top of page

D E Foster (Bio)

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

 

The Short Version (for those on the go)


D E Foster ("D") is founder of the support site Easing Anxiety, host of The Benzo Free Podcast, and co-chair and founding member of the Benzodiazepine Action Work Group. He is a published author on multiple research papers and a global advocate for anxiety and benzodiazepine awareness, education, and support.


D has struggled with anxiety most of his life. In 2002, he was prescribed clonazepam (Klonopin) by his primary care physician for gastric distress, and he took the medication for 12 years without warning. His withdrawal experience was extreme and became the foundation for his book, Benzo Free: The World of Anti-Anxiety Drugs and the Reality of Withdrawal. D is now nine-years benzo-free, still deals with the lingering effects of BIND (benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction), and spends most of his time working in the anxiety and benzo communities.


RESEARCH TEAMS / PUBLICATIONS


Benzodiazepine Tapering Research Pilot Program, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) (2023 - Present)


Patient Panel for the Development of Safe Tapering from Benzodiazepines, American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) (2023 - Present)


Benzodiazepine Survey of 2018-2019, The Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices (2019 - 2023)


  • Ritvo AD, Foster DE, Huff C, Finlayson AJR, Silvernail B, et al. (2023) Long-term consequences of benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction: A survey. PLOS ONE 18(6): e0285584. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0285584.


Safeguarding BZRAs Study, Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland (RCSI). (2022-2023)

  • T Lynch, CRyan, C Bradley, D Foster, C Huff, S Hutchinson, N Lamberson, L Lynch, and C Cadogan, Supporting sAFE and GradUAl ReDuctIon of loNG-term BenzodiaZepine Receptor Agonist uSe: development of the SAFEGUARDING-BZRAs toolkit using a co-design approach, International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, Volume 30, Issue Supplement_1, April 2022, Pages i2–i3, https://doi.org/10.1093/ijpp/riac021.003.


KEY SPEAKING EVENTS / TRAINING


 

The Long Version (in case you’re really bored)


Hi, my name is “D E Foster,” but everyone just calls me “D.” It’s a nickname my nephews gave me when they were young and I guess it stuck. Does “D” stand for anything? Sure, but when I published my book I decided to go with the initials only. Now, I answer more quickly to “D” than to my given name. So, I guess I’ll stick with it.


Who was I before all this? Well, thanks for asking. I’ve always been a bit nomadic career-wise, and I guess that hasn’t changed. I spent about 30 years working in two primary arenas. The first is database programming, including full-time and contract positions at Microsoft, Sprint, US West, Vail Resorts, and others. The second is as a contract screenwriter, screenwriting teacher, and film festival organizer. I taught screenwriting at the University of Colorado, Denver, the Colorado Film School, and several conferences and festivals on the film circuit. I was also on the advisory board for the Vail Film Festival for 10 years when I headed up their educational programming.


In 2013, my life completely changed. I discovered I was dependent on the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam (Klonopin) and read some of the horror stories of what withdrawal might entail. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I had taken the medication as prescribed by my physician for 12 years without any warning of risks. And now, my new doctor told me I needed to withdraw. So I did.


Unfortunately, it was the hardest and most challenging experience of my life — one I am still dealing with today. I experienced an odyssey of debilitating withdrawal complications including extreme anxiety, depression, cognitive dysfunction, memory loss, akathisia, paresthesia, benzo belly, severe aches and pains, tremors, tinnitus, insomnia, and many others. I tapered off the medication for 18 months and was finally benzo-free on August 20th, 2014. I still have protracted symptoms, am unable to work in my previous profession, and struggle with my recovery at times — but, thanks to the Ashton Manual and my incredible family, I made it through. The good news is that I am much better than I was during the early phase of withdrawal and I am very optimistic about my future.


