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Jordan Peterson’s quest to beat his addiction to Klonopin sent him to Russia — and nearly killed him, his daughter says

By David Futrelle

If you’ve been wondering where Jordan Peterson has been for the past several months, we now have an answer, courtesy of his daughter Mikhaila in a YouTube video yesterday: he’s been in “absolute hell” trying to get himself off of the effective but highly addictive anti-anxiety drug Klonopin, a quest that ultimately took him to Russia, where he ended up in a medically induced coma to cure a case of pneumonia she says he picked up in a North American hospital.

Rehab is punishingly rough for most people, but Peterson’s path in the direction of recovery took more than a few strange turns along the way. He first began taking the potent benzodiazepine several years ago, his daughter claims, after having a (self-diagnosed?) autoimmune reaction to food; he became a full-fledged addict last spring after his wife was diagnosed with cancer, ultimately retreating from a busy schedule of public talks and turning to doctors, first in North America, then in Russia, to get off the drug.

According to Mikhaila, as the National Post notes,

the family sought alternative treatment in Russia because they found North American hospitals had misdiagnosed him, and were prescribing “more medications to cover the response he was experiencing from the benzodiazepines,” Mikhaila said. “He nearly died several times.”

She also reports that her father at one point was contemplating suicide because the side effects of some of the meds he was taking were so severe.

She and her husband took him to Moscow last month, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and put into an induced coma for eight days. She said his withdrawal was “horrific,” worse than anything she had ever heard about. She said Russian doctors are not influenced by pharmaceutical companies to treat the side-effects of one drug with more drugs, and that they “have the guts to medically detox someone from benzodiazepines.”

It seems a little strange to go from Canada to Russia — a country not exactly known for its fine hospitals — for medical treatment, but hey, this is a guy who thinks the ideal diet consists of nothing but meat and salt.

Jordan Peterson has only just come out of an intensive care unit, Mikhaila said. He has neurological damage, and a long way to go to full recovery. He is taking anti-seizure medication and cannot type or walk unaided, but is “on the mend” and his sense of humour has returned.

Is Peterson a hypocrite? Rule 6 of Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life — as spelled out in his bestselling book of that title — is one of his most demanding pronouncements: “SET YOUR HOUSE IN PERFECT ORDER BEFORE YOU CRITICIZE THE WORLD.”

Peterson is speaking metaphorically, of course; he’s not talking about tidying up one’s room as much as he is talking about tidying up one’s own life. “Don’t reorganize the state until you have ordered your own experience,” he writes.

Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your household, how dare you try to rule a city?

This is a rule that Peterson has some considerable difficulty in following himself. Not much given to humility, he has been trying to “reorganize the world” for many years despite his own life being, frankly, something of a mess. And it’s not just the benzos. He’s a follower of a crank diet that he admits causes him considerable internal distress; he has a snappish temper that has led him to fantasize about and sometimes even threaten physical violence against his critics; he’s a stubborn intellectual bully who has aligned himself with some of the world’s worst “intellectuals.” And he’s an anti-trans bigot.

I don’t wish the horrors of addiction and rehab on anyone, not even Jordan Peterson. But I do hope he returns from this ordeal a little chastened, a little less judgmental, and a lot wiser.

Not that his fans would agree. From their comments on the Jordan Peterson subreddit, it’s clear they want the old Peterson back, as soon as possible.

“If Peterson has taught me one thing it’s to look the f*k out when this guy comes back,” writes one fan. “I can not wait to see how he emerges. Buckle up, Bucko.”

Another draws hope from one of the ancient Egyptian myths Peterson likes to talk about:

He is in the metaphorical underworld fighting to get out. like Ra/Amun in the Egyptian religion.

Yes, let’s literally compare Peterson with a supreme deity.

Still another commenter spins a conspiracy theory to explain Peterson’s troubles:

I consider it disturbingly coincidental, that someone who has devoted themselves to combatting the hard Left, would suddenly develop such chronic health problems over the last 12-24 months.

