I’ve received many phone calls lately from people who have family members insisting that they “listen to their doctors” even when the doctor’s advice is harmful. I too, had family members insist that I’d be better off following the advice of a trained, educated professional, instead of following the advice of people who had experienced benzo withdrawal—strangers on the Internet. I’m writing this post in hopes that it can be shared with family members to educate them about the plight of people in benzo withdrawal.

First, it’s important to understand that most of the medical community is woefully ignorant about the dangers of taking a benzodiazepine.  I know that it is hard to believe that in this day of age when information/knowledge is shared with a keystroke, that they aren’t aware of the suffering that benzodiazepines can cause, but that is the reality. (There is one doctor who is an expert in benzo withdrawal, Dr. Heather Ashton. However, many doctors in the US ignore or discredit her work.)

Those of us who have experienced withdrawal symptoms have been harmed by our doctor, whom we trusted. We took a pill that he or she prescribed. We took that pill in good faith, believing that it would help us. At some point, we realized that we were being harmed by the medication—slowly poisoned—our GABA receptors being destroyed throughout our brain and body.

When we turn to our doctors for help to get off of the drug, they often suggest that we taper too quickly, or that we go to a detox or rebab facility (where we will be taken off too fast), or that we stop taking the drug (which can be fatal), or that we begin taking other medications to help with the withdrawal symptoms, which can backfire and make us worse. Often, we are told that what we are experiencing is not withdrawal, but instead that we have developed a new mental or physical illness. We are sometimes told that we are addicts, when in fact, we are chemically dependant on the medication. The mismanagement of benzo withdrawal patients by the medical community can lead to dire outcomes. That is why so many people in benzo withdrawal are extraordinary cautious, and rightly so, to blindly put their trust (again) in doctors.

When doctors prescribe benzos with no clear understanding of how harmful they can be and then proceed to give erroneous advice on how to navigate benzo withdrawal, they do double damage. When family members insist that we listen to medical advice that we know is contraindicated in withdrawal, it adds to our distress. What we need most from family and friends is unconditional love and support.

We need to have control over how we taper or how we manage our benzo withdrawal symptoms once off. We do better when family members educate themselves about benzo withdrawal instead of them putting their blind trust and faith in the uneducated medical community.   We do better when family trusts that we are doing our best, following the guidelines of the benzo withdrawal community, and Dr. Heather Ashton, to heal from the damage the medication has caused.