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Death Grip: A Climber's Escape from Benzo Madness
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Death Grip: A Climber's Escape from Benzo Madness

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  137 ratings  ·  22 reviews
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 a ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 12th 2013 by St. Martin's Press (first published February 5th 2013)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Note: I received a free advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher through the goodreads first reads program. (This has no influence over my rating or review.)

This is perhaps a four-star book if it were cleaned up a little. Samet is a surprisingly good writer, and his story is an interesting one, but this book is in need of a good proof-reader. There were quite a few simple mistakes, especially near the end. I don't read a lot of ARCs, so I don't know if that's standard and forgivable
Kris Davidson
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very gripping read, especially in part 2. I love the richness of the language and complexity of ideas--it's not written in your typical fluffy, cotton-candy fashion. I also never realized how addictive drugs like Xanax and Klonopin are and have family members on them. I'm going to recommend this to them. ...more
Tom Potter
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A hard-core rock climber experiences crippling anxiety, and then psychiatrists hook him on benzodiazepine drugs to cope. That's when the real fun begins. This would be a great premise for a fiction novel, but this is all true. And the bonus: Samet is an excellent writer. As the book goes on, it increasingly becomes a page-turner. ...more
3-22-14: I did like a lot about the book, and I identified with some of the addiction stuff and with a lot of the depression, low self-worth, mental "illness" struggles he describes. BUT, his tone was often haughty and along with the unnecessary use of "three-dollar words," it made it often hard to feel any deep sympathy for or empathy with him--and therefore identifying with and learning from his experience--because he often ends up sounding like a snotty, overprivileged brat. He may very well ...more
Jack Fenwick
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very personal narrative of the short-comings of psychiatric care through the eyes of a professional climber. Specifically, the results of misguided benzodiazepine prescription and treatment, and the resultant snow-balling of inappropriate diagnosis in lieu of it. Climbing metaphors end up being not trite, but perhaps the only appropriate personification here in Samet's vivid descriptions of finding out just how much of a dangerous and nearly fatal position he was put in by those whom we trust ...more
Michael Preiss
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
WOW! I too have struggled with some medication challenges (and also was an obsessed climber) but what he went thru is mind numbing! I felt so sorry for Matt while reading about his struggles but I couldn't help but occasionally chuckle(I know nothing funny about it) with his chosen words when describing some of his terrifying stories. IMO he is a great writer in the same vein as Keith Johnson (Crossing Zion) ...more
Jean Dupenloup
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
In this well written memoir, Matt Samett retraces a lifetime of climbing, mental health troubles, and benzo addiction.

Like Mr. Samett’s life, the book is a rollicking tale filled with extraordinary accomplishment, but always undermined by his struggle with mental health.

Eventually, he discovers that some of the cures can be worse than the disease, and chronicles the awakening that allows him to escape from “benzo madness.”

A cautionary tale on the risks associated with modern psychiatry.
Amy Gee
May 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
You don't have to be a climber (rock) to feel the pain and desperation in this memoir. Constant panic attacks and depression and the only things that "help" (benzos), stop working. I can totally relate. This is absolute hell. I totally understand this hole, when even the stuff I love, like climbing, is impossible.

Brutally honest.
Vulnerable. Desperate.
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Eating disorder memoirs are so unsettling sometimes, because even though the person is writing from a reflective place where they're recovered to some great extent, this weird energy around food and body size lingers in their words. Like you'll be reading about some crazy diet debacle, and the narrator voice will say something about how 'still today bababa those kids with 3% body fat' or something, and it's like, wait, what? I can't tell if a sentence is in the old voice that's in the throws of ...more
Elizabeth  Holter
Feb 16, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a fascinating and painful read. Fascinating because Mr. Samet is an expressive writer who is reporting from inside the war zone of the drugged mind. Painful because he is describing a medical culture in the thrall of drugs that alter neurochemistry (not to mention many other types of body chemistry). His description of the inpatient affective disorders unit at Johns Hopkins is a modern version of Nurse Ratched's ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The story is a cautionary tale to b ...more
Mary Moser
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am both a climber and a victim of psychotropic drugs, so this book really hit home for me. Samet is a talented writer and he relays his experience in a way that summons compassion from the reader and opens the eyes of those who have no idea how dangerous prescription drugs can be. I would recommend this book to anyone who is considering psychotropic drugs, as taking them could very well launch the user into a world of hell. It's a sobering reminder that we should not put our full faith in the ...more
Mary Beth
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is more about rockclimbing than Benzodiazepine addiction and recovery. Don't misunderstand, the writer is brilliant, but his overruse of "four dollar words" and over the top vocabulary will frustrate the average reader. In some excerpts the author breaks away from the wordiness and gives us a more raw interpretation of his current set of circumstances, and this is much appreciated. Overall it is a good read. Definitely worth reading for anyone who has ever been "polydrugged" or struggl ...more
Mary Ann
May 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this for a first-person account of withdrawal from anti-anxiety medications, since I have family members on Klonopin and Ambien, but the book ended up sucking me in on so many more levels. Part II, where you get an inside look at the climbing world and climbers' strange eating disorders ("climborexia"), is fascinating. The book builds more and more momentum, offering astounding insight into the way society is pathologizing sadness, stress, and discomfort. I'm still haunted by the glimpses ...more
Nov 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Goodreads First Reads program. I signed up for the book because it was by and about a climber. But Death Grip was more about the author's battle with addiction than about climbing adventures. The book was relatively well written and engaging enough that I kept on to the end. While I found the discussion of widely prescribed drugs enlightening, I wouldn't describe it was an enjoyable read. Readers more interested in the central to ...more
Lisa M
Dec 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: won
Thank you Goodreads giveaways for the advanced copy of Death Grip. I had no knowledge of rock climbing prior to reading this book and found that was interesting! I felt Matt's struggles throughout his journey, however sometimes I also struggled to follow some of the story. Many times going back to re read a portion. I did enjoy this and thank the author for sharing such an honest look at his life. ...more
Gayle Burns
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read it because the son of someone I know wrote it. The writing is really very good, and although I'm not the target audience for the book (rich kid, anorexic, rock climbing, pill popper) it was interesting and enlightening in helping me understand drug addiction vs. mental illness, drug abuse vs. the horror of prescription drugs and their effects. Particularly vivid descriptions of self-starvation. ...more
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
The author starts with a little problem with anxiety that explodes into addiction to various prescribed drugs. The advice of his doctors makes him worse. It is a nightmare. This book was a difficult read because the author is not someone I can relate to, has a giant ego, and takes little personal responsibility.
Amar Pai
This book was interesting. It's not super well written. The author is very forgiving of himself. Yet, I think it gets at some real problems w/ modern psychiatry. Not saying Scientology is the answer, but maybe Tom Cruise had a point. I don't know. Anti-depressants seem to help a lot of people. But the industry is shady. ...more
Aug 13, 2013 rated it liked it
I find it difficult (and worthwhile) to read such a personal and initially painful account but look forward to a second book where the author's poetic capture of his physical surroundings can be a joy to read. ...more
Christopher Dubey
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I wrote a review for another site. His writing is far from perfect, but the story he has to tell is amazing.
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
any person who considers themselves on a healing path will find healing in this book.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly and at times brutally honest look at how addiction to psychotropic drugs happens and why the addiction is so hard to break.
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Megan Sudnik
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Jul 29, 2018
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Oct 03, 2020
Alex Jeffries
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Feb 12, 2013
Matt Hays
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Apr 11, 2016
Ari Schneider
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May 01, 2019
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Jun 18, 2014
Abigail Wise
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Oct 13, 2016
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