by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
The Benzodiazepine class of drugs have a number of ototoxic side effects. Those of you that are concerned about your ears and want to minimize the risk of having hearing loss, tinnitus or balance problems from taking any drugs in this class need to do your own “due diligence”. Check the list of ototoxic side effects to be sure the prescribed drug won’t hurt your ears, or at least, reduce the risk of potential damage to as low as possible. You can easily do this by looking up the drugs in my book “Ototoxic Drugs Exposed”.
However, at the same time, you need to check out all the other side effects the Benzodiazepines (or any other drugs for that matter) may have on your body as I only report ototoxic side effects in the above book. (There is little benefit in saving your ears while destroying other parts of your body from drug side effects!) These other side effects can be pretty severe—much worse than any ototoxic side effects.
For example, if I asked you which side effect was most commonly reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA for many of the Benzodiazepine class of drugs, what would you answer? I’ll give you a clue—it’s not related to ears, yet it makes your ears totally stop working. Sounds serious doesn’t it?
Well, it is! You see, the shocking truth is that the most commonly-reported side effect to the FDA of 7 of the Benzodiazepines is death (completed suicide)!
Another 6 Benzodiazepines list attempted suicide as the 1st, 2nd or 3rd most commonly reported side effect. In addition, another 3 Benzodiazepines list drug overdose (which is another way of saying “attempted suicide” as the 1st or 2nd most common side effect reported to the FDA. That leaves only three drugs that do not rank suicide or attempted suicide as one of their top 3 side effects. However, these three drugs do not get off scot-free. They have the drug overdose side effect ranked as 12th, 32nd and 96th respectively.
You don’t find this kind of information in all the “sanitized” drug books published including the Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR). However, if you go to the website that reports what real people report to the FDA as side effects they’ve experienced (or that of a loved one in the case of suicide/death), you’ll see a much different story. I used the DrugCite website (http://www.drugcite.com) to get the above figures.
What you can take away from all this is that the drugs you are taking for one problem or other can mess up your head so much that they can cause you to take, or attempt to take, your own life (and the tragedy is that multitudes do as confirmed by this website).
This is why you always need to do your own “due diligence” and satisfy yourself that the potential good a given drug can do is not far outweighed by the bad it actually does.
One more thing. When you look at the figures reported to the FDA, don’t for a moment think that those are the true figures indicating the magnitude of the problem. Yes, they are true in that those figures were actually reported, but they are not true in that they represent all the incidences of those side effects.
For example, one FDA commissioner reported that the FDA only receives reports of less than 1% of all serious side effects. So as a minimum, you’d have to multiply those figures 100 times to get closer to the real number.
And that estimate is just for serious side effects. For “minor” side effects, and most ear side effects have been considered to be “minor” side effects, the true reported percentage is much less than 1%.
If the “serious” side effects are less than 1%, probably the percent of “minor” side effects is only 1/100 of that. This would mean that if the FDA data base shows that 100 people committed suicide after taking a given drug, the true figures could be about 100 times higher—namely 10,000 people.
And by the same token, if 100 people reported a “minor” side effect such as tinnitus, the true figures could be as much as 10,000 times higher—namely 1,000,000 people.
Therefore, never let the small figures lull you into thinking that a given side effect rarely happens, and thus it won’t happen to you. I hear from people all the time who are shocked that they now have hearing loss or tinnitus or whatever after taking a given drug that they thought wouldn’t affect them.
And lest you think I’m scaremongering and blowing things out of proportion, here is a quote out of my book, “Ototoxic Drugs Exposed” giving you some documented facts and figures.
“Doctors are supposed to report side effects to the FDA. Do you know whether your doctor reports to the FDA any the side effects you tell him about? I’ll bet he doesn’t! According to former FDA Commissioner, David Kessler, only about 1% ever get reported. (1)
Notice that! Doctors report to the FDA less than 1% of the serious side effects they come across. What happens to less serious side effects? Are they ever reported?
In one study of Rhode Island doctors, researchers found that the doctors in the study had recorded 26,000 adverse reactions in their patient’s files. According to FDA guidelines, these doctors should have reported all these side effects to the FDA. Now, here’s the question. How many of these 26,000 side effects do you think these doctors actually reported to the FDA? You are going to be shocked by the answer. Did these doctors report all these 26,000 adverse reactions to the FDA, or even most of them? No sir, they did not! They only reported 11! (1) Shocking isn’t it?
If this study is representative of the whole country (and there is no compelling reason to believe otherwise), only 1 out of every 2,364 reports of serious adverse reactions ever reaches the FDA. Add to this total, the number of serious side effects that people do not report to their doctors in the first place. The result is that only a miniscule fraction of 1% of adverse side effects ever reach the FDA. Obviously, less serious and “minor” side effects such as hearing loss and tinnitus are rarely, if ever, reported.” (2)
Again, I urge you to do your own “due diligence” and be sure the supposed good of any drug you are considering taking far outweighs the many negative side effects that do occur.
An easy way to find the ototoxic side effects of the Benzodiazepines is in Ototoxic Drugs Exposed 3rd edition. This book contains information on the ototoxicity of 877 drugs, 35 herbs and 148 chemicals.
(1) When the Cure May Make You Sicker. 1998. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/1998-03-15/when-the-cure-may-make-you-sicker
(2) Bauman, Neil G. 2010. “Ototoxic Drugs Exposed“.