Many existing detox centers for psych drug withdrawal are dangerous

Updated note: psych drugs often damage the nervous system in ways that can take years to heal and these clinics don’t understand or appreciate this…this is not limited to benzos…but includes all psych drugs. Charles Whitfield MD calls psych drugs agents of trauma for this very reason. 

*The stay at Novus detox center was in 2009

Many existing detox centers do not know how to safely withdraw people from psychiatric drugs. On the withdrawal boards it’s generally suggested that people do what they can at home where they can control the speed of the withdrawal. It’s very important that withdrawal is slow, careful and measured for those of us who are victims of iatrogenesis. The rate of iatrogenesis (drug-induced illness) increases when withdrawal is done too quickly. Many of us have been tempted to go faster and get it over with. (yes, me too, which is how I got into the below mess)

On the psychiatric drug withdrawal boards these sorts of stories are unfortunately not at all unusual.

I went into a detox center almost 3 years ago to try to finish my withdrawal from benzodiazepines after having completed the withdrawal from 5 other classes of psych drugs. What happened in there was traumatic and completely unnecessary had they actually known anything at all about the risks and dangers or psychotropic drug withdrawal.

Over two years ago, after my traumatic experience in his facility, I sent an email to the director who promised me a response. I never heard from him. I thought it was time to let it be known how Novus Detox Center in New Port Richey, Florida operates.

This is a long post that cuts and pastes all my documentation on this program. At the end is the original story of what happened while I was there. It’s not the most organized documentation nor is it a neat post, I just want to be sure it’s available information and I never made it fully available before. If anyone is having a complicated withdrawal THIS IS NOT THE PLACE TO GO. And really most of these sorts of residential detox centers are potentially problematic if not downright dangerous. It takes a really long time to safely come off of most psychiatric drugs. No residential treatment can do it safely for a good number of people in a couple of weeks or months.

I wrote the below posts a long time ago without outing who treated me. At the time I still thought they might actually be honest people who had simply erred in ignorance. That is still probably true for the majority of the staff, but I have now collected enough information to know they do stuff by design so that people, in general, make it out of their clinic before falling apart. Of course it didn’t work out that way for me.

I’ve now become aware of 2 others who were at Novus Detox at the same time as I was who are now also bed bound and crippled due to the withdrawal methods used at Novus. While I was very ill before being admitted these two people WERE NOT. They fell apart due to the rapid and dangerous detox they went through at Novus.

Also I encountered someone who was also grossly abused in a very similar fashion as I was via one of my MDs who shared the story.  Considering we’re from out of state that’s random and yet the fallout reaches me.  Also, since the first writing of this post I have encountered others from withdrawal boards who were traumatized and made worse at Novus.  One of them also felt they almost died at Novus and had to escape in similar fashion as myself when Novus refused to treat emerging psychosis in this poor woman. There are several stories of folks having to leave and go to the emergency room at the local hospital before continuing home.

Novus Detox is hurting people by essentially cold-turkeying them off dangerous drugs that should be weaned very slowly over months and sometimes years while claiming they can do it safely.

I hope only to be able to stop these people and other detox centers like them from hurting others. 

I’m hoping those who need to know Novus Detox will bilk you of thousands of dollars and leave you disabled will find it. (The fact is some people do okay coming off cold-turkey by their method—the criminal dimension is that they do not pay attention to those of us who DO NOT and it seems we are a large percentage of the people they see whether it’s a minority percentage or not).

This is a letter I wrote to Steve Hayes the director of Novuswho never answered, though he did reply with this one line with a promise: “Gianna, I am pulling together information and will send you a detailed response. Steve”

Dear Steve,
Someone in New Port Richey reads Beyond Meds everyday. Maybe it’s you, I don’t know. (it’s a small town)

In the event that it’s not you I think you need to know what you did. I think you also need to know I’ve encountered others who went to (your program) who went through what I did too. Psychotropic drug users that were identified as “drug seeking addicts” and then treated in ways you think are appropriate for such (I don’t think “drug seeking addicts” should be treated like shit either, by the way) and when things went south your staff pulled the “you’re drug seeking” bullshit on them. You cause trauma.