The main reason why I say that, is because the one message which I have most consistently received from the Millennial/Z Left on this site over the last ten years, has been that there is literally no room on this planet, or within reality itself, for anyone who disagrees with them or with their message. …

I sincerely hope that Doctor Peterson makes as close to a full, permanent recovery as is possible from such a condition, as his ongoing presence is urgently needed. If for no other reason, this is so that individuals like myself, for whom it is all too easy to assume that the Left reign supreme in society, can be reminded that we are in fact not alone, and that battle has been joined.

One of Peterson’s fan boys even ventured into an anti-Jordan Peterson subreddit to tell critics that

He’s going to recover fully and will have more support than ever and will continue speaking the truth and all of you whiny little fucking pathetic cunts will have to deal with it. Can’t wait 🙂

I’m not seeing a lot of humility here. But if Peterson can’t live up to his own pronouncements, it’s perhaps a bit much to expect that his fans will either. But I suspect that they’re right about one thing: Peterson will come back from this ordeal having learned nothing from it — the same flawed, judgmental jerk we’ve gotten to know over the past several years.

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rv97
rv97
7 months ago

@ABars

They think too much personal freedom is a problem, or at least came to that conclusion. Especially personal freedom of those who aren’t them because they think it’ll introduce degeneracy, invite the wrath of God, or among its worst, wipe out the white race.

Paireon
Paireon
7 months ago

@Naglfar – LOL dammit, your first post encapsulates so much of what I wanted to say.

Here’s my take on your post’s points:

Do we think this could be because in Russia he can be more openly hateful than in Canada?

Probably, but also probably because to him, “doctors giving me the treatment I want if I bribe them, no matter how even the most mercenary Canadian doctor won’t do it due to the risks” equates “doctors not in thrall to Big Pharma so automatically superior”. Which is funny since Big Pharma is eminently capitalist, and he has been a vocal proponent of said capitalism, at least by default, for quite a long time now…

I take that to mean that he tells the same helicopter joke over and over again, as that seems to be the extent of conservative humor these days.

That and pointing and laughing at anyone not them for being not them. Even those who are almost them.

YES YES YES YES. It’s not even necessary to explain, it goes without saying that any alt right grifter is a hypocrite.

Pretty much. I’d say the main divide would be between those who realize they’re hypocrites and those who don’t. Not sure yet to which group Jordy Pete Lobsterboy belongs to, especially since in many cases right-wing types start with awareness but then lose it along the way (AKA the Drinking Your Own Kool-Aid syndrome).

Projection much? It’s not the left that has shooters going around to kill anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

Amen to that, sister. Which is even funnier for me to say since I’m atheist.

@WWTH – Wow, this plus the recent doping scandals paint a rather terrifying picture of sports culture in Russia. No wonder so many of their best emigrate to other countries even now (AFAIK). Which is a tragedy given the enormous talent of local athletes.

@Victorious Parasol – I, for one, am looking forward to the potential upcoming Lobster Civil War. With a big bag of popcorn.

@Talonknife – Cuba is still technically communist, and the current excellent medical system was at the behest of the communist government, and I’m pretty sure he’ll be damned (or it earthly equivalent in pain felt) before doing something that could be construed as anything to the left having had good results. In fact, given his weird trains of thought, he probably went to Russia thinking that “if Russians were the ones to train Cuban doctors back then, then they must be even better!” or something.

@Naglfar, again – I’d one-up that Samuel Johnson quote and go so far as to say that a large part of his body of work is neither new or good; would make for a nice Venn diagram.

@Everybody who chimed in regarding prescription drug problems – It may be that my own problems were comparatively minor in that regard, but while I don’t wish for anyone to have such terrible problems, when it happens to someone as notably awful as JPete, I just can’t help but feel a good amount of schadenfreude. Maybe I’m just not as good a person as you are (highly likely in fact), but bad things happening to bad people just makes me smile.

Oliver
Oliver
7 months ago

The ‘misdiagnosed’ is interesting. What’s being diagnosed if it’s a simple case of drug withdrawals? Where they know what drug has been stopped. Something doesn’t add up in here.

