If you are suffering from seizures or panic disorder and are prescribed a drug known as Klonopin, you may find it very effective for a while. What sometimes happens, though, is that it often becomes less effective over time.
Unfortunately, many users will increase their dose of this prescription medication without the advice of a doctor, not realising that doing so is classed as abuse and could end up increasing the risk of addiction.
If you have been prescribed Klonopin for the prevention or treatment of seizures, it is important that you use your medication exactly as prescribed. Abuse of Klonopin can lead to physical and psychological dependence that can very quickly progress to addiction.
Unfortunately, due to the sedative effects of Klonopin, this medication is often abused for non-medical purposes. Many people mix it with other substances to enhance its effects but know that doing this is risky and extremely dangerous. Nevertheless, if you are worried that you have developed a problem with Klonopin, you will find this article helpful.
What is Klonopin?
Klonopin is a type of benzodiazepine drug that is commonly prescribed in the treatment of anxiety and seizures. It is a brand name for the generic drug clonazepam, and although very effective at treating the various conditions it is intended for, it has the potential for abuse.
Klonopin induces feelings of sedation, relaxation, and euphoria, and it is these feelings that cause many individuals to continue using the drug, despite the risk of addiction.
How Does Klonopin Work?
Conditions such as anxiety and seizures are thought to be caused by an overactivity of chemicals within the brain. It is the job of the GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) neurotransmitter (chemicals produced in the brain) to calm this activity down, but in some people not enough GABA is produced to do the job effectively.
Klonopin works by stimulating the GABA receptor, which then causes a release of GABA that helps to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and prevent the onset of seizures.
Klonopin Abuse Causes
As with abuse of all other mood-altering substances, there is no single cause of Klonopin abuse in each affected person. It is usually a combination of factors that contribute to the onset of substance abuse. In some, there will be a genetic tendency for substance abuse while for others it could be caused by a need to escape the pressures and pain associated with daily life or past experiences.
For countless individuals though, Klonopin abuse begins with an increased tolerance and its subsequent reduced effectiveness. As the body gets used to the presence of Klonopin, it will adjust its response when the drug is taken; this can cause its effectiveness to be diminished. There is then the temptation to increase the dosage to compensate for this, which is of course classed as abuse. Unfortunately, most people are completely unaware that increasing their use of a prescription medication is harmful. They assume that it must be safe, or their doctor would not have prescribed it.
Deliberate abuse of Klonopin is often the result of underlying factors:
A family history of addiction or mental health problems can increase the risk of you developing substance abuse and addiction problems yourself. You may have been brought up in a home where taking mood-altering chemicals to help forget about problems was the norm. Even if you have experienced the pain and suffering that addiction can cause, you may be so familiar with this that it just becomes second nature to you.
Your life experiences can also have an influence on the development of Klonopin abuse and addiction. If you have experienced a traumatic event such as the death of a loved one, being bullied, or suffering any form of abuse, you are more likely to turn to substance abuse to help block out painful memories.
Dependence on Klonopin can be both physical and psychological. As mentioned above, abuse of medication typically begins with an increased tolerance to the effects of the drug, which may then cause increased usage. When a physical dependence does occur, you could find that you experience a range of withdrawal symptoms whenever you try to stop using Klonopin.
Taking more of your medication will typically relieve these symptoms, but this can then lead to a cycle of abuse that can be extremely difficult to break. You may feel as though you are unable to function normally without Klonopin, and as your dependency grows, you might find other ways of enhancing its effects (such as mixing it with other substances).
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Short-Term Effects of Klonopin
In the short term, Klonopin induces a sense of relaxation, euphoria, and wellbeing. It works to calm overactivity in the brain and as such helps to relieve the symptoms of anxiety. It can also result in the following side effects:
- Loss of appetite
- Body aches
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Loss of interest in activities or people
- Feeling of emptiness or sadness
- Sleeping problems
Long-Term Effects of Klonopin
Taking Klonopin for a prolonged period is not recommended or actively encouraged. Long-term use of this medication can affect both mental and physical health, with side effects including:
- increased need to urinate
- poor coordination
- breathing problems
- panic attacks
- sexual dysfunction
- liver damage
Long-term use is not recommended unless specially prescribed by a medical specialist.
Although Klonopin can be highly effective when it comes to treating anxiety and seizures, because of its potential for addiction and as such, you (in conjunction with your doctor) might want to consider a substitute drug instead.
If you are experiencing side effects from Klonopin or you want to come off it, then your doctor might prescribe another type of benzodiazepine drug that is less potent. When a substitute drug is used, it is common for it to be introduced while you are reducing your dosage of Klonopin. This can help to prevent the onset of any withdrawal symptoms that might otherwise occur with a reduction of Klonopin. Diazepam is often seen as a preferred type of benzodiazepine because it is not as potent as other benzos and is available in low doses.
