Benzodiazepine deaths are on the rise in the United States, and awareness that these drugs are powerful and deadly is growing. According to data presented by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there was a 4.3-fold increase in the total number of deaths involving benzodiazepines from 2002 to 2015.
Klonopin—the brand name for clonazepam—is among the most abused benzodiazepines, a class of medications that includes Xanax. The fast-acting oral prescription medication is generally prescribed to treat anxiety, seizures, and panic disorders. It also can be used to treat schizophrenia, tic disorders, and restless leg syndrome. Klonopin also is popular among recreational drug users and is known on the streets as benzos, kpin, pin, and tranks.
When the medication interacts with the brain’s gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, it also slows down brain activity, which reduces agitation and stress. It acts as a tranquilizer that decreases abnormal electrical activity in the brain, though, according to an article published on the site of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, it’s still unclear where the electrical activity is.
“Scientists can’t say for sure what Klonopin does when ingested, except that it dramatically affects the functioning of the brain,” the article says. “This much we know: If your brain is on fire with electrical signals—like, say, you’re having an epileptic seizure—a dose of clonazepam will help put out the flames.
“It does so by lowering the electrical activity of the brain, specifically which electrical activities it suppresses is something that no one really seems to know for sure. And therein lies the reason why clonazepam, like nearly the entire class of benzos, causes such unpredictable reactions in people.”
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As with other benzodiazepines, Klonopin is intended to be a short-term treatment that lasts no more than two to four weeks. Anything longer than that is risky as one can develop a chemical dependence on it. It is a powerful drug that can become addictive, even for the people who have a prescription. However, the effects of the drug are known to induce are the reasons some people can’t stay away from them.
Benzodiazepines affect the part of the brain responsible for pleasurable feelings, so in addition to feeling calm and relaxed, one can also feel intense pleasure upon taking the medications. Repeated use fuels more cravings for the drugs and satisfying these cravings becomes compulsive.
Recreational Klonopin users who abuse the drug for its euphoric effects are more likely to develop a psychological dependence that can happen rather quickly as tolerance and dependence set in. Abusing the drug for longer periods and in higher doses means the brain eventually will not be able to produce feelings of calmness or relaxation on its own. Instead, it will depend on the drug to do it. Extended use can lead to an addiction that is difficult to break without professional help.
Klonopin abuse symptoms include:
These are early warning signs that occur as one spirals further into long-term Klonopin addiction. If one or more signs are noticed, it is worth reaching out and getting help either for yourself or a loved one.
Some recreational users go a step further and abuse Klonopin with other substances, further raising the risk of developing an addiction. If you or someone you know uses this drug with others, you either have or are on your way to a long-term addiction. Klonopin is often paired with cocaine or amphetamine to help users “come down” from a high from using these stimulants. Some users take the drug with opioid medications (OxyContin, codeine, hydrocodone), which can bring serious side effects, including death, WebMD reports.
“To lower your risk, your doctor should have you take the smallest dose of clonazepam that works, and for the shortest time possible,” the health site warns. “Get medical help right away if any of these very serious side effects occur: slow/shallow breathing, unusual lightheadedness, severe drowsiness/dizziness, difficulty waking up,” it adds.
It also is used along with alcohol, a depressant, to enhance Klonopin’s effects. However, this is highly dangerous to do. Using alcohol with another depressant can slow down one’s breathing and heart rate to where a coma is imminent. One also can die from a lack of oxygen.
It’s a safe bet that using Klonopin with other drugs is a sign of severe addiction. People who rely on the drug to feel “normal” and those who somehow don’t feel normal unless they use it also likely are experiencing addiction symptoms. Getting professional help as soon as possible is advised.
Other signs and symptoms of severe long-term Klonopin addiction include:
Changes in one’s ability to concentrate and remember information can negatively affect psychotherapy, according to an article on Psychology Today’s website.
There also are physical changes that result from long-term Klonopin use, which include:
No two people experience addiction the same, so much depends on the person when it comes to getting treatment for severe long-term Klonopin addiction. When people are at this stage, their tolerance for the drug is high, which means they must take more of it to achieve the same high they did once before. This is a sign that dependence has started.
