stop talking.
[00:14:20] Yeah. OK. We can call today. Yes, well.
[00:14:25] Was good to be able to sit here and have this conversation. We’re going to go eat a steak. That’s the theory. OK. All right. Well, thank you for talking with me.
[00:14:34] Wow. Thanks for. Thanks for being here. It’s been a hell of a year.
[00:14:43] Thanks for your help to.
[00:14:46] Yeah, well, I wasn’t gonna give up. And now we’re in Belgrade and seem to have found an answer. Thank God.
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