Cold turkey quitting psychoactive medication can have dire consequences

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HOUSTON, TX - What was supposed to be a 15-day stint in the Galveston County Jail ended up costing Jesse Jacobs his life. Jesse`s parents say their son was never given his prescription Xanax he`d relied on for the past 10 years to treat an anxiety disorder.

They've filed a federal lawsuit against Galveston County, saying that violent withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, led to Jesse’s death.

“When you are used to some medications that relax you and which cause gratification, once you stop them, the GABA receptors inversely fire back, and sometimes you can have a seizure,” explains Dr. Asim Shah, Chief of Psychiatry at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston.

According the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, whether or not a prescription drug is given to county jail inmates is a decision made locally by the health care provider in that county jail.

Brandon Wood, Executive Director of Texas Commission on Jail Standards, says, “…and often times they will do that in consultation with the Sheriff`s office in order to determine if there are certain prescription drugs that they are not comfortable being released into the facility, such as narcotics.”

Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset says that to his knowledge, no such directive was given to Soluta Health, the healthcare provider at Galveston County Jail, that would have prevented Mr. Jacobs, or any other inmate, from receiving their prescribed Xanax.

Soluta Health did not respond to our invitation to comment.

Even if a patient does need to cease their dependence on Xanax, there`s a right way to do it.

“The right way to stop or taper is, do a slow taper of up to 10% a week, which could take numerous months,” says Dr. Shah.

When it comes to dependence on psychoactive medication, the wrong way can cost way too much.