Klonopin is the brand name for clonazepam, a prescription drug in the class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These types of medications are known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants that could cause anxiolytic and sedative effects. They are highly effective in treating anxiety and panic attack symptoms. They are prescribed to treat insomnia, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, and restless leg syndrome.
Many people highly seek out benzodiazepines. The Sleep Foundation notes that between 10 to 30 percent of adults struggle with chronic insomnia. The percentages of older adults with insomnia ranged between 30 to 48 percent. In addition, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that 40 million adults in the U.S. are affected with an anxiety disorder. It is not hard to understand why Klonopin and other medications like it are eagerly sought out.
As beneficial as Klonopin can be for some people, long-term use of the medication carries the potentiality of developing chemical dependence and addiction. Those who use the drug for an extended time can become tolerant to its effects, which eventually can lead to dependence within a short time.
Side effects from using Klonopin for a long time can be physically and mentally challenging. One of the most reported problems of misusing Klonopin is that it can cause depression or other co-occurring disorders. Memory issues, loss of coordination, and dizziness are also experienced with long-term use.
Klonopin is very addictive. Long-term misuse can cause withdrawal symptoms if use is abruptly stopped. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be dangerous if it is not medically supervised. Some of the symptoms, such as hyperventilation, vomiting, and grand mal seizures, can be fatal if not immediately managed. Klonopin withdrawal can be frightening for someone experiencing it.
Klonopin is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and works as other benzodiazepines do by entering the brain and binding to the GABA receptors.
GABA, short for gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that helps calm the mind by regulating how it processes anxiety, stress, and fear. It does this by blocking the nerve impulses that transmit those feelings throughout the brain and central nervous system.
When a person is dependent on Klonopin, their brain is producing less of its GABA and has become reliant on the artificial GABA that Klonopin produces. If an individual should drastically reduce their dose or stop taking the drug suddenly, their body experiences a crash because the GABA bottomed out.
Klonopin has some severe withdrawal symptoms to know. The person undergoing detox from this drug may experience a set of symptoms commonly called benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Below is a list of the physical symptoms possible during Klonopin withdrawal:
Klonopin can also bring on troubling psychological symptoms. It is possible to experience some of these even when the dose is tapered down.
It is essential to be aware of all of the symptoms, physical and psychological, so that they can be treated immediately if they occur.
Different factors will determine the intensity of withdrawal and how long it could last. These are:
When a person is weaned off Klonopin, it is possible they will feel mildly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. If a person lowers their dose quickly or stops taking it suddenly, they could experience more intense symptoms.
The normal tapering schedule for Klonopin is about two months. It is the safest way to withdraw from the medicine and avoids seizures and other dangerous symptoms.
There are two phases in Klonopin withdrawal: the rebound stage and full-on withdrawal. The typical withdrawal timeline looks like this:
Days 1-4: Due to its long half-life, it can take from 18 to 50 hours before Klonopin leaves the body. This means that it may be several days before an individual enters the rebound stage.
Days 5-10: One week into being sober from Klonopin, an individual might be into the full-on withdrawal phase. More severe symptoms, including sweating, irritability, and tremors, may be felt. Tremors or seizures can be life-threatening, so immediate medical help is imperative.
Three to four weeks: One month without Klonopin. Withdrawal time may continue due to the drug’s long half-life. Severe symptoms felt before could be weakened greatly and be easier to manage.
One month and beyond: At this time, Klonopin withdrawal symptoms should be completely gone. Nonetheless, heavier users might find they are feeling symptoms beyond one month in what is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS.
Detox is the process the body goes through of ridding itself of Klonopin and any other toxins. Medical detox is the process where a person is medically supervised as they go through withdrawal. Experienced medical professionals are present to alleviate the worst symptoms with different medications. Due to its addictive nature, Klonopin withdrawal, intense cravings can produce drug-seeking behavior.
In medical detox, professional addiction specialists help the person through their cravings safely. Detox can last from a few hours to 24-hours. Medical supervision is crucial for the person who misused Klonopin for a long time or has taken stronger doses than prescribed.
It is possible after detox to still strongly crave Klonopin and want to use it again. At this point, it is necessary to consider in-patient treatment at an accredited addiction treatment center. Here, the individual will have input on what types of therapies will best suit them and give them the highest possibility of success in staying sober. Addiction treatment is most effective if it lasts for 90 days, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Long-term treatment requires the individual to reside on-site. When the individual completes in-patient treatment, they may progress to outpatient treatment, where they can live at home and commute to therapy sessions. After the person has completed this phase of addiction treatment, they may find strong support in aftercare or alumni programs. These types of programs can be beneficial and valuable to the newly sober person.
No one should try to detox from benzos alone. Withdrawal symptoms can be very severe, and cravings for the medication can be very intense.
Medical News Today states that the main cause of benzo withdrawal is the “sudden reduction of dopamine in the brain.” Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain that is responsible, in part, for how we feel pleasure and a key player in why most people misuse drugs for recreation instead of medication.
Withdrawal symptoms may last longer than a few weeks. This is known as PAWS. Reach out for help and support if you are in PAWS. Don’t risk Klonopin misuse again.
Sometimes, the person detoxing from benzos might consider suicide. If you think this is happening with someone you care about, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Remove anything that can be dangerous to the person, such as other pills, alcohol, or weapons. Weapons can be kitchen knives, utensils, and other objects. Stay with the person until help arrives.
Addiction treatment can be the life-saving step a person takes to safely end their misuse of Klonopin. Therapy programs offer individuals valuable resources to understand why they misused drugs, identify triggers, and how to manage them without substances. Individuals will meet others in their same circumstance and know they are not alone in the fight to get sober and maintain it for the long run.
Drugs.com. (2021, February 10) Klonopin. from https://www.drugs.com/klonopin.html
Sleep Foundation. (2021, February 8) Sleep Statistics. Suni, E. from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/sleep-facts-statistics
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Facts and Statistics. from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 06). Prescription CNS Depressants. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-cns-depressants
WebMD. (2019, September 5) GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid). from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/gaba-uses-and-risks
NIDA. (2020, June 3). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last?. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-long-does-drug-addiction-treatment-usually-last
Medical News Today. (2020, April 9) What happens when you stop taking benzodiazepines? Johnson, J. from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/benzo-withdrawal#summary