*The following is an individual’s story of surviving fluoroquinolone toxicity. It is not medical advice. Please see the disclaimer at the bottom of the story. Thank you, and please be cautious with all treatments.
I developed a persistent cough in early 2014. After 6 weeks I was prescribed erythromycin. Unfortunately, I had to travel a few days after I started the course and forgot to take the pills with me. I took the remaining doses when I got back, but the cough persisted. After a few weeks I went back to the doctor and told him what had happened. I was expecting him to prescribe another course of erythromycin but instead he gave me a prescription for 10 doses of moxifloxacin (Avelox) (May 21th 2014). Unfortunately, this coincided with a particularly stressful time at work, and so when I started feeling anxious a couple of days later, I didn’t suspect the antibiotics and took the whole course.
A few weeks later things had settled down at work, but I continued to feel very anxious, had bouts of dizziness, tingling sensations over my back, and insomnia (sleeping around 4-5 hours each night versus 7-8 hours pre-flox). I suppose I was fortunate to not have the tendon related issues a lot of others seem to experience. One day it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps the antibiotic was causing this. I looked up moxifloxacin + anxiety and immediately came up with the following article:
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/586352 : What Can Be Done to Prevent Moxifloxacin-Induced Anxiety? (Jodi H. Walker, BS, PharmD, BCPS).
In particular, the following line from that article is important: “For unknown reasons, patients occasionally experience prolonged anxiety after discontinuation of moxifloxacin. Prolonged anxiety may require treatment, but underlying conditions should first be considered.” Subsequently I found a few other articles as well and concluded that my symptoms must be the result of the moxifloxacin course.
It has taken me about 15 months to recover. Below I‘ll describe the things that I believe helped me to recover.
- Family. I don’t know if I would have made it through this period without the support of my family. I would strongly advise anyone experiencing FQ toxicity to have a support person/group – could be a professional counselor/family member(s)/friend(s).
I was able to work (at my job) through this period, though perhaps not with my pre-FQ efficiency. I was probably at 70%, but luckily, my employer did not seem to notice. For me, being able to work was critical since I had to support my family. I also found that when I was engaged, the anxiety was less. On the other hand, work inevitably results in stressors, which may delay your recovery. The support of my family was critical especially because I did have a few stressful periods come up at work during these 15 months. Also see below (medications). Finally, doing activities with my kids was definitely an anxiety buster.
- Vitamin D. Around the same time that this whole thing started, I had also had a test for vitamin D done and found out that I was deficient. I was prescribed 1000 IU vitamin D (daily). I’m told that with this dose it takes a very long time to correct your level. Subsequently in May 2015 i.e. about a year into the illness, I took a course of high dose vitamin D – 60,000 IU once a week, for three weeks. This brought my level up into the normal range and additionally I felt a significant reduction in anxiety. I continue to take 400 IU daily at the moment.
I also had my vitamin B12, magnesium, glucose, and thyroid levels checked. These were all normal.
- Probiotics. Almost 14 month into the illness I decided to try a probiotic. My kids had started taking the pediatric primadophilus for recurrent colds they had been getting and so I just tried this. My reaction to these was quite strange – they caused me to see-saw quite a bit. Initially I had a dramatic reduction in anxiety over a period of around two weeks, but then it went up and I reduced the dose to half. Then the anxiety oscillated with a frequency of a few days for about two weeks before finally passing. The probotic really seems to have provided the final push to help get rid of the anxiety. I highly recommend trying it, as well as investigating your vitamin etc. levels as mentioned above.
Medications. Post-flox I found that my brain was very sensitive to supplements/medications. This is another reason I think that it is a great idea to have support. One never knows how one will respond to a particular supplement. Initially I tried taking a vitamin B supplement. However, this led to increased anxiety. After about 3 months I decided to go to a psychiatrist. Initially I was prescribed flovoxamine, but this caused a very severe increase in anxiety the day after I took it and I stopped taking it.
