Scott Stossel is a highly intelligent, highly successful person. He’s a respected writer with a mile-long resume, as well as the current editor of The Atlantic. Just this week, Mr. Stossel published My Age of Anxiety, an acclaimed autobiography in which he discusses his lifelong, debilitating anxiety disorder.
Mr. Stossel has had the “best-of-the-best” treatment in conventional medicine, both talk therapies and drugs, but has been unable to control his severe anxiety. Although he admits to dabbling in some holistic approaches to anxiety—including yoga, acupuncture, and St. John’s Wort (which is actually more useful in managing depression)—his book recounts taking one dangerous anti-anxiety medication after another, including:
Alas, as Mr. Stossel writes, “Here’s what’s worked: nothing.”
It’s not surprising. Many of the medications listed above were not even developed for anxiety. They were developed for depression and pressed into duty for anxiety because of a lack of other alternatives that were not highly addictive or toxic. Klonopin, which Mr. Stossel found of some use, significantly impairs mental function. Antipsychotics, which again were not meant for anxiety but are sometimes used for it, are particularly dangerous.
It’s heartbreaking that Mr. Stossel, like most of the 40 million American adults suffering from anxiety disorders, has apparently never been told that GABA (gamma-aminiobutyric acid) can be taken as a supplement. GABA is what our own body produces to control anxiety. It is a naturally produced neurotransmitter that regulates neuron firing and calms brain activity. GABA deficiency can cause, among other things, insomnia, ADHD, and anxiety.
Of course, the natural solution is simply to give your body some help by supplementing with GABA. Because GABA supplements are safe, effective, nontoxic, and not habit-forming, this is perhaps the best way to combat mild to severe anxiety. It’s also relatively cheap, although you will need the best GABA and should not try to use cheap substitutes.
Anti-anxiety drug sales currently top out at several billion—that’s per drug, per year!Big Pharma isn’t in the business of non-addictive, cost-effective anxiety solutions. Instead, they offer such chemical solutions as benzodiazepines, a class of tremendously addictive anti-anxiety and sleep drugs that include Xanax and Ambien. These drugs work to stretch out the effects of the GABA that your body already produces.
Even in low doses, these “benzos” can cause confusion, depression, and impaired memory and thinking. Long-term use can cause confusion, lack of coordination, slurred speech, weakness, tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal. In his book, Mr. Stossel, citing a 1984 study showing that long-term benzo-use can actually shrink your brain, expresses his own fears about his long-term benzo use: “Does this explain why, at the age of forty-four…I feel stupider than I used to?”
Sadly, Mr. Stossel’s book discusses GABA’s role in the brain without even considering supplementation. Does the author even know that supplements exist?—probably not. The book also directly addresses the failures of conventional medicine (“Dr. Harvard…seemed to see me as a type—an anxiety patient—to be treated with a one-size-fits-all approach: drugs”). Despite this insight, Mr. Stossel does not seem to understand that simply replacing what the body lacks—the very definition of supplementation—can help manage even the most debilitating conditions.
How could someone as well-connected and well-educated as Mr. Stossel not hear of taking GABA as a supplement? It’s a deadly combination of four factors:
- the mainstream media’s extreme bias against integrative doctors and treatments, possibly connected with huge advertising revenue from Big Pharma;
- large, corrupt medical associations, also supported by Big Pharma, manipulating prescription guidelines;
- overzealous health claim regulation by the FDA; and
- FDA protection of drug companies’ mutually lucrative drug monopoly. This protection blocks vital information on natural solutions from ever reaching consumers.
It’s important to note that not all GABA supplements are created equal. They should be in advanced, bioavailable form. Lesser versions may be affected by the digestive process in a way that limits their effectiveness. A member of our ANH-USA team has had excellent experience with Thorne Research’s PharmaGABA-100. A useful but not complete list of other high quality producers would include Life Extension Foundation, NOW Foods, and Jarrow Formulas.
Don’t end up like Mr. Stossel, suffering a tragically impaired life, because the FDA, Big Pharma, and conventional doctors have failed to give you information about natural alternatives. But, as always, be sure to seek advice from an integrative doctor before trying a new supplementation regimen.
