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Klonopin (Clonazepam) abuse, addiction & recovery

Home Substance Guide Klonopin (Clonazepam) abuse, addiction & recovery

What is the chemistry of Klonopin?

Klonopin is a benzodiazepine.  It is a popular brand name version of the medication generically named clonazepam. It is a long-acting benzodiazepine that which relaxes the central nervous system by acting on the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors to reduce neuronal activity. This action results in decreased excitation levels of multiple other neurons, resulting in a calming effect, relaxation, slight sedation, and overall feelings of mild euphoria.

While most benzodiazepine drugs are prescribed for anxiety or insomnia treatment, Klonopin is best known as an anticonvulsant medication to reduce seizures, including those brought on by light-sensitive epilepsy. It is also used to treat panic and other anxiety-related disorders.

Like all medications in the benzodiazepine family, ongoing Klonopin use can lead to addiction, physiological dependency, and have potentially lethal withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly.  Additionally, taking Klonopin while using other drugs, including alcohol, can be particularly dangerous.

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What is the history of Klonopin?

Clonazepam was patented in 1964 by the Hoffman La Roche company, at a time when benzodiazepines in general were replacing barbiturates as the sedative drug of choice. Klonopin became available for medical prescription in 1975 and was first marketed as a treatment for epileptic seizures.

Like all members of the benzodiazepine family (there are 15 approved benzodiazepine medications in the US, 200 world wide), Klonopin builds up tolerance fairly quickly and has potential for addiction, especially when taken regularly for more than a few weeks.  It is classified as a Schedule IV drug and in 2011, a national study done in Emergency Departments across the country reported 61,000 people sought ED treatment for recreational or non-medical use of clonazepam or Klonopin use.

In 2013, Tennessee passed the first U.S. law requiring pharmacies to limit benzodiazepine dispensing to a 30-day prescription.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of deaths from benzodiazepines overall, increased more the 400% between 2002 and 2015.

What are the side effects of Klonopin?

Common side effects of Klonopin include dizziness, frequent drowsiness, changes in salivation, stuffy or runny nose, skin rashes, blurred vision, and loss of appetite. Some people experience more serious effects such as shallow breathing, pounding heart, loss of judgment, easy bruising, or urination difficulties. There have been rare reports of clonazepam withdrawal-induced catatonia.

Klonopin is also known to be a risk factor in birth defects and fetal dependency and withdrawal, so pregnant women should avoid taking it. And, like most sedative medications, Klonopin should never be used with alcohol as it has a synergistic effect. That means essentially that the effects of using both Klonopin and Alcohol aren’t like 1+1=2, its’ more like 1+1=3 or even 5.

As with any medication, if you are on a new Klonopin prescription and begin to experience unusual physical effects, report it to your doctor immediately.

How was Klonopin intended to be used?

Besides seizures, Klonopin is now commonly prescribed for panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and social anxiety disorder (SAD). When taken according to prescription, it calms the nerves and makes it easier to cope with tense situations.

Because of its addictive potential, Klonopin is not generally recommended for long-term use. Anyone receiving a prescription should consider it a temporary measure while taking time to learn alternate coping skills and possibly find other medications without the abuse potential.

How is Klonopin used illicitly?

As with most prescribed drugs with addiction potential, illicit-use problems with Klonopin typically involve someone going outside prescription instructions and taking extra pills on their own, usually because they are no longer satisfied with the effects of the recommended dose (though there are cases of people developing addiction from taking Klonopin strictly according to prescription). It can’t be said often enough: Never trust to your own judgment on deciding whether you “need” more of a prescription medication. Check with your doctor.

Some people who are desperate for a fast effect, or experimenting recreationally, may crush Klonopin pills and “snort” them as a powder. Or they may liquefy and inject the drug. Either approach is more dangerous, since the faster effect comes with increased risk of overdose.

What are the signs of illicit use of Klonopin?

Signs that someone may be using the drug in a non-prescribed manner include: constant drowsiness, chronic sore throat, diarrhea, loss of appetite, numbness or stiffness, fainting spells, tremors, cognitive impairment, nightmares, paranoia, violent mood swings, and increasing tolerance (needing to take more Klonopin to get the same effect).