What you’re doing is criminal, Steve. You can choose to change that. You can actually choose to be what you claimed and deal with individuals as individuals. Your sales staff promised me that and that is not what I got. I, for now, am giving you the benefit of the doubt…that your incompetence comes from ignorance and not intent…but intent is not enough and once ones intentions are proved misguided if one does not do things to change, well then, you proceed with knowledge. And then there is criminal intent as well.

It’s clear the members of your staff are well-intentioned. You, I simply don’t know enough about.

I think I should get my money back and if you actually care about people with histories like mine you might take heed of what I’m saying.

There is no evidence in what I’m presenting to you here today that I’m a drug seeking drug addict. You find something that shows me that. I lay my soul bare on these pages. You can scour the whole blog…you will find a consistent message about getting off drugs safely and sanely. Both things your center failed to do for me.

You people fucked with me. You hurt me. The woman I’ve encountered that you did this too was much more fragile than me and the fallout much greater. I have massive amounts of inner strength, but many people who have been through the psychiatric system DO NOT…and you treat them like you did me with great risk.

How many others have you done this to? I shudder to think.

I’m also in communication with another of your graduates who is grossly ill. I’m not telling this person it’s because of how you managed their withdrawal. That would be unhealthy for this person right now and I care more about her well-being than blaming you guys.

Like I said if you actually want to learn something I’m willing to help you not do this to others. I would be delighted to hear from you. I’m allowing myself to believe this was not intentional, but frankly I don’t know how much you’re motivated to just get people out because otherwise no one could pay you what you needed to run the place safely and sanely.

And taking short cuts like mixing glutathione with Vit C…well, that’s sloppy. And not in the best interest of the clients. Not enough staff to do timely glutathione pushes? Is that why your formula has hardly any C in it, in the hope it won’t kill ALL the glutathione before it entered our bodies? I don’t know the answers to these questions but I’ve noticed a whole bunch of things of that nature…oh, like, why the hell didn’t the doctor talk to ME when I went into crisis?? That’s sloppy too, Director.

I had a bunch of ex-drug-addict young men interpreting my experience when they simply did not have the experience to understand what I was going through. That’s on your head, not theirs. They simply and honestly had not a clue what they were doing. I’m letting you know now in the event you really don’t.

I’m angry and I know I sound angry. But honestly if you showed me you actually wanted to truly serve people like me and give them what they need I would let go of the anger in a minute and help you help people like me. As it is now you’re hurting us.

Gianna

A response from him never arrived and you’ll see, though angry I gave him the benefit of the doubt and offered him a chance to pay me back and to learn from my experience so he would not hurt others. He did not take that opportunity to do right. It’s now well over a month (of course now it’s well over 2 years) since I wrote him. This is the next step. Especially since I’ve found others since then too. I don’t want anyone else to be hurt by him and his center.

this is another post that describes what happened when I was in the detox unit:

Basically after being sucked in by seductively nice (marketing) people (who were genuinely nice, but criminally ignorant) –the fact that they were nice people was validated by a key person in our movement who knew the director and my husband who spoke with them before I decided to go to their clinic. In any case I trusted them and I got heavily screwed and traumatized.

They had acknowledged to me on the phone after I really pushed it that no they had never worked with someone with as extensive and mind-blowing a history on psych meds and so I asked them to be my partner and trust me as well.

But in the end they determined they knew what was best and pushed a far too rapid withdrawal. (Frankly I think it had to do with my limited funds as a man there who clearly had more means than I was scheduled to be there three times as long and had 2/3s less drug to come off of—that makes no sense whatsoever!! unless one concludes they are figuring out how to bilk us and it seems pretty clear that that is the case. When he laters asked for the records of the withdrawal itself they took him off all the drug in the last week—the first two weeks they only reduced about 1/9th of the total amount which also speaks to them arranging by design that he not fall apart until AFTER he left.)

