Thursday, November 17, 2011

On the Abuse of Xanax

In the NY Times of Sept 14, 2011, there is a front page piece on Xanax and its abuse.

It is an effective medication for anxiety. And it can be addictive. Indeed, any drug that reaches down deep to suppress pain and terror will be addictive, by definition. It is addictive if it works. 
So what do the chiefs want to do? Eliminate it; not exactly eliminate it, but not write scripts for it. And they want to do that because there is a great clamor for it. In short, it helps. So of course, they want to stop it. 
 In the accompanying photo is a woman who has debilitating anxiety attacks. For those whose defenses work, they cannot imagine what that is. But it is terrifying and no one seems to know what to do, except push it down. But what it if we finally know what it is, and instead of pushing it down we let it up in small doses and be done with it? We can do it and we do do it. And it is pure imprinted terror set down in the first months of life, and by that I mean during gestation and at birth. Once we know what “it” is we can start to find a cure. We have done exactly that, and it is no longer a mystery. 
 The earlier and deeper the imprint, the more pain, and the stronger the pain medication needed to quell it. Of course, it is addictive, meaning sufferers want more and more. Why not? If you had leaky gates, you would want it too. The original terror and pain weakened the gates holding it back and when that pain and terror was compounded later in life by a tyrannical shrieking mother, for example, then the gates are under assault. The results are panic attacks and bouts of anxiety (the same thing) that seem to come out of nowhere. It seems like nowhere, because the origins are so deep and so remote. It is not an abuse of xanax. It is the proper use of it, given the level of pain and terror involved. If you’re the chief doctor and your gates are solid as a rock then of course you cannot sympathize with all this.

If we are so worried about all this why not try to find out what “it” is and find ways to deal with it; maybe put it under some kind of control so that the users can be watched and helped. Then we don’t have to waste time pushing back all of those forces in the unconscious. Dr. Scott Hedges seems to think we don’t need Xanax at all. He thinks there is trouble in paradise because the patient habituates to it and needs more and more. Of course it needs to be supervised, but no eliminated. The chiefs are worried about withdrawal, which is a legitimate concern, but here again we can control withdrawal with so many new drugs (have they looked into oxytocin spray?). Let’s not stop the pain killers that ease the suffering of so many. Let’s work around it in order to control adverse reactions. If we learn what “it” is we will have a better handle on it. Making it an opprobrium to take something that eases hurt seems to have it all backwards. Let’s get it straight.


  1. I had a burst of pure terror last night like someone was holding my left foot from under the blanket. I woke up right away.It won't ring a bell for someone who haven't even start to feel such a thing. Thinking about one of Richard's comment about him being grasped by a giant hand...

  2. Hi,

    Isn't "it" amazing that so called chief professionals can still use that little word "it" to avoid the truth.

    Such a useful word isn't "it"?

    If I don't really want to understand something I can just say: "It doesn't make sense".

    When the truth is that I don't want to own my own ignorance.

    Paul G.

  3. Your job Art… is quit to important to be standing in the shadow of full communion thoroughly idiotic forms of what therapies does to people.

    All that currently exercises primal therapy around the world ... have you tried to arrange a meeting with them to see how far you can get into the question of the consequences of what happens if they fail with their patients? Many may be willing to listen as they surely discovered what your warning stands for. The addresses would not be too difficult to find.

    Being driven by a therapist who does not perceive signals from his patient and it goes wrong ... is so tragic and disastrous… not least when we see that people get lost ... lost of the possibility to be helped.

    They who are lost do not know… but you do and they have the right to know. I know that your books are eloquent of what you do but it is all too often they do not meet the needy ... needy who in desperation turn to anyone with promises of relief


  4. Alprazolam is very helpful for me in cases of emergencies.Even a half can get me out of upcoming problems,like almost fainting.It takes about half an hour before it works.I use it ,rarely, like a painkiller.

  5. can you primal without KNOWING that SOMEONE cares about you? i doubt it. i think the feeling of hopelessness would be intolerable.
    i imagine the primal center has a very primal-inducing atmosphere; feeling people helping others to feel loved enough to primal. if you can't feel any love from anyone, you won't be able to primal. that's just my guess.

  6. An email comment: "Excuse me!!!

    Are you kidding me? Are you in actual fact say here that it is OK to take Xanax? You've just entered danger waters here Dr. Janov. PLEASE don't play with your own theories here in a field you are not equipped in at the cost of the patient. Allopathic medicine is a LIE and it tricks the body into believing all is okay. My goodness!