Even though benzos such as Klonopin continue to be prescribed, a new type of drug known as benzodiazepine receptor agonists, or BRAs, are being introduced as alternative drugs. These drugs are also known as Z-drugs and have fewer side effects than benzos. They are commonly used as substitutes for drugs such as Klonopin as they can help prevent, among other things, daytime drowsiness, loss of co-ordination, and rebound insomnia. They are also less likely to be abused.
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The Dangers of Klonopin
Klonopin is a drug that can be dangerous, particularly if abused. As mentioned in the above passages, there are some individuals who choose to abuse Klonopin due to its sedative effects. As discussed, this can be especially dangerous because of the risk of severe side effects.
There are certain instances where Klonopin should not be used. For example, some people could be at higher risk of having an allergic reaction to Klonopin, which could cause problems with breathing, a rash, or swelling of the lips, face, throat, and tongue.
Taking Klonopin in conjunction with an underlying medical health problem can also result in serious complications. This is the reason it is dangerous to take this medication if it has not been prescribed for you. If you have a history of mental health problems or have previously had suicidal thoughts, taking Klonopin is not recommended. You should also avoid it if you have a history of lung or breathing problems or have had liver or kidney disease in the past.
Combining Klonopin with another sedative drug or alcohol is very dangerous and can result in overdose, which can often be fatal. Mixing depressant substances can lead to severe drowsiness and depression of the central nervous system. This could cause breathing or heart problems.
Klonopin should be used with caution in elderly people as well as this demographic is more sensitive to its effects and could end up being at risk of extreme confusion and drowsiness. This results in an increased risk of injury from falls.
Taking Klonopin in therapeutic doses for a short period can be effective in preventing and controlling seizures. However, when taken over a longer period or at higher doses than recommended, the risk of addiction is so high that it is not recommended.
If you develop an addiction to Klonopin, almost every aspect of your life will be negatively affected. As well as the risks to your health and even your life, your relationships will suffer as you become increasingly more preoccupied with the medication you are taking.
The Cost of Klonopin Addiction
Klonopin addiction can cost you in many ways. As mentioned, it can take its toll on your relationships with those you love. If you get to the stage where you feel as though you cannot function normally without the medication, you may spend much of your time under the influence of Klonopin, which will affect your behaviour.
It could be difficult for you to see the harm that your addictive behaviour is causing, but your family members, friends, and colleagues are all bound to notice the changes. They may not understand exactly what is wrong with you in the beginning, but when they realise that you are abusing medication and putting this above everything else, your relationships with them will be placed under strain. It is hard to understand the pull that mood-altering substances can have over a person unless you are directly affected.
If you allow your addiction to spiral out of control, your entire way of life could be negatively affected. You may be unable to work because of your addiction, and this could lead to a reduction in income and financial problems for you and your loved ones. As your illness gets worse, you may develop physical and mental health problems and you might even get to the point of developing suicidal thoughts because you feel there is no way out of the situation you are in.
Klonopin addiction is not uncommon. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive drugs and according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in every four people who use them for longer than six weeks will become addicted. With so many individuals affected by addiction to benzodiazepines such as Klonopin, the cost to the economy is very high.
For example, treating illnesses and injuries associated with abuse and addiction costs the NHS millions of pounds every single year. This is on top of the cost of treating the actual addiction itself. Furthermore, when funding and resources are spent treating avoidable illnesses, other areas suffer the consequences.
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Klonopin Brand & Street Names
Klonopin is a brand name for the generic drug clonazepam. It is also known under the following brand and street names:
- Super Valium
Management of Klonopin Misuse and Dependence
Klonopin misuse often occurs unintentionally, but not always. There are some who find that their dosage of the drug quickly becomes less effective and so they decide that the solution to this problem is to increase it. This is the result of an increased tolerance to the effects of the drug and is one of the reasons Klonopin is so commonly abused.
Others will deliberately take high doses of Klonopin for recreational purposes. However, they too will develop a tolerance that will make the drug less effective. Again, the solution is to increase the dose.
Taking higher doses of Klonopin will lead to dependence that will result in withdrawal symptoms should you try to quit or cut back on your use. This could then result in you being trapped in a cycle of abuse and withdrawal, with you continuing to abuse the drug to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal.
Managing Klonopin misuse and dependence is important as it can quickly progress to addiction if you are not careful. To ensure this does not happen, it will be necessary for you to get medical help to safely withdraw from the medication.
On the other hand, you may be worried about someone that you love, believing that he or she has been abusing Klonopin. If so, it is important that you act as soon as possible. Your natural reaction might be to do nothing at this point and simply hope for the best, but you should know that addiction almost always requires professional intervention.
It is understandable that you might not want to mention the issue of substance abuse or addiction with a loved one for fear of causing problems within your relationship. Nevertheless, unless you do, the affected person is likely to continue with his or her addictive behaviour. You may even find that he or she is not even aware of how serious the issue is.
If you are worried about how to broach the subject, you should talk to someone for advice. You can contact your GP, your local support group or call us here at UKAT.