42 thoughts on “Scott Stossel’s Story of Anxiety”
Mr. Stossel should have been told of the wonderful book “The Chemistry of Calm” by holistic psychiatrist Henry Emmons, MD.
Highly recommended for all integrative practitioners.
I have read single dose amino acids should not be taken in isolation, but with the rest of the amino acids or it can have effects which cause imbalances. Is this correct?
Unfortunately, in my experience GABA hasn’t worked particularly well, perhaps because it is supposed to not cross the blood-brain barrier easily. The better choice is kava – it tastes horrible but is hands down the best supplement for controlling anxiety and intrusive thoughts. I believe kava is a GABA-A receptor agonist and works in the same manner as the benzos, but without the side effects or (so far) any hint of dependence. I read Scott Stossel’s article in The Atlantic and my gut churned in sympathy with his extreme distress. I’d already considered contacting him with this information (no doubt thousands of people are doing the same) and will do so now. Keep calm and carry on.
SADLY…I read this article and I could not help but be amazed.
I know that we, inside the alternative healing arts, have a multitude of opinions and approaches to our clients…but do, allow me to call them (patients?) 🙂
In the world today, we have so many assaults upon the health of mankind that it is going to be nearly impossible to quantify, and even qualify, how they may be approached.
Do allow me to make this comment: HUMANITY HAS BEEN GENETICALLY ASSAULTED….not only gene shunts, but enzyme derailments are the norm…through at least 4 generations now.
Vaccine theory has done a number on mankind’s genome. Chemicals, radiation, poor water and food-like items have epigenetically altered genetic expression.
Supplements are rarely the answer….RARELY. That said, minerals are hugely crucial…as is REAL WATER.
Until we arrive at a method by which gene expression and enzyme production can be addressed, the issue of supplementation will be a drop of water in the ocean.
I do welcome quesitons/comments.
then there’s this:
GABA as a supplement
A number of commercial sources sell formulations of GABA for use as a dietary supplement, sometimes for sublingual administration. These sources typically claim that the supplement has a calming effect. These claims are not utterly unreasonable given the nature of GABA in human sympatholysis, but GABA as a tranquilizing agent, purely isolated in itself, is scientifically unsubstantiated or only irregularly demonstrated. For example, there is evidence stating that the calming effects of GABA can be observed in the human brain after administration of GABA as an oral supplement. However, there is also more scientifically and medicinally relevant evidence that pure GABA does not cross the blood–brain barrier at therapeutically significant levels. The only way to deliver the GABA effectively is circumventing the blood-brain barrier dilemma. Indeed, there are a small, limited number of over-the-counter supplements that are derivatives of GABA, such as phenibut and picamilon. Picamilon combines niacin and GABA and crosses the blood–brain barrier as a prodrug that later hydrolyzes into GABA and niacin. Phenibut and picamilon are serious substances to be administered intelligently, responsibly and moderately in light of their extreme, pro-GABAergic properties usually only confined to regulated, expensive prescription medications.
