Death Grip: A Climber’s Escape from Benzo Madness

Matt Samet, Author
Matt Samet. St. Martin’s, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-00423-9
Paperback - 302 pages - 978-1-250-04328-3
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-250-02236-3
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Samet (Climbing Dictionary), a former editor-in-chief of Climbing magazine and an accomplished rock climber, unsparingly recounts his addiction to and withdrawal from benzodiazepines or “benzos”—the family of fast-acting minor tranquilizers that includes Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin. Samet describes how regularly pursuing the high-altitude sport in his teens provided him with an “almost transcendental peace” that “stood in stark juxtaposition to all the urban and childhood anguish” in his loving but less-than-stable family life. But this peace is soon disrupted by a series of panic attacks that produce in him “a terror like no other... my heart slamming... hands shaking violently.” Samet details each step in his long search to conquer his panic through psychopharmacology, which leads to addiction, “ferocious” withdrawals, misdiagnoses, overmedication, and hospitalization. Samet is no fan of the way “Big Pharma” encourages “drug-mongering” by psychiatrists to patients like him. But Samet’s admission of complicity in his drug problems—including “gobbling Valium like Tic-Tacs” while having an “on-and-off love” affair with marijuana, wine, and Vicodin—actually supports his belief that “benzo” users don’t always realize how dangerously addictive the pills can be. (Feb.)
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