The bottom line is there is no one in any of the more enlightened detox centers who have worked with people with my history and there is also a significant minority of people who become gravely ill upon detoxing from psychotropics. I know of 1000s of them from withdrawal boards but we’re broadly ignored even in detox centers. I do know of one center that recognizes this phenomena and looks for it, though its unclear to me if they know anything about mitigating the severity of the illness.

These people told me psychosis was sometimes inevitable. And refused to reinstate benzo when the withdrawal was too rapid. Toxic psychosis is not the same as that which arises without drug damage. What they allowed on their watch was torture and it was metered out at their hands. Their program was all about “protocol” and though they gave lip service to “individualized” care it was bullshit.

I insisted on changing the pace of the withdrawal when the pain and sleeplessness became so extreme and they refused — turning into illicit drug rehab monsters claiming I was drug seeking as I slipped into psychosis and greater physical debilitation. I went on like that for over 48 hours perhaps closer to 72 but it’s all a blur at this point. I ran. Literally bolted out of there. My mom being my savior in this instance who came to pick me up.

I’m fine but deeply re-traumatized and in a new way because these people were nice and respectful in general and so the mind-fuck is more delicate and complicated than even in a psych ward..

Because ultimately, they were also arrogant assholes who deemed to know my body and mind and basically did not believe me when I told them I was headed to psychosis ONLY because of their WAY TOO RAPID withdrawal schedule. THIS DID NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN!!! They basically told me I wasn’t hanging tough enough—you had to be tough to get off benzos and I apparently didn’t have what it took. Nice way to shame me. Pretty.

Forget about the fact that I’ve been hanging tough for 5 years coming off a cocktail of psychiatric drugs that included 5 classes of drug that had left me homebound and disabled. That fact was lost on these losers who couldn’t understand I didn’t fit in their nice little box of people who do well in their program. And it’s clear some people do alright in their program. I cringe though to think how many people are left to be re-traumatized alone in their rooms because that’s “part of the deal,” rather than having enough staff so that someone can be with them in their darkest hours of withdrawal. Illicit drug addict or not, we all deserve that sort of care and they neither had enough staff nor appropriately trained staff for trauma informed care.

They also seem completely and totally ignorant about iatrogenesis. Chemical injury. They never even referred to it. At the very least it should be mentioned as the possibility it is for everyone who comes off these drugs. It’s actually well documented when it comes to benzos.

It was that whole reformed drug addict mentality. What they think is it’s gotta hurt real bad coming off drugs. That’s just part of the deal. All the staff were ex-addicts. That’s what they learned and that is what they went through. But none of them had my psychiatric drug and trauma history and they didn’t know anything about how to deal with someone with such iatrogenesis and eventually what was going to turn into toxic psychosis.

They had NO TRAUMA informed care. As I slipped into crisis and despair they left me alone in a room with no support for hours on end. Cruel and inhumane treatment from people who claimed they were doing good. Those were a few of the most frightening couple of days in my life.

I escaped on Thursday of last week, so it’s still fresh and painful and I’m tender and raw. (this was mostly written at that time, I’ve lightly edited it today)

NOTE: Steven Hayes is a Scientologist. I imagine his theories on withdrawal are influenced by them and CCHR as well. I unfortunately found this information out too late. It’s a red flag. 

For anyone who wants to think about the Scientology tie, Bruce Levine has written a great article on it: Scientology vs. Critical Psychiatry — Bruce Levine

So I sent a note to the director again today (January 2012) just to let him know he forgot to respond to me. The fact is I’ve been far too ill to follow up on it. 

I did get off all the drugs 2 years ago. On a safer schedule. I write about safer psychiatric drug withdrawal here: Withdrawal 101

And for particular information about benzodiazepine use and withdrawal issues: Benzo Info

If Novus had actually done their research and knew about even a fraction of the information I’ve collected on that benzo page, they would run a different program.

There are lots of links on those two pages for resources and information to learn about making withdrawal as safe as possible. Withdrawal from psychiatric drugs always has some risk.

I completed my withdrawal about 8 months after I left Novus. I never lost sight of my goal even as they painted me the drug-seeking addict. 

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