The Canadian psychologist, who has attracted a substantial far-right following, has withdrawn from the public eye due to his spiralling addiction to benzodiazepines.
Withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines, which include Valium, Xanex and others, include acute anxiety, panic attacks, vomiting, insomnia, muscle twitches, headaches, paranoia, memory loss and in the most extreme instances seizures which can cause death.
Peterson’s daughter, Mikhaila Peterson, said his physical dependence on benzodiazepine tranquilisers first became clear to his family last April when his wife of 30 years, Tammy, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The controversial academic had been consuming the drug for years to alleviate persistent anxiety in the wake of a severe autoimmune reaction to food.
The daughter of the University of Toronto professor released a video detailing the deterioration of her father’s health, saying he had “nearly died several times”.
She said his attempts to stop himself taking the drug left him in “unbearable discomfort” over the past eight months and that he has been in an induced coma.
Mikhaila said he was receiving treatment in Russia after a number of US hospitals wrongly diagnosed him.
His daughter, who described the last year as “absolute hell” but says he is now “on the mend”, said he has suffered withdrawal symptoms and akathisia – a kind of movement disorder she referred to as “incredible, endless, irresistible restlessness, bordering on panic.”
She said: “He’s had to spend four weeks in the ICU in terrible shape, but, with the help of some extremely competent and courageous doctors, he survived. The uncertainty around his recovery has been one of the most difficult and scary experiences we’ve ever had.”
Peterson was fairly unknown outside of his discipline until 2016, when he declared he would not use gender-neutral pronouns for transgender students at the University of Toronto.
The "alt-right" figurehead, who has written a number of popular books, has billed himself as a foe of so-called political correctness. Attracting widespread accusations of transphobia, he has criticised “political correctness” linked to transgender rights, cultural appropriation, and environmentalism.
He once urged women to stand up against their “crazy, harpy sisters”, and has been condemned for failing to reprimanding his supporters when they bombard his critics with vitriolic abuse.
Peterson’s daughter said he had only just left an intensive care unit and was currently suffering from neurological damage, adding that he was some distance from full recovery.