    Xanax STRIPS the body of the GABA receptors and it is BAD and causes years of pain because of THAT. There is NO justification for using orthodox medicine. Have you studied Pharmacology? Are you a pharmacist? Even the medical doctors' knowledge of pharmacology is nearly ZERO. Please. I am a pharmacist and I KNOW pharmacology and I CAN make my voice thick here. I'm entitled too. Why the hell do you think I left the pharmaceutical scene altogether? I will tell you why...pharmaceuticals KILL and they CANNOT heal at all. Pharmacopoeia (our pharmaceutical bible at varsity) is the Greek word for "witchcraft", which is EXACTLY what it is. Pharmacon stands for "poison".

    In psychology you are a genius. In the pharmaceutic field, pardon me, you are NOT. Wonder if you will publish this little comment of mine. Sorry, but I'm angry at YOU of all people."

  7. Excuse me!!!

    You have not read the sentence between the lines ... between ... as well associate to what there is written. But perhaps it's difficult to understand... when the need to find the error means more than what the content says.


  8. My cousin milks the system. Her anxiety is nothing compared to Antti's, but she exaggerated her stories to the doctor so that she could get a constant supply of valium.
    The word "coping" is subjective. She admits to me (but not to her doctorS) that she was "coping" before she decided to increase her dose of SSRI's. She just wanted to make sure there was no chance of another "panic attack." She says it was a panic attack but I know it wasn't that bad....but I think she was probably close to the edge...she was pretty shaken afterwards. She was talking in front of a group of people. She said she was able to control the feeling just enough to be able to keep talking and avoid making a total fool of herself. Well I know what full panic feels like. It boils in your guts and then it rips through your whole body and you are totally engulfed by are helpless inside it. you can't keep talking! Fortunately I have never felt it for long. I empathise with people who have prolonged panic attacks. Psychologists always underestimate the feeling. "Stop and think...breath slow bla bla bla" They have no idea and they couldn't care less. And I empathisise with my cousin too. I am sure she could sense the size of the terror while she was struggling to hold it back...that is a horrible feeling. I don't underestimate her anxiety. Anyway... on the low dose of SSRI's her panic never returned. She was "coping" but now she is really "coping" with the valium...she likes the valium. When she runs out of cigarettes at home, she "copes" easily but when she goes out, she believes she won't cope if she doesn't take her cigarettes.
    And now she takes sleeping pills too because the other drugs seem to be affecting her sleep. So now she takes max dose SSRI's, valium, sleeping pills, one pack of cigarettes a day, and six glasses of wine every night....and because she measures everything and never exceeds 'her personal limit' she believes she has it all under control. her head and hands shake constantly, weight gain, puffy eyes, weird muscle problems. Her whole body has quickly deteriorated in little more than a year.
    Her reckless behaviour is the reason why they want to make the drugs unavailable. And of course that is a ridiculous idea. We just have to accept that some people will take more than they should.

  9. there is a cheap, over-the-counter medication that is useful in "taking the edge off"; that would be diphenhydramine hcl 25 mg, an antihistamine, also known as Benedryl; it's also found in Tylenol PM.

  10. I guess it does not really matter which medication you take. Remember: "And it can be addictive. Indeed, any drug that reaches down deep to suppress pain and terror will be addictive, by definition."
    Try smoking forty or fifty cigaretts a day, or get wasted on a bottle of whiskey. We humans are so simple. Just a combination of electrical cords and a few chemics.
    I did primal therapy in Venice, when I was about 19 years old. I have seen what people are feeling when the defencegate in the brain is down, and I have felt it myself. I would never judge somebody for taking any drugs... ok I forgot what I was gonna say... I wish you all a nice christmastime:)) Many greetings from Germany

  11. Both the halo effected pharmacist and the gentleman therapist are correct in their way. Xanax is cold comfort AND an ultimate distraction for a heart that wishes to heal deeply, so the dependent ARE shown love when moved to a benzo with a gentler half life. They are also shown love when tonic for their suffering is available.

    Untamed words ("The chiefs" or "pharmaceuticals... CANNOT heal at all") however, divide people of good intent and show a lack of respect. We can be successful if we can tolerate the truth. These issues are as subtle and nuanced as the neural systems under siege... whether by birth, greed or bad fortune.


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.