UNTIL a year or so ago Jordan Peterson, the controversial University of Toronto psychology professor and famed self-help guru, was rarely out of the news as he battled for free speech and for reason over ideology. Then he suddenly disappeared from public life.
So welcome news for those who have been wondering what had happened to him has come via a podcast by his daughter Mikhaila.
In a moving interview with her, Peterson reveals that he is recovering from addiction to the prescription tranquilliser benzodiazepine, meant only to be given for the short-term relief of severe or disabling anxiety. He developed a severe physical dependency when his dose was increased to help him deal with anxiety over his wife’s terminal cancer diagnosis.
His daughter took him to the only place she could find which could give him the emergency medical detox he desperately needed, which happened to be Moscow.
In the podcast interview at the end of last month, which you can watch below, a still fragile-looking Peterson, speaking for the first time since his illness, says virtually all of his remaining symptoms have disappeared.
‘I’m still weak if I get up and walk around, I don’t have my stamina, but I can think clearly,’ he says. ‘I’m back to my regular self.’
Anyone familiar with the toll benzos take on the body and their long-term consequences will not be surprised to hear Peterson’s warning of the dangers of taking these drugs for more than a few weeks.
‘People need to know this. It’s not good. Those drugs are for short-term treatment of stress-induced anxiety,’ he says. ‘It’s quite shocking to me actually that I didn’t know, despite my professional speciality, that I had no idea how catastrophic benzodiazepine use could be.
‘It’s no overstatement to say that for me the consequences of benzodiazepine withdrawal were worse than death.’
Have a tissue ready for this interview with his daughter, who played a vital role in his quest for recovery, about his horrifying year.
More than a quarter of a million people in England are likely to be taking highly dependency-forming hypnotic medication far beyond the recommended time-scales. As there is evidence that long-term use of BZDs causes adverse physiological and neurological effects, and protracted withdrawal (with associated complications), this represents a serious public health problem.
Further information about benzodiazepine addiction can be found here.