Klonopin (also known as clonazepam) is a prescription benzodiazepine known for its ability to reduce anxiety levels and to help curb involuntary convulsions such as seizures and spasms. However useful it may be, the potential for Klonopin addiction and abuse is alarmingly high.
Evidence also suggests that benzodiazepines like Klonopin are being prescribed more than ever before. For instance, between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults who filled benzodiazepine prescriptions jumped by 67 percent (from 8.1 million to 13.5 million, according to this report from STAT.
What’s more, Klonopin is also very dangerous in withdrawal, especially when one someone quits it “cold turkey,” as this man did:
“The next morning, I felt like I was dying. I had chills, my head hurt, and my body was shaking uncontrollably,” he chronicled in this account.
“I couldn’t even get out of bed. Naïvely, I thought I had come down with a bad case of the flu. But I eventually wondered about the possible connection between my symptoms and my having stopped taking Klonopin.”
Withdrawal symptoms mark dependency, and dependency can lead to addiction. In order to keep from falling into the pit of Klonopin addiction, having knowledge of what exactly Klonopin is and what it does is crucial. Every little detail matters when battling addiction.
Just like other drug addictions, the first step in overcoming your Klonopin addiction is knowing exactly what Klonopin is, what it does, and how to treat it.
Klonopin belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which have tranquilizing attributes. Benzos generally work to sedate the user. They also have the ability to reduce anxiety and seizures and relax the muscles. Benzodiazepines accomplish their tranquilizing effects by stimulating the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, a neurotransmitter that slows down the activity of the central nervous system (CNS).
Thus, they have the ability to produce profound sedation in the user, especially when they are abused recreationally.
Benzodiazepines also can cause addiction in much the same way as opioids, cannabinoids, and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a club drug, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
NIDA reports that each of those drugs reduces an inhibitory influence on dopamine-producing cells, which promotes spikes in dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical.
Klonopin and other forms of clonazepam are sedatives used to treat a variety of disorders and issues. The three main reasons for Klonopin prescriptions are for seizures, anxiety disorders, and muscle disorders.
Klonopin, much like other benzodiazepines, is a first-line treatment for occasional acute seizures. The most effective and common use for Klonopin is for treating epilepsy in children. It is important to keep in mind that clonazepam is not suitable for long-term use, as it is very easy to develop a tolerance to Klonopin, and tolerance can lead to addiction.
In addition to treating seizures, Klonopin does an exceptional job of treating anxiety and difficulties one may have with social environments. It is commonly used to treat agoraphobia, which is “the fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment,” as defined by the Mayo Clinic.
Some less common, but still very relevant disorders that may be treated by Klonopin include muscle disorders such as Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), akathisia, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Similar to how it treats seizures, Klonopin is effective but should not be used long-term, as it could lead to Klonopin addiction and dependency.
One lesser-known use of Klonopin is in the treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. Reduction of alcohol intake after abusing it for a long period of time can result in withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, seizures, and delirium, all of which are the targeted symptoms of Klonopin.
Because of the positive effects paired with how quickly you can build a tolerance, Klonopin is highly addictive and thus very dangerous when taken long term. On average, a Klonopin user develops tolerance after six months of use. Despite this, physical dependence on Klonopin can develop sooner than six months.
The reason that the human body becomes so addicted to Klonopin is due to the fact that clonazepam is a long-acting substance (the effects lasting anywhere between six to 24 hours, the half-life ranging from one to two days). This means that, by the next time you take a dose of Klonopin, there will more than likely still be some of it in your body from last time. Because of this fact, your body will almost constantly have Klonopin in it, and it becomes accustomed to the presence of benzodiazepines.
The addictiveness makes Klonopin and benzos some of the most difficult drugs to treat. Quitting abruptly or cold turkey might seem like a good idea, but it is not effective. An individual struggling with Klonopin addiction who attempts to quit using it immediately could experience severe withdrawal symptoms including:
Severe Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms
The most challenging aspect of Klonopin withdrawal is that the individual struggling with addiction will be very tempted to start using again. The reason behind this is that the withdrawal symptoms are very similar to the symptoms that Klonopin is meant to treat.