Naglfar
Naglfar
7 months ago

@Paireon

Which is funny since Big Pharma is eminently capitalist, and he has been a vocal proponent of said capitalism, at least by default, for quite a long time now…

You know what’s also a capitalist thing? The free market, where people can choose not to buy your stuff, aka “cancelling.” He’s not a huge fan of that aspect of it, strangely enough.

a large part of his body of work is neither new or good

True, seeing as he builds extensively off of debunked and unsupported theories riddled with various bigotries. And he originally advanced his career as a grifter by having a meltdown about pronouns, which is neither original nor good.

A. Noyd
A. Noyd
7 months ago

calmdown says:

I was put on them years ago to try and treat anxiety/panic attacks. Nobody decided to explain to me what was happening and it didn’t go to rehab.

It’s absurd that one can get put on drugs like that without being told explicitly what quitting them involves. I found out the hard way too. But I was on a low dose to begin with, was stopping because I was stable at the time, and figured out what was going on after two days.

The withdrawal went away when I resumed my previous dose. Then I consulted my doc. It turned out that, although I had already been tapering, it wasn’t gradual enough; the last two weeks’ worth of doses during my second (and successful) attempt at stopping were mere crumbs from a single pill.

All things considered, I didn’t have too bad a time. But it should be malpractice to prescribe drugs like Klonopin without making crystal fucking clear what they can do to you.

kupo
kupo
7 months ago

@ABars

How does one come to be the way he is? A character in a movie could not have a more eccentric backstory. It’s hard not to wonder if such factors as child abuse, mental illness, drugs, etc. might be involved.

Just because you personally don’t understand how he came to be doesn’t mean you need to trot out your boogeymen to explain it away. Plenty of people who were abused as children, are mentally ill, and/or take drugs are not huge misogynists. Neurotypical folks are, in fact, more likely to be the abusers and neuroatypical more likely to be abused.

Stop trying to distance yourself from abusers by making up false claims that they must be part of some marginalized group instead being anything like you. Guess what? We all have the capacity to be like that. You’re not above that just by virtue of your upbringing, mental health, and lack of drug usage (also tied to mental and physical health, btw).

Knitting Cat Lady
Knitting Cat Lady
7 months ago

Because I was curious I looked up the benzo Mr. Lobster was on.

In Germany it is a first line treatment for epilepsy and certain abnormal sleep patterns where they need to switch off your muscles.

It’s a second line treatment for restless leg syndrome.

It’s not licensed for anxiety treatment, though some psychiatrists prescribe it off label.

It’s similar in the rest of the EU.

If I understand correctly giving up benzos cold turkey is… ill advised, as it can really mess you up.

I wonder if Petersen is in the mess he’s in now because he thought he knew better than the medical professionals.

He wouldn’t be the first arrogant ass brought down this way.

Katamount
Katamount
7 months ago

I hope this incident shatters the myth of this tedious wad (to borrow Chapo’s description of him) and has at least some of his cultists realizing that maybe he isn’t exactly the self-help guru he markets himself as.

dashapants
dashapants
7 months ago

I don’t know about JP’s reasons, but I can tell you why I have at times sought medical assistance back in my homeland rather than in the US.

In the US the medical system is patient-driven. You get sick, you go to a doctor, they maybe send you to a specialist, and this specialist will do some tests, maybe they find something, maybe they don’t, they might shunt you over to a different specialist, but in general if you have some condition that isn’t readily identifiable, you’re stuck hoofing it from one doctor to another, all of which will never say they don’t know what is wrong with you, they will simply point to whatever tests they did and say that there is nothing wrong with you, which is profoundly unhelpful if you’re having debilitating symptoms. Long story short, very few doctors here are genuinely interested in figuring out a difficult diagnosis. It’s up to the patient to insist on being helped. Sometimes even with an easy diagnosis one can run into a problem of doctors disbelieving you about the efficacy (or lack thereof) of their prescribed treatment. This is just fundamentally frustrating.