When frequent or long-time Klonopin users stop taking the drug, they likely will notice changes in how they feel, think, and act. This happens as the body adjusts to not having the drug in its system at the usual amounts. When chronic users try to stop taking Klonopin, or significantly reduce the dose they take, their bodies may experience a shock and crash as GABA levels bottom out.
Psychological Klonopin withdrawal symptoms include:
Some of these symptoms could appear as the first sign of withdrawal, even during dose reduction. At this stage, it is important to seek emergency medical treatment.
Klonopin is also known to cause rebound effects during the withdrawal period. This means that whatever symptoms a person was trying to manage before taking Klonopin will now come back even stronger if withdrawal isn’t done properly. This is why a Klonopin-dependent person is advised to start and complete a medical detoxification at a licensed drug rehabilitation center. This process is the usually the first step in Klonopin addiction treatment. Some of the psychological symptoms above could be the first sign of withdrawal. Get help as soon as possible.
Withdrawal can be an unpredictable and tricky process. The unexpected can happen and for many, it’s sure to be an uncomfortable experience. The safest way to end Klonopin dependence is with the assistance of addiction healthcare professionals. During detox, which is a 24/7-monitored process, they help wean recovering Klonopin users off the drug gradually and manage any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that happen. Quitting cold turkey or attempting to withdraw and detox on your own can lead to overdose and relapse, and both of those can be fatal.
A medical detox is typically the first step to end Klonopin addiction, and that procedure is available at many professional drug addiction rehabilitation programs. It is a 24/7-monitored process that can last anywhere from three to 10 days or longer, depending on the individual’s situation. Medical professionals may have you undergo a tapering process, which gradually reduces the dose of Klonopin until you regain stability. Safely withdrawing from Klonopin is also recommended for you to avoid relapse. Klonopin users are advised to be honest about how long and how much of the drug they consumed so the taper process is properly adjusted. It takes about two weeks to safely detox from Klonopin.
The next step in treatment is to complete a thorough evaluation before entering a rehab program. The evaluation ensures one receives the proper diagnosis and treatment program that addresses all medical and psychological needs.
Clients who successfully enter treatment for Klonopin addiction will address the physical and psychological sides of their addiction in a program that is tailor-made for them. Depending on the person’s needs, professionals can recommend an inpatient treatment or residential treatment program that can last from 28-90 days in a facility. Recovering Klonopin users also participate in diverse therapies that can help the person overcome their addiction.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse advises that people in addiction rehab spend at least 90 days (three months) or more to treat their addiction. If you or someone you know is facing long-term Klonopin addiction, there are options that allow up to a year’s time or more if needed to address it. A longer stay improves chances that treatment will be successful and that clients will gain the tools they will need for sobriety.
Aftercare services are also recommended to help people focus on their recovery goals and reduce their chances of relapse, which is a real possibility for people who have completed rehab. Relapse happens to 40 percent to 60 percent of people in recovery, including those who have received treatment, NIDA reports.
Some people pursue follow-up medical care and ongoing therapies to help manage Post-acute withdrawal symptoms, known as PAWS, that can happen long after drug dependence has ended.
Fighting a long-term Klonopin addiction on your own is challenging to the body, mind, and spirit. But there is good news: You or your loved one don’t have to face it alone. You’re just a phone call away from getting help. Learn more about the benefits of personalized treatment at a private facility by calling Delphi Behavioral Health Group today at 844-899-5777 to explore your options.
Treatment programs at Delphi Behavioral Health Group’s facilities provide unique therapy and counseling methods for certain addictions. They are designed to allow you to receive the daily support of the facility’s staff and your loved ones when you return home. Our treatment centers provide just what’s needed for community, counseling, and support throughout the day so clients can apply the lessons they learn to their lives everyday life. Give us a call to discuss you or your loved one’s options today.
Byron, Christopher. (June 2011) “America’s Most Dangerous Pill? Klonopin.” Citizens Commission on Human Rights International. from https://www.cchrint.org/2011/06/02/americas-most-dangerous-pill-klonopin/
DEA. (January 2013). “Benzodiazepines.” Drug Enforcement Administration. from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/benzo.pdf
NIDA. (July 2014) “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
NIDA. (September 2017) “Overdose Death Rates.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
Schiffman, Jason E., M.D, M.A., M.B.A. “Anti-Anxiety Medications Explained.” Psychology Today. from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-help/201111/anti-anxiety-medications-explained