Jan. 14, 2014
I was started on Paxil and Xanax in Feb. of 1994, never being told that they were addictive or especially how addictive they could be. I didn’t have a computer at that time, so it was several years before I was able to find information I wished I had been told before being instructed to take the drugs. I was also on Wellbutrin and Antivan, but only for short periods of time while trying to get off of Paxil, which was a horrible, horrible process causing me to be so sick for nearly two years as I tapered off of it even with a doctor’s help. That drug (Paxil) changed my personality completely, and caused me for the first time in my life to consider and attempt taking my life – thankfully, with the help of a friend, I did not accomplish that. I did not realize how badly Paxil had changed my personality until after I was totally off of it and looked back at my past with shame, pain and regret – the dosage had been raised to more than I should have been on and i will always believe I was, during that time very bipolar. Next month I will have been on Alprazalom for 20 years (generic for Xanax). I have gone to two doctors during the past years to try to get help getting off of this poison, but both of them have told me it is too dangerous and the best thing I can do is to stay on it even though it is destroying my memory and making me feel as though don’t know much of anything any more. I used to be an intelligent person, able to be of help to others, now each day carries with it the fear of falling apart even though I am taking the drug, and the fear of being without having it with me, as even missing one pill causes me to be extremely ill and so nervous my blood pressure shoots up to levels way too high. The doctor I now go to has never prescribed Xanax to any of his patients and he has told my husband and me that he never will, but he has also told us that he will never deny me having my monthly prescription filled, as he knows how dangerous it is for me to be without it. It is not right that the pharmaceutical companies have been allowed to push these kinds of drugs on unsuspecting patients (and doctors who trust the pharmaceutical representatives who tout their drugs as miracle workers). The pharmaceutical companies should have to compensate in every way for those of us whose lives they have destroyed in ways we can never get back, but even though their money would help us get the care we need as we grow older, it could never…
Carole, I totally understand. I have been on Sinequan and Ativan for over 30 yrs. I have tried but I also was a happy strong person full of life, I also am on Depakote since August, I was put on Paxil over a year and a half ago and also had intense suicidal thoughts, I took myself off it made me feel brain dead, I just cannot function drive, work even jut be w people if I am not on these meds. I have become addicted to them and they have ruined my life. My Dr. says I need to take esp the Ativan, just can’t come off. I hate it, tried a total Natural regime of herbs but I had a severe reaction as I was still on the sinequan and they interacted with eachother. I can only leave my life in God’s hands b/c I do not know what to do and have no Dr. in this area who I can go to for help. with my sympathy.
Also been on benzos for many years. Am trying gaba (picamilon) combined with 5htp multivit tissue salts…..must put back into the system what meds have taken out. Makes sense. Sleep is a huge problem. It’s a hard slog. Just keep at it. Keep putting the good stuff in. Must work in time. Keep it up.
It certainly is a shame that he does not refer to the many complementary treatments that are available to lessen, or even “cure” anxiety. Examples range from meditation, acupuncture and acupuncture point tapping with affirmations (as with Gary Craig’s EFT), homeopathy; as well as micro electrical stimulation (e.g., Alpha_Stim and others). As one example, great resource is Larry Burk, MD’s website and book, Let Magic Happen.
The mainstream medical community knows very little about the human body, yet they act as if they know it all. I could tell you horror story after horror story and fill up this page, but I will let you use your imagination. I will just share one.
I was born in 1942 in Cleveland, Ohio, at a time when the AMA took a huge sum of money from the American Dairy Association to teach women that it was animalistic to breastfeed their babies. Not only did I not get one drop of breast milk, the doctor sent me home with my mother and instructed her to feed me 4 oz of formula every four hours. It was not nearly enough, and I was half starved for 3 months until my mother took me to another doctor who told her to feed me as much as I would eat. I now know that my immune system and organs did not develop. Did the medical community check to find out if these babies were thriving on a diet changed for the first time in hundreds of thousands of years? Guess again.
I have suffered from a variety of diseases for years, including cancer. I have chronic pain, chronic migraine, cluster headaches, thyroid disease and cancer, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, advanced arthritis, chronic stomach ulcers (not caused by h. pylori), IBS, and many other debilitating conditions. I have chronic insomnia due to these problems which has gone on for over 20 years. I am allergic to nearly all medications, including antibiotics (all). I also have tuburculosis and other infectious diseases which are not treatable due to my allergies. I have anxiety to say the very least. I have never been offered ANY medication which has been effective in treating any of these conditions well enough to say I can function at a reasonable level (60-70%). I am appalled at the big pharma which controls this country in a choke-hold, and is allowed to continue to do so.
I have not read this particular book, but I have read many. I am 100% for any Natural way to help a person with their health and mental health. I am a 60 yr old woman who at age 26 had a severe post partum depression. In those days I was not really in tune with Natural medicine nor were the Dr’s I needed, thus I began a lifetime of various medications for depression, anxiety, severe depression, then I was told I am bi polar, I tried Gaba but it reacted with the antidepressants I am on, one thing the natural Dr’s do NOT understand is how much we are suffering!!! I so much want to be off medication but I simply cannot handle the detoxing and now I believe my brain has adjusted to so many meds I am on, I cannot function without them. Trust me I have tried even went to a detox facility but after I came home I was just a mess and had to go back on certain meds.. Friends and family are just worn out with my plea, so I stay on the meds. I cry every night and only God above knows this situation I am sure I speak for many..I know NO Dr. in my area who can help me if I did I would go. I am saddened by this daily. Please don’t make us sound weak it is a struggle you do not have to go through, we are addicted b/c of big Pharma and the general Medical Dr’s know no other way. I love these newsletters but this one is close to my heart. I want to be delivered but do not know how at my age. I live alone and it is now like a disability. but I have to act like I am together b/c friends and family cannot handle me if I am not. Thank you.