For the first four years of withdrawal, I had a lot of questions. Questions that needed answers. So, I spent most of my time researching. I read everything I could find about benzodiazepines, withdrawal, anxiety, psychology, physiology, philosophy, spirituality, happiness, life, love, you name it. Eventually, I had read and catalogued over one thousand articles, books, and videos on these subjects. I was suffering through extended withdrawal symptoms, lost my job, and I had all this research. Now what?

Well, I wrote a book. Big surprise, right? But it was a book I had to write. I had all this research and I truly needed for this horrible experience to mean something. Something good had to come out of all of this. The book was published in August 2018 and is titled: “Benzo Free: The World of Anti-Anxiety Drugs and the Reality of Withdrawal.” I followed that up with a website to promote the book titled… you guessed it, Benzo Free.


In early 2019, I was looking for something new and I decided to try my hand at podcasting. I had some recording experience and still had some audio equipment from my days as a drummer. So, on February 20, 2019, I released the first five episodes of “The Benzo Free Podcast” — and it became a minor success. More importantly, though, I really enjoyed it. Especially the opportunity to correspond with individuals from all corners of the globe. I can honestly say that those comments and emails got me through my darkest days.

Still restless, I launched our new website (Easing Anxiety) in 2020 and added some anxiety videos to our content. I also started the lengthy process of migrating our Benzo Free content to the new domain. Easing Anxiety became the new home of the Benzo Free Podcast and now hosts a collection of articles, videos, stories, and other content geared towards those dealing with dependence and withdrawal. Unfortunately, due to a variety of hurdles along the way, the migration has been a slow, ongoing process. But, we are making progress.


Benzo withdrawal can be a daunting, even harrowing process for some — and I was no exception. Writing the book, hosting the podcast, and launching Easing Anxiety were a few of my saving graces — they kept me busy and got me through. I am incredibly blessed to have an amazingly supportive wife and family and I realize that despite what I went through — I was one of the lucky ones.


In addition to Easing Anxiety and the podcast, I am active as an advocate for those who struggle with the complications of long-term benzodiazepine use. I am co-chair and a founding member of the Benzodiazepine Action Work Group (BAWG) at the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, which is part of the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Center. This is an amazing organization with excellent backing and support, and key involvement from national benzo community organizations such as BIC, the Alliance, and Benzo Warrior. Our projects have included published documentation on prescribing, deprescribing, and peer support, CME training sessions and videos, the first benzodiazepine-specific certified peer specialist training program in the country, and much more. We are making great strides and I am excited for the future of this organization.


In 2019, I joined my first research team composed of six individuals from the Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices, Benzodiazepine Information Coalition (BIC),the University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine, and Vanderbilt University. This team focused on the data collected by the benzodiazepine survey of 2018-2019. We published our first research paper in 2022, and the other two in 2023. The third paper officially introduced the term benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction (BIND) which defines the protracted state of neuroadaptation and/or neurotoxicity. I've also been privileged to be a part of other research teams including the Safeguarding BZRAs team from Ireland and most recently a patient panel on safe tapering from benzodiazepines sponsored by the American Society of Addition Medicine (ASAM). and a benzodiazepine tapering research pilot program through Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).


A former college instructor, I truly enjoy the training and speaking opportunities that have come my way. I have presented continuing medical education (CME) seminars on a variety of benzodiazepine related topics and served as faculty at the 2023 Rx and Illicit Drug Summit in Atlanta. I've also been a guest on several podcasts and support sites and was project lead and co-instructed the pilot for the Benzodiazepine Action Work Group Peer Support Training Course launching in 2023.


My schedule does not allow for a lot of free time, but what I do have I spend with my wife, Shana, at our home in Colorado. We lost our beloved dog, Bear, in August of 2021, but we hope to find a new four-legged friend to join our family in 2023. We love walks, travel, books, movies, spending time with friends and family, and all that normal stuff other people do.


Well, that’s what I do. Thanks for listening. What about you? Tell me a bit about yourself via our feedback form if you have a chance. I’d love to hear from you.


Best, D 🙂

 

Comments


bottom of page