Death Grip: A Climber's Escape from Benzo Madness (Paperback)

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Death Grip chronicles a top climber's near-fatal struggle with anxiety and depression, and his nightmarish journey through the dangerous world of prescription drugs. Matt Samet lived to climb, and craved the challenge, risk, and exhilaration of conquering sheer rock faces around the United States and internationally. But Samet's depression, compounded by the extreme diet and fitness practices of climbers, led him to seek professional help. He entered the murky, inescapable world of psychiatric medicine, where he developed a dangerous addiction to prescribed medications—primarily "benzos," or benzodiazepines—that landed him in institutions and nearly killed him.

With dramatic storytelling, persuasive research data, and searing honesty, Matt Samet reveals the hidden epidemic of benzo addiction, which some have suggested can be harder to quit than heroin. Millions of adults and teenagers are prescribed these drugs, but few understand how addictive they are—and how dangerous long-term usage can be, even when prescribed by doctors.

After a difficult struggle with addiction, Samet slowly makes his way to a life in recovery through perseverance and a deep love of rock climbing. Conveying both the exhilaration of climbing in the wilderness and the utter madness of addiction, Death Grip is a powerful and revelatory memoir.

About the Author

MATT SAMET is an accomplished long-time rock climber and former editor-in-chief of Climbing magazine. He is the author of Climbing Dictionary (The Mountaineers Books, 2011). He lives with his wife and their son in Colorado.

Praise For…

“As a fellow climber who's also experienced challenges with depression, medications, and the addictiveness of adventure itself, I felt uplifted and awed by Matt Samet's gritty yet hopeful memoir. Compared to my self-amputation, Matt's epic self-exorcism from the clutches of psychopharmacology is a far more powerful display of courage. Whatever adversity we face, in our darkest moments, we need books like this to help us through our struggles.” —Aron Ralston, New York Times bestselling author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place

“You do not have to be a rock climber to appreciate this book. Anyone who has experienced benzodiazepine addiction personally, or observed it in their family or friends, will find this book not only riveting but also helpful. Matt Samet tells his gripping story vividly, with anger and passion, and with no holds barred.” —Dr. Heather Ashton, author of The Ashton Manual

“As I read this compelling book, I kept wondering this: How did Matt Samet remain a world-class rock climber, able to cling to the tiniest of fingerholds, while in the throes of benzodiazepine addiction? Ultimately, Death Grip is a portrait of a young man's courage, as he confronts a challenge more difficult than any climb he ever attempted--withdrawing from legally prescribed drugs. Fast-paced and well-written, Death Grip relates an instructive and important tale of medical care gone horribly awry.” —Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic

“Matt's gift of wordsmithing is apparent in the opening paragraph. Not only is his writing style edgy and fishhook seductive, his stark honesty reaches up and grabs you by the throat.” —Dr. Jennifer Leigh, from

“Samet has been climbing since he was 15 and has served as editor in chief of Climbing magazine, but his biggest scramble was out of the pit of addition to benzodiazepines, or benzos, prescribed to him because of depression exacerbated by the stresses of his training. Here he offers a cautionary tale about addiction to prescription drugs, decidedly on the rise, and particularly to the little-discussed benzos. Not just for climbers; watch.” —Library Journal

“Samet (Climbing Dictionary), a former editor-in-chief of Climbing magazine and an accomplished rock climber, unsparingly recounts his addiction to and withdrawal from benzodiazepines or 'benzos.'” —Publishers Weekly

“A vivid account of personal addiction and prescription-drug abuse at large…As a journalist, he imbues the memoir with more than first-hand experience, combing through research to expose an epidemic he believes is woefully overlooked.” —Sneak Peak Vail

“Written with piercing clarity...this book is essential reading for anyone in a dark place--and everyone who loves climbing.” —Climbing Magazine

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250043283
ISBN-10: 125004328X
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: February 11th, 2014
Pages: 320
Language: English