Back home, the medical system is way more aggressive. If a doctor over there learns that there is something wrong with you, they will do anything short of physically compelling you to their office to try to get you to deal with the problem. They will call, they will send nurses to check up on you, they will get the hospital to call, they won’t leave you alone. If you come in with something not readily identifiable, you will end up in a hospital bed with every specialist flocking to you to do whatever number of tests proves necessary to figure out what the underlying problem is. In part this is because patients over there are pretty terrible. The doctor might tell them they have a cardiac problem that must be treated right away or they might die, so they should really stay overnight, and the patient will immediately remember that they have to feed the cat or they forgot to lock their door or they need to pack an overnight bag or whatnot to try to get away and maybe come back later. So doctors are used to wrangling people into accepting medical assistance. So basically if you’re looking for type of care that is going to relentlessly pursue a precise diagnosis and treatment, you’re going to look outside the US healthcare system.

I have no idea what it is like in Canada, but if a similar deferral happens there, I can see how someone would seek help elsewhere.

This is not to say that JP did the right thing or did it for right reasons, this is just to explain to people who are confused why someone might seek treatment in Russia instead of the West.

Universal Kami
Universal Kami
7 months ago

@varalys the dark

Oh, my.

I’m also on Effexor and I know the symptoms you mean.

I, too, have learned to take my meds with me 24/7 just in case.

It’s an awful feeling they give you when you haven’t taken them.

Katamount
Katamount
7 months ago

@varalys the dark

I’ve only had problems with a drug for my depression. It’s called Venlafaxine/Effexor. It’s one that is designed to work Right Now. Downside is that it leaves your system fast. One day I got stuck overnight in a place where I had no access to my drugs and literally 14 hours later by the time I got home I was shaking and shivering and could hardly walk, it was like have awful flu. I always keep spares on me now, cos I never wanna fell like that again.

Ah yes, “the woozies”. That’s always how it starts for me. Felt it once and I’ve kept spare pills on me ever since.

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
7 months ago

Echoing what @kupo said to @ABars.

People can do things for all sorts of reasons, because people are people.

Knitting Cat Lady
Knitting Cat Lady
7 months ago

I’ve only ever had SSRI withdrawal.

Manageable for the most part.

The brain zaps are mostly annoying.

But the feeling of spiders crawling over my brain? Very disconcerting.

TacticalProgressive
TacticalProgressive
7 months ago

@ABars

Roosh and People like him are how they are because they have a psychological disconnect from reality, a fabricated, self imposed misunderstanding and false impression of the word which is fostered by an undeserved sense of arrogant self importance.

For the record the psychological disconnect doesn’t have anything to do with mental illness but does in fact have everything to do with being raised or submersed in an environment where biases, notions and paradimes are not challenged or critically examined. In turn it ends up cultivating a cognitively distorted world view that is completely detached from reality.

And once they spend long enough with such notions; the firmer entrenched the become in them and the reactionary they become to those who try and subvert their already long held, and often erroneous notions and understandings.

Bananananana dakry: Short-Haired, Fat, and Deranged
Bananananana dakry: Short-Haired, Fat, and Deranged
7 months ago

Also on Effexor. I love it because it makes me a functional human being. I also don’t love it because like everybody else said, the half life is short and withdrawal is a bitch. My head explodes and I get some really wild-ass dreams for starters, in my case.

In some ways, I consider the short half-life a feature, because it forces me to keep taking the stuff instead of flaking out on meds like I do most everything else, because if I were any flakier when it came to schedules, I’d be a croissant factory. A little negative reinforcement is sometimes a good thing.

However, I never go anywhere for a lengthy period of time without the stuff. For pretty much the same reasons as everybody else here taking it doesn’t.

Robert
Robert
7 months ago

Naglfar – I would have expected that reaction as well, but they seem honestly shocked and saddened (and oh so angry) that the people they’ve been demonizing for the last couple of years aren’t being civil and respectful in Jeep’s time of trial.

For all their talk about how Father All-Highest has helped them to be better men, r/JBP is not a place full of shiny happy people.

Personal note: I remember SSRI withdrawal. That was bad enough. I also remember being on a opiate user’s harm reduction site and the oldheads routinely warning the newbies about the heartbreak of dependency. I’m most grateful to have had access to effective pain relief after my back injury, and even more grateful to have escaped that pitfall.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
7 months ago

Some of the discussion on Pharyngula talked about MCAS (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome) being a possible explanation for the drugs used for what was supposed to be an auto-immune condition. Of course, that assumes that the description of the sequence of events was actually accurate, which is not guaranteed.