HI, Anxiety/depression/suicidal thoughts/panic/obsessing/no sleep and more can be due to low oxygen in the brain due to Celiac. No gluten/dairy/soy/sugar…vitamins/good oils, LDN, Vit D3, Vit C, zinc, fish oil and more may help the brain/body rebuild cells so oxygen raises in the cells and these issues disappear. Drugs may try to cover symptoms..but would let the Celiac get worse..then maybe higher doses of drugs or more drugs etc.. Tests may not work to diagnose Celiac. GABA may relax. Vit B12 methylcobalamin shot or under the tongue kind. Vitamins/good oils that help circulation and more may help. Rhodiola, ginkgo, Vit E, 5000mcg of biotin, Vit C, B complex and more may help. People can heal fast brain/body. To suffer and never get real help is sad. 5000IU of Vit D3 helped me stopped crying for no reason. 2000mg of fish oil helps the brain. Krill oil, lecithin, phosphatidylserine/DMAE, CL, Evening primrose oil and more good oils may help. Raw walnuts (open shells to avoid hidden gluten) helped my brain work twice as fast. Heated oil/dehydrated food and certain fats hurt me. Hair test may show if heavy metals are problem and good mineral levels. Some people may need Amour thyroid since gluten may make antibodies to the thyroid. This would raise oxygen in the cells. I hope more people will go to the Alternative doctor or get Alternative help and be well fast.
This go against publice right know. Also go against to care of self.
I’ve known people before that have health problems but never consider looking outside the conventional medical monopoly. Sad really when you know that many natural substances are out there that could help a condition.
Thank you so very much for this article. I’m sure it will be a life saver for many people, including me. I have struggled with this condition for most if not all of my life, and I have tried taking some of those drugs with horrible side effects and no help for the condition. In fact, it made things worse.
I finally feel a sense of hope, and I want to express my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude.
I have not been able to find a pharmaceutical grade of GABA that definitely crosses the Blood-Brain-Barrier.
Can you please let us know if you have found one.
While GABA acts in the GI system, to get anti-anxiety effects, the GABA must be able to be absorbed into the brain.
I have personally benefited from many herbal remedies and alternative therapies. They have no side effects and do not damage your immune system like drugs.
Celebrities or famous people are unfortuntely hard to reach with these safer more natural treatments.
If he has a website, there sometimes is a contact link, but sometimes that is not even provided and received mail is often censored to eliminate the principal from being exposed to alternative medical treatments. He often has to be curious enough to want to do his own research-a rare quality unfortunately.
Please make your informative emails short
or at least short self contained paragraphs.
PS: Your long emails are not read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I agree with the above article regarding those medications. I have members of my family that they have taken some of the medications mentioned and I have seen the effects on them. I have tried to guide them to take natural suplements and they have done nothing, is real sad what doctors and Big Pharmas do to us.Shame on them.
After reading the Grain Brain Book, by Dr. Paul Perlmutter, a neurologist for 20 years, a whole lot of controversy is stemming on the fact that since GMO’s have been put into wheat since they started doing this, 15 years ago, the amount of Gluten in wheat has risen an alarming 40%. That’s ridiculous, and people who weren’t sensitive to gluten, like me all their lives, now are. So guess what, anxiety, depression, is 40% higher, and on the high end, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s has increased remarkably, and Dr. Paul P. says he’s got the science that proves it’s gluten. I know for myself when I quit wheat or anything with gluten, all my allergies and skin problems have gone. He’s documented enough cases and has the science to flat out show that he fully recommends that all wheat with gluten, should be given up. He doesn’t have just a few cases that when they stopped gluten their problems went also, but all his patients that have stopped gluten have got better. He explains why and how the new blood panels have far reaching effects and can show many deficiencies that relate to gluten. So this is probably old news but it sure worked for me and all I’ve told. It’s a big deal, get off the wheat.