The worst times for me were the nights, the period after I woke up and before the rest of the family did. So I then decided to just tackle the insomnia and another doctor prescribed diazepam (valium). I took one dose on September 5th (2014). When I woke up later that night I felt completely awful – a lot of suicidal thoughts and I had to call my dad (who was on the other side of the globe at the time) and ask him to come back and care for me.
Despite my terrible experiences above, I felt that I should go back to my psychiatrist. Perhaps since my parents work in healthcare and I do too, I am a believer in modern medicine and I knew that unfortunately with drugs for psychiatric conditions, it can take a few tries to find something that works. This time I was prescribed 0.5 mg clonazepam (3 times a day), 3 mg bromazepam at night to additionally help with sleep, and 10 mg escitalopram (lexapro). The doctor did tell me that I could take ½ the dose of clonazepam if it made me sleepy. I started with the ½ dose 3 times a day and found that this already made me a bit sleepy. So I just stuck to the ½ dose i.e. 0.25 mg three times a day.
These drugs alleviated my symptoms, but the symptoms did not go away fully. They certainly took the edge off though and made the anxiety bearable such that I was able to get through my workday. After about 2 months I tapered and then stopped taking the bromazepam. I was potentially lucky in that my doctor allowed me to continue to taking the clonazepam for 7 months though with gradually reduced dozes. Typically, this drug is not used for more than 1 month. However, I have been told that getting off it after one month can be very difficult especially since it can take much longer to heal from this condition. Do speak to your doctor about the possibility of continuing with low doses. For example, I had gradually tapered the clonazepam over a 6 month period to where I was taking only a ¼ pill (0.125 mg) every day. But even then, when I stopped taking it the anxiety became unmanageable. So I went back on the ¼ dose for another month, then tried again, and this time was able to stay off of it.
5. Meditation, exercise, reading, laughter. My dad introduced me to Eckhart Tolle’s book “Practicing The Power of Now”. This is a great read. Additionally it has practical suggestions for meditations. I would carry this book with me whenever possible and have read it multiple times. I started meditating for 15 minutes when I woke up each morning. Eckhart emphasizes awareness of your thoughts and feelings. So you can “watch” your anxiety and then you know that “you” are distinct from your anxiety. Practically speaking I found this quite hard to achieve since the anxiety usually came unexpectedly when I wasn’t “on watch”. However, the book is beautifully written and I marked out particular sections that I found to have a calming effect on me, and would re-read these regularly.
Another book I found to be helpful was Wayne Dyer’s “There is a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem”.
I also subscribed to the dailyguru (www.thedailyguru.com/), listened to comic albums (streaming via Rhapsody).
Prior to the illness I didn’t exercise regularly, just on the weekends. I started exercising as well for at least 15 minutes every morning. (For those of you having tendon related issues, please exercise caution with regard to an exercise regime.) I would do at least part of my exercise in front of a mirror and smile the whole time. It can be difficult to put a smile on when you are not feeling great, but it really helps.
I wish you all the best for your recovery. It is an extremely difficult time, I understand, I’ve been there; but stay positive. Keep busy to the extent possible – play with your kids, work, read; listen to music, talk shows, comedy. I definitely found that the idle mind allows anxiety to flourish. Remember – this too shall pass.
PS. Do report your toxicity response to the FDA here: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/index.cfm?action=consumer.reporting1
** The story above is truthful, accurate and told to the best of the ability of the writer. It is not intended as medical advice. No person who submits his or her story, nor the people associated with Floxie Hope, diagnoses or treats any illness. The story above should not be substituted for professionally provided medical advice. Please consult your doctor before trying anything that has been mentioned in this story, or in any other story on this site. Please also note that people have varying responses to the treatments mentioned in each story. What helps one person may not help, and may even hurt, another person. It is important that you understand that supplements, IVs, essential oils, and all other treatments, effect people differently depending on the millions of variables that make each of us unique. Please use appropriate caution and prudence, and get professional medical advice.