Naglfar
Naglfar
7 months ago

@Robert

For all their talk about how Father All-Highest has helped them to be better men, r/JBP is not a place full of shiny happy people.

This seems to be a common theme among the alt-right/manosphere: men talk a lot about how much better their lives are since discovering JBP/MGTOW/MRA/Trump/whatever but seem to still be very unhappy. It seems a fundamental part of these grifts is making sure the fanbase thinks they’re feeling better but really feels worse, so they become dependent on the grifter; a classic abuse tactic.

Maybe the Petersonites will seek compassion from their friends over at r/GenderCritical. Speaking of which, it looks like the TERFs have decided to resurrect lesbian separatism (link TW: transphobia), though knowing them it will be more like MGTOW except instead of constantly talking about hating women it will be constantly talking about how much they hate trans* people. The description sounds more like MGTOW than anything else.

Dmytry
Dmytry
7 months ago

I’m assuming him going to Russia of all places had to do with his regressive views aligning with Russia’s reputation rather than with his fondness of Gorbachev.

I think some people are so insecure they need to talk themselves up (to themselves) as a carnivore, a real man, a rough and tough bad ass (as per Russia stereotypes) and so on and so forth.

So they eat meat only diets, adopt misogynistic world views, and in his case, even go to the real man Vladimir for his country’s tough but effective treatment options.

The role playing seamlessly blends into delusion.

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
7 months ago

I am also taking Effexor, for chronic headaches (NDPH). I’ve been on just about every SSRI/SNRI & related medication at this point– they all work for a while & then they lose their efficacy. Some of them had very bad side-effects– one, Epilim, is usually well-tolerated but it made me ideate so badly I had to be taken off it. The one I was on before Effexor, Cymbalta, had a punishing taper-off, extremely bad “brain zaps”. A lot of these were off-label prescriptions because no-one knows what causes NDPH & neurologists pretty much try everything they can think of that might work on the off-chance that one will. I’m now on a waiting list to have Botox (!) injections into my head to see if that’ll work 😞

Chronic pain– it’s a fucker.

Moggie
Moggie
7 months ago

Rebecca Watson has a video on this story now:

Tim Lieder
7 months ago

I just wrote his memorial, because there’s no way he’s coming out of a Russian hospital alive. But it’s nice that he’s proven the need for universal health care as opposed to whatever free market boondoggle the Russians developed after Communism. All the corruption, none of the care! https://medium.com/@timlieder1/in-memoriam-jordan-peterson-probably-wont-miss-you-208f24ef8778

Daniel Eriksen
Daniel Eriksen
5 months ago

I’m very disappointed in this article and the comments section. There is very little understanding, intellectually or psychologically, on what Peterson was doing these past years. His work is actually very important culturally and doesn’t fit into the narratives above at all. The West in general (US, Canada, Europe) has much to learn from traditional Eastern values and philosophies: the regions of Asia, Sub-continent India (no matter what one thinks of Hinduism, etc, they display true ‘inclusiveness’ and tolerance of differences for the most part), pre 600’s MiddleEastern Christian and the best of Islam, etc. Modern American culture is riddled with intolerance and lack of a basic educational foundation, even in the universities, both on the Liberal Left and Conservative Right. America is floundering as illustrated in this article.

Naglfar
Naglfar
5 months ago

@Daniel Eriksen

His work is actually very important culturally

Well, I guess if by “culture” you mean “angry dudebros online,” then sure. Otherwise, no, and he’ll be forgotten within a few decades.

much to learn from traditional Eastern values and philosophies: the regions of Asia, Sub-continent India

Not sure what that has to do with alt-right grifters. Your friend JP mostly regurgitates Jung and the like.

America is floundering as illustrated in this article.

If by “floundering” you mean because people like Jordan Peterson have so much influence? Then yes, America is floundering. I doubt that’s what you meant, though.

Daniel Eriksen
Daniel Eriksen
5 months ago

I’m afraid I can’t follow where you are going with this.
All the best though.