Benzodiazepine withdrawal induced tinnitus

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by laurieinla, Jun 4, 2013.

  1. laurieinla

    laurieinla Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Tinnitus Since:
    10/2011
    Hi,

    I developed tinnitus in October 2011 after beginning a slow, gradual taper off of a medication known as a benzodiazepine (benzo). I had been taking Klonopin (clonazepam) for about 12 years and had no idea of its addictive properties and its potential for a long and horrific withdrawal syndrome that on average lasts 6 to 18 months or longer.

    One of the symptoms of withdrawal in those who are predisposed to moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms is tinnitus. According to one of the world's leading experts on benzodiazepines, Professor C. Heather Ashton who wrote the so-called "Ashton Manual" - How Benzodiazepines Work and How to Withdraw, the tinnitus is the last symptom to resolve and may be permanent. My tinnitus is a constant "hissing" sound that gets very loud, particularly with stress. I am looking for a supportive environment to give and get support for this condition and to find out if there are any options that might be helpful.
     
  2. Map
    Balanced

    Map Member Benefactor

    Location:
    Czech Republic
    Tinnitus Since:
    8/2003 (mild), 12/2012 (loud)
    Hi, and welcome to TT forum

    you are definitely not alone with this. I took benzos for approx 1 month (1mg Xanax daily before sleep). I was prescribed them because I experienced anxiety and isomnia after T worsening by noise exposure. When I started to taper my T unfortunately worsened again. I am not 100% sure if it was caused by it, but more I read about it I think it might be.

    My T changed from simple high-pitched EEE sound to hiss too, became louder and sounds much like electricity. If only I had known how horrible things can benzos cause, I would never touch them.

    But it was "only" 4 months ago for me, so I believe it will improve.
     
  3. laurieinla

    laurieinla Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Tinnitus Since:
    10/2011
    Hi Map,

    I am sorry to hear about your the worsening of your T upon withdrawal from benzos. The good news is that you are still early in your withdrawal, if the worsening is indeed caused by withdrawing from Xanax. Even amongst short-term users such as yourself, some may find that the recovery period is 6-18 months. I am very hopeful that your T will at the very least, go back to your baseline symptoms and soon!

    I hope anyone reading my post will do their research prior to starting down the road with benzos and the so-called "Z drugs (see below). I realize that quality of life is something that only each individual can quantify and I want to say that I am not "anti-benzo" for they are currently suppressing a terrible medication-induced movement disorder caused by taking, of all things, an anti-depressant which was discovered upon my initial withdrawal of benzos back in October 2011. Sadly, I had to reinstate the benzo in May of 2012 due to the movement disorder. Reinstating did not relieve my T.

    Professonr Heather Ashton's "manual" entitled "How Benzodiazepines Work and How to Withdraw" should be mandatory reading by doctors prior to prescribing benzodiazepines (Valium/diazepam, Klonopin/clonazepam, Ativan/lorazepam, Xanax/alpralozam and the so-called "Z drugs" (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, etc) which act similarly to benzos and can cause the same withdrawal syndrome. It is astouning how many doctors worldwide continue to prescribe these drugs for long term use, even though the addictive properties of these drugs have been known since the '60's. For a good overview on benzos, please Google "Professor Heather Ashton" or "The Ashton Manual". I would link to it, but I need to have a total of 3 posts prior to being able to link to source material.

    Specifically on T and benzo withdrawal (from The Ashton Manual - Chapter 3)

    "Sensory and motor disturbances. There is no doubt that benzodiazepine withdrawal leaves in its wake a nervous system that is exquisitely sensitive to all sensory and motor stimuli. Usually this state settles in a few weeks but occasionally disturbing sensations persist.

    One of the most distressing sensory symptoms is tinnitus, a constant ringing or hissing in the ears which has been noted in several studies of benzodiazepine withdrawal. One lady described her tinnitus as a "needle of sound" piercing deep inside her head. Tinnitus is often associated with a degree of hearing loss and is not uncommon in people with partial nerve deafness who have never taken benzodiazepines. Nevertheless, it often makes its first appearance during benzodiazepine withdrawal in people who have had hearing loss for years. Also, it may be unilateral or precisely localised, even in those with symmetrical bilateral hearing loss. Whether people who have taken long-term benzodiazepines are particularly prone to tinnitus and if so why, is not known. It can persist for years and does not always respond to the usual treatments for tinnitus (maskers, etc); nor is it always relieved by restarting benzodiazepines. However, people with persisting tinnitus after withdrawal should seek the advice of a hearing specialist and may be lucky enough to find a clinic which specialises in this symptom."
     