It is like BIG MONEY, rots the brain. BIG PHARMA has Ethical issues. The GOAL of the BIG PHARMA machine is, SELL….SELL…SELL…but….NOT BE ACCOUNTABLE….FOR…BAD…..
RESULTS. The same example is for the GMO seed and herbicides and pesticides that KILL BEES, KILL the soil, POLLUTE the water, and YELL “It is NOT….OUR….FAULT. BIG PHARMA does the SAME…THING. GET…A…CUE!!!
After suffering from anxiety and panic attacks since my early teens and trying many of the therapies mentioned in this article, I finally found a psychiatrist (MD) who practices functional medicine. She has found that, in my case, my anxiety may be related to parasites and an overall gut flora imbalance. She is working with me to correct this with herbs and supplements. Then she will support me in going off of Lexapro. At that point, GABA may be an option for me. I believe it is unsafe to take it while taking antidepressants.
Thanks for the article. I believe there are so many underlying causes for anxiety, including life style, modern stressors, psychological issues and physiological issues. The physiological causes seem to be vastly overlooked.
5htp has been a miraculous supplement for me, although I have seen few people using it for anxiety. It is the only supplement known, to my knowledge, to effectively do what so many SSRIs are alleged to do but which do so in hazardous and often ineffective ways, which is to get serotonin straight into the brain. Diet aside, modern theories about the neurological trauma induced by social isolation and veiled threats of social isolation (which are extremely commonplace in most primate interactions, particularly where status is concerned), bring to light the fact that our ideas about society, isolation and meaningful occupation are instrumental to our emotional health and really have not advanced appreciably in thousands or even millions of years. In fact, there is a disturbingly strong argument that the growth of industry and domination of capitalistic philosophy over the last few hundred years has sent us backwards in our neurological/sociological evolution, creating the wide-scale epidemic of insanity in the relative absence of truly productive social movements.
I’ve found that GABA works if I take the powder sublingually with vitamin B12 with methylcobalomine. Beyond that, medical marijuana has been proven effective for anxiety and certainly less harmful than pharma.. 🙂
“If the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.” ~Terence McKenna
I’m hopping it works for my family and me !!!!
The simple cure for both anxiety and depression is not gaba!, or any big pharma drug(all should be banned!!!) not gaba.are you ready,here it is,WATER! yes pure water with 1/8th teaspoon of unrefined salt! Most people suffer from L-CUD(long term chronic unintentional dehydration )which is responsible for over sixty diseases and death! of course this is too simple and more important it’s dirt cheap!
before anything else you do and that’s everything.you start with hydration! this message will be not liked by big pharma.hope you get to see this message.
solution (1 oz. of water per pound of half your body weight every day for life with 1/8th teaspoon of unrefined salt)big pharma hates this because you wont buy there over priced poison!!!!
If you moderate my message I will never write to you again!
Yea , lets don’t offend the lawless drug companies.
You all should be ashamed at charging a ridiculous amount for your product,is only the rich can afford this! you’re doing just what big pharma is doing , over charging.most people would develop all of the above diseases worrying about paying for your precious product I’ll put you down as another pip-off!
PharmaGABA costs $20/month. I paid more than that for effexor even with insurance. Drug companies suck.
Yes, GABA works well for a lot of people; however, if you read Jenny McCarthy’s book with Dr. Kartzinel, HEALING AND PREVENTING AUTISM, he documents his own son’s issues with GABA. My adopted daughter who has both Asperger’s and reactive attachment disorder problems – the RAD, which we’ve done a lot of therapy for her, left her neurotransmitters super over elevated and this is common in children with that problem since they have their brains hard wired from the early deprivation or neglect in orphanage situations to go into fight/flight/freeze – my naturopath and I tried GABA on her and she had a psychotic episode. She did NOT handle it well. So….my point in posting this is that GABA is not always beneficial for everyone, and Dr. Kartzinel describes his own autistic son having a similar reaction. There is a certain percentage of the population that does have this ‘side effect’ in trying to take GABA. I ended up having to find a melatonin supplement that just was melatonin – before I was giving her the Schiff but it just had theanine with it – then they added GABA and I knew I could not give that to her. I can handle it fine but my daughter cannot.
