In a recent article published by Psychology Today, Brian A. Kinnaird, Ph.D., a former police officer, shared his battle with mental health diagnoses and benzodiazepine withdrawal. The March 24 article is titled "A Former Cop's Battle With Benzodiazepines" and it's a powerful story.
In this personal perspective, Kinnaird shares how he was "thrust into the medical model (or 'disease-based' approach) of mental health," and that his treatment "consisted of multiple diagnoses along with a cascade of prescription drugs that led to a decade of psychotropic polypharmacy." As many of us in the benzo community know, his storyline is far too common.
Like so many patients, Kinnaird was prescribed a "cocktail of antipsychotics, anxiolytics, anticonvulsants, sedatives, and stimulants," and many of them were prescribed concurrently. He was not told that any of this was designed to be a temporary solution, but instead that he would "most likely need to be on it for life." Considering the body of literature cautioning about long-term prescribing of benzos and other similar drugs, including the FDA 2020 warning on benzodiazepines, it is disheartening to see how common this approach continues to be in the medical community.
In 2019, Kinnaird was forced off clonazepam (2 mg daily) with only a two-week taper. This is alarming since rapid or abrupt cessation from benzodiazepines can lead to severe consequences including hallucinations and seizures. Clonazepam is one of the most potent benzodiazepines on the market; two mg is roughly equal to 30-40 mg of diazepam according to equivalence tables. Tapering from this high of a benzodiazepine dose in only two weeks can be very dangerous. The FDA recommends "a gradual taper to reduce the dosage," and that "no standard benzodiazepine tapering schedule is suitable for all patients."
On a personal note, I was also on two mg of clonazepam when I learned of my dependence to the drug. Unfortunately, even with an 18-month taper, I still deal with the lingering effects of a protracted withdrawal condition we now identify as BIND (benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction). While some individuals can withdraw from benzodiazepines with little or no complications, others of us face life-altering symptoms that can last months, even years. According to the "Benzodiazepine Deprescribing Guidance" from the Benzodiazepine Action Work Group, general consensus recommends "a gradual, symptom-based taper."
Kinnaird also references a couple of posts from his colleague at Psychology Today, Christopher Lane. Lane's 2022 post titled "Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Tied to Serious Long-Term Harms" was written about our published research paper on the Benzodiazepine Survey of 2018-2019 titled, "Experiences with benzodiazepine use, tapering, and discontinuation: an Internet survey." This was the first of two papers we published on the survey. The third and final paper is currently in peer review and it will discuss the foundation behind BIND.
Like so many of us, Kinnaird's support finally came in the form of expert counseling and the Ashton Manual. He also voiced his concern about benzodiazepine use in the law enforcement community and encourages more research on this community. We second that sentiment, and support research into helping high risk and high pressure occupations that often have increased frequency of benzodiazepine use and its consequences. Thanks to Brian A. Kinnaird for this wonderful article, and for having the courage to share his journey with the rest of us.
NOTE: Special thanks to Christy Huff, MD and the staff at Benzodiazepine Information Coalition for bringing this article to our attention.
Ashton, C. Heather. Benzodiazepines: How They Work and How to Withdraw (aka The Ashton Manual). 2002. Accessed April 13, 2016. http://www.benzo.org.uk/manual/.
Benzodiazepine Deprescribing Guidance. Benzodiazepine Action Work Group at the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. January 2022. Accessed March 25, 2023. https://corxconsortium.org/wp-content/uploads/Benzo-Deprescribing.pdf.
Lane, Christopher. "Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Tied to Serious Long-Term Harms." Psychology Today." May 12, 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/side-effects/202205/benzodiazepine-withdrawal-tied-serious-long-term-harms.
Finlayson, AJ Reid, Macoubrie J, Huff C, Foster D, and Martin PR. (2022). Experiences with benzodiazepine use, tapering, and discontinuation: an Internet survey. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology 12, 204512532210823. https://doi.org/10.1177/20451253221082386.
Kinnaird, Brian A. "A Former Cop's Battle With Benzodiazepines." Psychology Today. March 24, 2023. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-hero-in-you/202303/a-former-cops-battle-with-benzodiazepines.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "FDA requiring Boxed Warning updated to improve safe use of benzodiazepine drug class." FDA Drug Safety Communication. September 23, 2020. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-requiring-boxed-warning-updated-improve-safe-use-benzodiazepine-drug-class.