  4. Hudson
    Cowboy

    Hudson Manager Staff Benefactor

    Tinnitus Since:
    2003
    I'm currently tapering off of clonazepam. I have been taking it since March 9th, never more than .5 mg at night before bed so that I could sleep. It didn't have much of an effect on the tinnitus, but it certainly calmed me down. Due to it's addictive potential, I've wanted to try tapering off. I got down to .25 mg nightly, but then I woke up one night and my sister had fallen in her bathroom (she lives with me while she goes to school) and had hit her head. I had to take her to the ER that night. I was having pretty bad anxiety about the whole situation (interesting how something like that can make you forget your T!). That night when I came home I took another .125 mg at 3 am or so in the morning after returning from the hospital. I'm going to the pysch doctor today and I'm going to discuss my desire to continue tapering with him. I had been seeing a regular physician but the physician suggested I see a psychiatrist because my problems were mental health related. My one big fear of tapering off of the clonazepam has been that it will make my T worse. I suppose I just have to continue going through it and whatever happens, happens. In the past the only thing that ever made my tinnitus worse was loud noises though, so that's a comforting thought.
     
  5. laurieinla

    laurieinla Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Tinnitus Since:
    10/2011
    Hi Hudson,

    My doctor and my pdoc tapered me much too rapidly and I suffered like no one should ever have to suffer. I ended up having to reinstate and have to begin all over again.

    May I recommend that you check out the site BenzoBuddies dot org and get some information on how to slowly taper off the drug at your own rate under your doctor's supervision? Reading the Ashton Manual online (Google it) will be a very good start and the good folks at BenzoBuddies will be helpful in assisting you in your discussions to get off the drug safely and to stay off the drug. You have been on the drug long enough (more than 4 weeks) to already have developed a physiological dependence.

    By doing a slow, gradual reduction, you allow your nervous system an opportunity to adapt to being without the drug.
     
  6. Hudson
    Cowboy

    Hudson Manager Staff Benefactor

    Tinnitus Since:
    2003
    Thanks for the suggestion laurieinla.

    I've been to the BB site before. I'm not being a downer about their site, but frankly reading a lot of the posts on there is enough to cause an anxiety attack in and of itself. I would rather go about the taper and see what conditions arise on my own, without reading up about them and being psychosomatic about it.

    I've read about the Ashton Manual, and as far as that goes, most doctors here in the US aren't too keen on switching benzo users over to valium. In fact I've been told by my physician that they usually use clonazepam to taper people because it has a very comparably long half life (18-50 hours). I'll try and shoot for .0625 a week if I can, and see how that treats me. I'll be talking to my pyschiatrist this afternoon anyway, I'll probably post up what he or she has to say about it.

    Thank you!
     
  7. laurieinla

    laurieinla Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Tinnitus Since:
    10/2011
    Hi Hudson,

    I agree with you entirely with your point of view concerning the frightening stories on BB. Since you have already read the Ashton Manual than you know that you can taper directly off of Klonopin (which is what I did) and you realize that the equivalence of 0.25 mg of Klonopin is roughly equal to 5 mg. of Valium which means that 0.625 mg of Klonopin is roughly equal to 2.5 mg of Valium. In my experience, this is a rather big drop every week and if you have developed a physiological dependence, you may become quite symptomatic. Another method to reduce the amount you cut is to "water titrate" off the drug. This is very easy to do. For information on this method (and steering clear of BB) you can look at benzosupport dot org and look for "water titration". They even have an Excel spreadsheet that you can customize for your cuts.

    There is no such thing as a "too slow" taper and if your GABA receptors have been down regulated and need time to upregulate, doing a very slow taper will be to your advantage. You will do just fine with a slow taper and may be one of those people whose GABA receptors have not down-regulated and may come off the drug without any problems whatsoever. An acquaintance of mine stopped cold turkey (I do not recommend this!) and had absolutely no problems! Best wishes to you! :) Laurie
     
    • Hug Hug x 1
  8. mick

    mick Member Benefactor

    Location:
    USA
    Tinnitus Since:
    11/2012
    laurieinla

    Your tinnitus etiology sounds similar to mine, though I was a much shorter term user of alprazolam (Xanax). I begin taking it for anxiety related to other unresolved medical issues. An hour after taking my 4th or 5th dose over a 2 week period I woke up with my ears screaming a very high pitched hiss. I believe this was the result of very high blood pressure that developed for me between doses of the drug. I never had high bp before then (in fact mine always waivered on the low side, and for that matter I don't have high BP now either). My theory is that the high BP was some sort of rebound effect of between dose withdrawal on my neurochemistry/hormone balance - probably some dopamine-ergic response. I've read in more than one place (unfortunately not a mainstream medical authority) that physiological dependance on benzos can begin after only a few doses. I'm convinced that alprazolam is responsible for my T in one way or another. When I told this to my doctor at the time, his response (incredulously) was "If you had been wearing a red shirt at the time you developed tinnitus, would you blame it on the shirt?" My answer (to myself, not to him, since I believed then that one should treat professionals with respect. I've since changed my mind on that and I reserve my repect for those who earn it.): "Uh, if I had ingested it, yeah, it would be high on my list".