I don’t have the time right now to read all of the comments here, but decided that homeopathy should mentioned at least once, if not twice. Homeopathy had had great results treating anxiety due to many different causes, the remedy given also improves overall health.This can’t ever be said about conventional meds.
Each person is unique. I have suffered from anxiety/panic attacks for 12 years and have found 5HTP with other herbal supplements very beneficial. Working with a naturopath is key. I am working on trying to get off Celexa. Another amazing free easy tool is Tapping/EFT (emotional freedom technique) Go to http://www.Tappingqanda.com/podcast. There are hundreds of free interviews by Gene Monterastelli. I am not connected to this site in any way. Just wanting to share my gratitude with the universe!
Another tip for people on SSRI, these drugs deplete all B vitamins. I am taking P5P (B-6) and B complex along with D3, K2, Cal/Magnesium, DHEA, unrefined salt. Check Magnesium levels usually deficient. There is a blood test called 96 panel igG that tests your blood against specific foods for protein interactions. These cause an inflammatory response. Gluten is not always the culprit. I just found out that I have an extreme reaction to chicken and had no clue. I eat chicken several times a week.
Although the reasons presented are valid, in that the medical community has no use for alternative views or supplements in any form, I believe there is another reason why the public does not get this useful info.
There is a mindset, mostly found in my parents generation, but really is pervasive in general and that is the belief that doctors are Very Special People. Doctors were/are considered the best of all professions and it’s an honor to have a doctor in your family. Doctors are looked upon as the smartest, the best educated and generally thought of as very wise. They are the final word on your health and almost everything else. Being part of the medical community (Dr.,nurse, EMC) is also thought of as being a sort of “selfless” career and, as such, they are automatically thought of as good people doing good things.
Most of the alternative community is looked upon as being “against” these wise, wonderful people. What this means in practical terms is that most of the time, if something isn’t endorsed by medical professionals the public doesn’t give it any credence. This is a sad shame. This is why there are no news stories about the “fudging” of data on medical trials or just how entrenched the pharma companies are in running the medical business. Bad PR for newspapers to run stories coming down on these revered doctors.
That’s why I’m so glad to read stories like this that bring this type of info to the public and keeps me up-to-date on what sort of backroom deals are going on with Monsanto, etc. I hope that the people who see this new book will do the research and find this site.
I suffered from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks for years. It turns out that the root cause was actually food allergies. I discovered that I was allergic to dairy, gluten, and eggs. Once I cut those foods from my diet 4 years ago, I didn’t have a single panic or anxiety attack again. After having them for over 20 years! I too was put on multiple medications over the years, and of course none of them worked either, in fact, they made me feel worse. And no it was not a mainstream doctor who finally diagnosed me, it was a naturopath who figured it out after only one visit! Shame on all these doctors who put him on so many meds. It makes me sick.
Yes, food allergies caused my panic attacks as well…after 20 yrs on medication, I figured it out one night eating dinner. Not sure GABA is all that bio available to the brain but it’s worth a try.
We need confirmatory studies, blinding is nearly undetectable.
What is known as medicine. Somehow, the medical community took
advantage of using herbal treatments being used,
but one must trust experts in diabetic foot disease.
The oils from plants of the practice of pharmacy mortgage rates has changed, too?
Erectile dysfunction, low blood pressure and increased risk of calcium on bone strength is hormonal
changes might cause the. Sometimes in the market, I m in pain.
GABA does not cross the blood-brain barrier, so it is is highly unlikely to be useful in treating anxiety.
Also, given Stossel’s lifelong battles with anxiety AND a highly researched book on the subject, do you honestly believe that he is “unaware” of this supplement?
As a mental health provider, I spend most of my time trying to wean patients off of the benzodiazepines. Some natural remedies that help include l-theanine, lemon balm herbal extract and most importantly, magnesium. L-tryptophan also can be effective. Non addictive prescription medications for anxiety include hydroxyzine, propranolol and buspirone.