As mentioned above, the main reason for Klonopin addiction or Klonopin dependency is due solely to a seemingly inescapable loop:
After step three, most people with Klonopin dependence or addiction will go back to step one and repeat the whole process over. This makes early detection a necessity, and we are here to help you determine if you or a loved one may have a Klonopin addiction. Some activity behaviors that are common among long-time users of Klonopin include:
If you find you or a loved one engaged in long-term Klonopin use, it is more than likely that addiction is present. To begin with, no benzodiazepine should be taken long-term, and Klonopin is no different. Once tolerance is built, it is almost guaranteed that you also have a physiological dependence.
While Klonopin is generally thought of as a “safe” drug and can be used to treat many things, addiction specialists have found that clonazepam can be just as addictive as alprazolam (Xanax). The addiction/dependency loop mentioned earlier is a prime example as to why expert help is needed for recovery.
The first step in treating your Klonopin addiction is the detoxification process. Since your body is used to having clonazepam in it, withdrawal symptoms may occur. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms is dependent on how long the user has been taking Klonopin. Detoxification does not include quitting cold turkey, but rather slowly lowering doses. Due to this, detox of Klonopin may take longer than other drugs.
After five to seven days of detox, you will begin our inpatient treatment program. Under 24-7 medical supervision, you will transition from detox into less intensive treatment. The inpatient treatment program is the highest level of treatment, and the trained facility staff will work hard to make sure you feel as at-home as you can. In a comfortable environment, you will be able to not only participate in inpatient programs but residential treatment programs as well.
Towards the end of the treatment process, you will begin meeting with a case manager. These managers will be your support in life after recovery and will aid you in getting back into the flow of life outside of Klonopin treatment. This includes any questions or concerns you may have about possible employment, housing, and education.
It is important to remember that case managers will do anything in their power to make sure that all of your needs and requests are accounted for. Putting your outside life aside is no easy task, but we understand that it is necessary. That being said, case managers and the staff as a whole will help you take care of anything relating to your outside life.
Treatment centers should always be the number one choice of action for anyone struggling with addiction and addiction recovery. You may have helped your friend or loved one seek help from a center, but what about the time they are not spending in recovery? Your responsibility as a good friend or family member is to provide a positive environment at all times while supporting and providing feedback to aid in their recovery.
While your loved one battles Klonopin addiction, being a supportive individual is just as important as withdrawal medication. You must always provide a positive outlook on the recovery process as well as contributing towards a healthy and comfortable environment.
If the patient going through recovery is part of an outpatient program and only visits the recovery center a few times a week, make them feel welcome when they get back home. Let them know how proud you are and how great the treatment process seems to be working.
If the patient going through recovery is part of an inpatient program and stays on-site at the recovery center, a phone call can be the difference between relapse and recovery. A simple “How are you doing?” can turn the tides in even the toughest situations.
Sometimes one of the most difficult and sensitive things is how to talk to someone going through recovery about their past (or current) addiction. Using personal pronouns like “we” and “us” more creates a bond between you and your loved one. The easiest way to beat addiction is as a team, and your loved one must be made aware of that.
Dauphinais, D. (n.d.). Held Hostage by an Rx: My Klonopin Nightmare. Retrieved from from https://www.shatterproof.org/blog/held-hostage-rx-my-klonopin-nightmare
Lembke, A. (2018, February 22). Benzodiazepines: Our other prescription drug epidemic. Retrieved from from https://www.statnews.com/2018/02/22/benzodiazepines-drug-epidemic/
Mayo Clinic. (2017, November 18). Agoraphobia. Retrieved from from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agoraphobia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355987?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=abstract&utm_content=Agoraphobia&utm_campaign=Knowledge-panel
The DAWN Report: Benzodiazepines in Combination with Opioid Pain Relievers or Alcohol: Greater Risk of More Serious ED Visit Outcomes [PDF File]. (2014, December 18). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Date retrieved: August 7, 2019. from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/DAWN-SR192-BenzoCombos-2014/DAWN-SR192-BenzoCombos-2014.pdf
The Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. (n.d.). Study finds increasing use, and misuse, of benzodiazepines: Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation. Retrieved from from https://ihpi.umich.edu/news/study-finds-increasing-use-and-misuse-benzodiazepines