Symptoms of withdrawal include: headaches, nausea, heavy perspiration, dizziness, hallucinations, seizures, depression, and thoughts of suicide. As with other benzodiazepines, withdrawal can produce potentially lethal effects and should never be attempted without professional medical supervision.

Symptoms of overdose include: blurry vision, extreme confusion, dizziness, muscle weakness, breathing difficulties, slowed reflexes, and extreme fatigue or loss of consciousness. Call 911 immediately for treatment (tell the dispatcher what was taken, how much, and when if possible), and, after being stabilized, ask about options for full detoxification and treatment.

How Does Recovery Centers of America Treat Klonopin Abuse and Addiction?

detoxification from Klonopin dependence or addiction must be done in a facility with 24-hour medical care as it can be life-threatening, particularly when combined with alcohol or other drugs.  Withdrawal symptoms may include seizures, muscle spasms, anxiety, confusion, suicidal thoughts, extreme fatigue, sweating, tremors, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, drastic mood swings, and hallucinations.

Withdrawal from Klonopin is typically divided into three phases: early withdrawal, acute withdrawal and protracted or late withdrawal.

Klonopin Has a long half-life, half of the amount in your system leaves your body every 18-50 hours. This means that withdrawal symptoms don’t start until about 1-3 days after the last dose.  That doesn’t mean you won’t feel anxiety and craving for more, it just means that Klonopin leaves slowly, over time, and the worst effects are usually not felt till 24-72 hours after the last dose.

Early withdrawal typically lasts 2-4 days depending on amount used and length of time used.

Acute withdrawal typically peaks about 2 weeks after stopping and can last up to a month.   The majority of the withdrawal side effects happen during this time period.

Finally, the protracted withdrawal may include drug craving and other psychological symptoms and that can appear suddenly, anytime and last for several months or even continue, in a diminished way, for years.  This is particularly true of panic and anxiety since there are typically the symptoms the individual had prior to starting the Klonopin.

At intake, RCA staff administer the assessment in a calm environment, providing something to eat and beverages to keep the you comfortable.  If, due to an inability to concentrate or anxiety symptoms, you find it difficult to participate, the assessment can be divided into smaller sections for you.  Since patients with Klonopin abuse or addiction often have additional problems with anxiety or panic disorder, RCA also provides a clear orientation to the treatment process, program rules, and expectations for participation to decrease any externally related anxiety about the process.

A slow and controlled tapering of the Klonopin is the safest method of withdrawal and will result in minimal discomfort.  RCA will monitor your vitals and your level of withdrawal distress a minimum of every 4 hours upon admission. Medications such as Phenobarbital, Clonidine, beta-blockers and others may be used depending on their efficacy for each particular patient and the patient’s level of withdrawal symptoms.

Patient’s typically stay on the detoxification unit until they are medically cleared to move to the rehabilitation units (often 5-9 days).  Once moved to the rehab unit, however, medical oversight and 24-hour RN coverage and attention will continue throughout your stay.

As with any disorder, it’s very important to involve significant others.  During the initial assessment and intake processes, RCA identifies family members or significant others who will support the patient and their treatment goals and get them involved immediately.

After medical detoxification, treatment will include additional small group therapy sessions, individual sessions, educational seminars, and workshops.  For our patients struggling with Klonopin or other benzodiazepine problems, or difficulties with anxiety or panic, additional services to assist with calming the body and the mind such as mindful meditation, yoga, progressive relaxation, and other therapeutic techniques may be helpful.

Through wellness seminars, life skills workshops, and various therapies, RCA focuses patients on developing a balanced lifestyle that includes restoring healthy eating and sleeping habits, participation in physical exercise and recreational activities, as well as building a healthy support group to get them started on the road to long-term recovery.

We focus on coping with cravings to diminish relapse potential.  These include cognitive behavioral techniques such as problem solving, making alternative plans, living in the moment.  RCA teaches patients to examine the circumstances, situations, thoughts, and feelings that increase the likelihood they will return to use.  While we hope that no one returns to drug use after detoxification or treatment, we know that this happens.  You need to be particularly aware of the hazards of using Klonopin shortly after treatment as your system has no tolerance built up for the drug and using, particularly at similar doses or when used with alcohol, poses many dangers including overdose and death.

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