Jordan Peterson’s family said he sought “emergency” drug detoxification treatment in Russia after several failed attempts to overcome his dependence on an effective anti-anxiety drug.
The controversial University of Toronto psychology professor and internationally renowned self-help guru is said to have been in a Moscow hospital for a month, recovering from both “incredibly stressful” treatment and a severe case of pneumonia.
“He spent four weeks in terrible shape in intensive care, but with the help of some extremely competent and courageous doctors, he survived,” his daughter Mikhaila Peterson said in an online video posted Friday night. “The uncertainty about his recovery was one of the most difficult and scary experiences we have ever had.”
The 57-year-old professor has not been seen in public since September when his daughter first announced he was seeking treatment for his dependence on clonazepam, a benzodiazepine sedative that is often prescribed to patients with panic problems.
His family say he took the drug for years to relieve persistent anxiety after a severe autoimmune reaction to food. His addiction reportedly began last spring after doctors increased his dosage to deal with stress when his wife, Tammy, battled kidney cancer.
CLOCK | Mikhaila Peterson informs about her father’s health.
In the new video, Mikhaila Peterson said her father’s attempts to break off the drug had left him in “excruciating discomfort” for the past eight months as a result of withdrawal symptoms and akathisia – a type of movement disorder she calls “incredible “designated. endless, irresistible restlessness that borders on panic. “
According to the medical literature, symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal can include restlessness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, and insomnia. In some cases, patients also experience seizures, confusion, and delusions.
“The decision to bring him to Russia was made in utter desperation when we couldn’t find a better option,” his daughter said, citing “several” failed attempts at treatment in North American hospitals where doctors were trying to slowly get Peterson off the disease withhold drug. The type of therapy Peterson received in Moscow is not clear. And his daughter declined to provide further details when contacted by CBC News.
“My family has posted more information,” she wrote. “When Papa is done, he’ll talk about the details.”
Dr. Michael Krausz, director of addiction psychiatry at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Mental Health, says treating benzodiazepine addiction is difficult no matter where it’s taking place.
“You always have the same amount of unpleasant side effects,” he said. “You would rejuvenate … you would reduce the dose from two to four weeks until people became abstinent.”
Still, he wonders what could be offered in Russia.
“I am not aware of any superior or evidence-based ultrafast programs,” he said.
Peterson’s rise as a polarizing public figure began in the fall of 2016, when he was best known for his vocal opposition to a University of Toronto policy requiring teachers to address students using the gender pronoun they chose. He quickly developed a global following through his media appearances and YouTube channel with 2.52 million subscribers. His 2018 self-help book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, has sold millions of copies worldwide and made the professor a rich man.
But Peterson’s success comes at a cost. In an emotional interview last September filmed shortly before he entered rehab, Peterson told National Post columnist Rex Murphy that he had suffered from public expectations and his wife’s health problems.
“I’m open to the problems people have in ways that are way beyond what I’ve experienced as a clinical psychologist,” said Peterson as he shivered and wiped his tears away.
The awards and fame were little compensation, he said.
“The funny thing is, it doesn’t feel good. And that could be a reflection of my general state of mind, which is very … insecure right now,” Peterson explained.
CLOCK | Peterson gets emotional in YouTube videos with Rex Murphy.
Husband and wife Toronto filmmakers Patricia Marcoccia and Maziar Ghaderi began making a documentary about Peterson in 2015, when he was still a little-known academic. Her film Shut Him Down: The Rise of Jordan Peterson captures his rapid and at times uncomfortable rise.
“It’s a big change in his life,” said Marcoccia in an interview on Friday. “And I think another aspect of it is that Jordan doesn’t like these really controversial conversations with journalists … He told us in the past that it would take him a day to recover from it.
“Some people can stand being hated better than others. I think it’s something that has been particularly difficult for him,” she continued. “And then, of course, last spring, when his wife was diagnosed with cancer, that was probably just the last straw.”
Marcoccia and Ghaderi last spoke to Peterson in the fall when he called her from rehab to see how the audience reacted when they toured with the film.
She said Peterson’s fans were incredibly personable after the news of his addiction problems broke out.
“I think in probably every single Q&A we had after the movie, people asked how he was doing,” said Marcoccia. “And for the most part, what I saw in people’s reactions was that they were very empathetic and hoped that he would take the time he needs to recover from it all, because they realize it was one crazy time was his life. “
In her video, Mikhaila Peterson said her father is “on the mend” but will need a longer recovery period.
“He’s getting better and out of terrible medication. His sense of humor is back. He’s smiling for the first time in months,” she said.
However, there is evidence that Peterson may still have significant challenges to face.
The National Post, which regularly publishes Peterson’s pillars of opinion – the last one last November – reports that the professor spent eight days in a medically-induced coma in Moscow trying to fight off his lung infection.
He has suffered neurological damage and is currently unable to type or walk unaided, the newspaper said.