Mikhaila Peterson recorded a two-minute and 50-second YouTube video outlining how her father, Jordan Peterson, became addicted to prescribed psychoactive drugs, developed a physical dependency to them, almost died, contracted pneumonia, flew to Russia to seek different treatment after several visits to North American hospitals, reportedly went into an induced coma, and, finally, as of Feb. 7, 2020, is in recovery.
The drama began years before the spring of 2019, when Peterson, the University of Toronto professor, renowned clinical psychologist and international bestselling author, began taking a low dose of medication to treat anxiety and an autoimmune disorder, Mikhaila said.
In April 2019, when Peterson’s wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer, doctors prescribed Peterson a higher dosage of the benzodiazepine, a type of medical tranquilizer, most commonly known via the brand-names, Xanax and Valium.
Over the last eight months, her father has suffered from akathisia, a condition of “irresistible restlessness” and “unbearable discomfort” caused by a negative reaction to the high dose of drugs and physical withdrawal, making him suicidal.
After North American hospitals couldn’t help him, Mikhaila said the family flew to Russia out of desperation to find a hospital that would medically detoxify him.
“He’s improving and is off the horrible medication. His sense of humour is back, he’s smiling again for the first time in months,” she said. “But he still has a long way to go to recover fully.
“The uncertainty around his recovery has been one of the most difficult and scary experiences we’ve ever had.”
The 54-year-old has been at the centre of a debate about gender and free speech ever since he posted videos to YouTube in the fall of 2016 in which he said he would not use the preferred, gender-neutral pronouns of some students and faculty and opposed federal legislation dealing with gender expression.
He said his work was based on research he conducted earlier in his life while studying the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. He said he viewed the imposition by the state of speech requirements as a dangerous step toward totalitarian control.
The videos drew fire from trans activists, faculty and student and labour unions. Critics accused Peterson of helping to foster a climate for hate to thrive. Protests, sometimes violent, broke out on campus, and the controversy attracted international media coverage.
Peterson received letters from the University of Toronto, which he said served as warnings, one reminding him that free speech had to be made in accordance with human rights legislation and the other noting that his refusal to use personal pronouns upon request could constitute discrimination.
But Peterson gained a following — at one point he was earning nearly $50,000 per month through crowd funding from his base of supporters — and published his first international bestseller, 12 Rules for Life, in 2018.
With files from Alex McKeen, Patty Winsa and Sachin Maharaj.
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