    The reluctance of the mainstream medical community to recognize that these very dangerous drugs (which they admit they do not fully understand how they work) can cause many, many different side effects is just plain craziness. Benzos have been known to be tricky medications for years and years (as you said, since the '60s). So why are doctors still so incautious with them? My bet - big pharma only telling their customers (doctors) the positives and never mentioning the negatives.

    I recogonize that this class of drugs has its place, but doctors, and more importantly, patients, need to be made aware of the hazards. These drugs were never designed, intended, or tested in any way, for long term use. They were designed to treat acute anxiety being fully aware that they are indeed dangerous for the treatment of chronic anxiety. Most doctors, evidently, are unaware of their intent. I remember reading a story about a patient going to their doctor complaining that they thought their symptoms were due to Xanax withdrawal and the doctor's response was something along the lines of "just face it, you need to take this drug for the rest of your life". What a nut! I think doctors who prescribe it should be forced to take it themselves for a few weeks then quit and see what it is like. Maybe then they would have an appreciation of what they are dealing with. Like I've said before - doctors can be like children. You can explain, and explain, and explain, but because they don't recogonize you as an authority, your words just go in one ear and out the other. Sometimes it takes a 2x4 upside their head to wake them up (for the politically correct: I'm not advocating violence, only pointing out that evidently something drastic has to happen to them to get them to focus their attention on the right thing - kind of like spanking a child to get the lesson to sink in).
     
  9. Map
    Balanced

    Map Member Benefactor

    Location:
    Czech Republic
    Tinnitus Since:
    8/2003 (mild), 12/2012 (loud)
    Thank you! I hope you're right and my T will improve again.

    I took my last dose 3 months ago. During withdrawal I developed some eye floaters and some sensitivity to light, but that don't bother me much now. I don't have any other withdrawal symptoms. I dont't want to touch these pills in my life again.
     
  10. laurieinla

    laurieinla Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Tinnitus Since:
    10/2011
    Hi Mick,

    I agree with everything you have said. I wish that Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome was a recognized illness and that research into curing this "iatrogenically" caused illness would be carried out. Hundreds of thousands of innocent and "accidental addicts" suffer a hell for which there is no cure at this time, except the passage of time. Benzo sufferers are misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety and neurological disorders such as MS.

    It is estimated that there are 1 million benzo dependent persons in the UK and more than 4 million benzo dependent persons in the US. Yes, PHARMA sold a load of BS to doctors when it came out with the super potent benzos - Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin for the "treatment" of a made-up illness, "Panic Disorder". I am not saying that people do not experience panic attacks, but that the illness of "Panic Disorder" was actually coined by the pharmaceutical industry and the drugs heavily marketed to doctors as being a safe and effective alternative to barbituates. Ah, the sting of the scorpion's tail!

    The problem now is that we have a whole population of "accidental addicts" who have become iatrogenically made very ill by benzos and absolutely no agency in the US or the UK that is willing to acknowledge that these drugs do long term damage to the nervous system. The only general concensus is that benzos are addictive. Medical schools teach that benzo withdrawal lasts for 4 to 6 weeks! If only this were true! Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome needs to be recognized as a separate disease entity and we need research to find a means of curing or ameliorating its horrific symptoms. This syndrome destroys lives and the lives of loved ones.
     
  11. laurieinla

    laurieinla Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Tinnitus Since:
    10/2011
    Congratulations on being benzo-free! I am so glad that your withdrawal was pretty straight forward. I believe you will be back to your baseline given sufficient time.
     
  12. HaZaR
    Musical

    HaZaR Member Benefactor

    Location:
    Reykjavík, Iceland
    Tinnitus Since:
    2012/04
    I also got Tinnitus after quitting Clonazepam cold turkey after using it for a year. I also lost some hearing.
    This stuff is poison! It's been 18 months now ...it has gotten somewhat better , but not good enough.
     
  13. Robert Fahey

    Robert Fahey Member

    Tinnitus Since:
    Jan, 2012
    Laurie, why were you using that drug in the first place?
     

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