Colorado author and climber brings his story "Death Grip: A Climber's Escape From Benzo Madness" to The Bookworm of Edwards on Thursday at 6 p.m.
"Death Grip" by Matt Samet chronicles a top climber's near-fatal struggle with anxiety and depression, and his nightmarish journey through the dangerous world of prescription drugs. Samet lived to climb, and craved the challenge, risk and exhilaration of conquering sheer rock faces around the U.S. and internationally. But his depression, compounded by the extreme diet and fitness practices of climbers, led him to seek professional help.
His doctor prescribed medications, primarily "benzos" or benzodiazepines, including Klonopin. Benzos are the world's most widely prescribed psychiatric medicines. They've been around since 1957, when the first benzo, Librium, was brought to market.
Today, four million people in the U.S. take "therapeutic doses" of benzos every year, with millions more worldwide taking them by prescription and untold millions in third world countries buying them over the counter. Doctors use benzos to treat anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms and seizure disorders.
Probably the best-known benzo is Valium, which in the '70s was the most widely prescribed drug in the U.S., followed later by its more potent cousin, Xanax, which debuted in the '80s.
Chronic use of the drugs forced Samet's anxiety to come back and his withdrawal symptoms became severe. He entered the murky, inescapable world of psychiatric medicine, where he developed a terrible addiction, which landed him in institutions and nearly killed him.
"As a fellow climber who's also experienced challenges with depression, medications and the addictiveness of adventure itself, I felt uplifted and awed by Matt Samet's gritty yet hopeful memoir," said Aron Ralston, author of "Between a Rock and a Hard Place." Compared to my self-amputation, Matt's epic self-exorcism from the clutches of psychopharmacology is a far more powerful display of courage. Whatever adversity we face, in our darkest moments, we need books like this to help us through our struggles."
With dramatic storytelling, persuasive research data, and searing honesty, Samet reveals the hidden epidemic of benzo addiction, which some have suggested can be harder to quit than heroin. Millions of adults and teenagers are prescribed these drugs, but few understand how addictive they can be when used habitually or the potential dangers of combining them with other drugs, even when prescribed by doctors.
After a difficult struggle with addiction, Samet slowly makes his way to a life in recovery through perseverance and a deep love of rock climbing. Conveying both the exhilaration of climbing in wilderness and the utter madness of addiction, "Death Grip" is a powerful memoir.