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Klonopin and Other Substances
As touched upon above, Klonopin is often mixed with other substances when a tolerance develops. Those who abuse this medication will often use it with other depressant substances such as marijuana, alcohol, or opiate drugs as this enhances its effects. Nevertheless, doing so is particularly dangerous and can lead to severe depression of the central nervous system, resulting in breathing and heart problems. This can even end up being fatal.
While mixing Klonopin with other substances is common among those using the drug for recreational purposes, it can also happen in those taking it for legitimate medical reasons. This is because as the physical dependence and addiction progress, there is a need to take the drug at more regular intervals or in higher doses. Nonetheless, the body continues to adapt to the drug and, over time, it becomes less effective.
Here are some of the consequences of mixing Klonopin with other substances:
Both Klonopin and alcohol are central nervous system depressants and mixing them can bring about extreme sleepiness, lack of coordination, possibly even coma
When mixed with other prescription medications, e.g. Xanax, can cause vomiting, nausea, memory impairments.
An overdose on Klonopin can occur when it is taken in larger doses than advised. It can also occur if combining the medication with other substances. Klonopin overdose can be particularly dangerous, and even fatal, so it is important to seek medical advice if you believe you have ingested more of your medication than advised. Indeed, if you notice the following symptoms, it is important to get medical attention as soon as possible:
- Muscle weakness
- Slow reflexes
- Breathing problems
Klonopin overdose can result in respiratory failure, coma, and death.
As previously mentioned, the risk of overdose increases when Klonopin is mixed with other substances. Although overdose is rarely fatal when Klonopin is taken by itself, when mixed with alcohol or another drug, there is a risk of severe respiratory depression.
Overdose, however, is manageable and does not necessarily bring about devastation. If you cannot personally help your loved one, depending on the severity, you may need to call emergency services and make sure you have their medical file or at least information about their allergies at hand.
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Co-Occurring Disorders of Klonopin Abuse
Klonopin abuse commonly occurs alongside other disorders. It is often used to treat mental health problems such as anxiety, but it can also be the catalyst for mental health problems developing. Examples of co-occurring disorders associated with Klonopin abuse are:
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic disorders
- Depressive disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social phobia
- Alcohol abuse
- Stimulant abuse
- Opiate abuse
When someone presents with a mental health disorder coupled with an addiction to Klonopin or a poly-substance addiction that includes Klonopin, it can be difficult to determine which symptoms are associated with which disorder and whether one was the cause of the other. In these circumstances complex treatment programmes are necessary.
Klonopin Abuse Treatment Self-Care at Home
When Klonopin abuse begins, it is possible to take steps at home to prevent it from developing into a full-blown addiction. If you have noticed that your use of your medication has increased or that it is becoming less effective, it is probably best to speak to your doctor or another medical professional as soon as possible.
Doing this means you can formulate a plan together that will involve a reduction of your medication over the course of a few weeks or months. It is not a good idea to suddenly stop taking the medication as you may already have developed a physical dependence, so a sudden cessation could trigger withdrawal symptoms.
Your doctor will probably recommend that you taper your dose with a set reduction every one to two weeks. This can be adjusted if you are experiencing symptoms.
When to Seek Medical Care
Medical care might become necessary if you have developed an addiction to Klonopin and are now using it more often or at higher doses than advised to by your doctor. If you have started to combine your medication with another substance to help you achieve the desired effects, it is likely that you are already in the grip of addiction and professional intervention is necessary for you to get better.
As discussed above, mixing Klonopin with other substances can leave you susceptible to overdose, so if you believe you may be experiencing the symptoms of such, medical care should be sought immediately. If you experience severe sedation or are struggling to breathe, it is important to call emergency services right away.
Klonopin Addiction and Possible Treatments
Treatment for any type of substance addiction usually involves a comprehensive programme of recovery that incorporates detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare. All three are required to achieve a full recovery.
Addiction treatment is available through paid-for and free programmes here in the UK, and you have the choice of which type of programme is most suitable for your needs. In the first instance, it is important that you break free from your medication, which means going through a detox. If you opt for a home detox (which we do not really recommend, by the way), it is likely that this will involve a gradual reduction of your medication over the course of a few weeks or months.
If you prefer to detox in an inpatient facility, tapering may take place over a couple of weeks using a substitute benzodiazepine drug to limit the severity of symptoms you experience. Some detox providers pot for the rapid detox approach, where you quit Klonopin abruptly and are then given a selective benzodiazepine receptor antagonist such as flumazenil. This is an antidote to benzodiazepine overdose and can work to flush out the Klonopin from your system while also preventing many of the withdrawal symptoms from occurring.
Overcoming Klonopin addiction involves more than just quitting the medication however. In addition to a detox, you will need to complete a programme of rehabilitation, which involves a combination of traditional talking therapies and holistic treatments to help deal with the emotional side of your illness.
Recovery programmes vary depending on the provider. For example, inpatient programmes are quite intense because they are condensed over a few weeks. Outpatient programmes, on the other hand, require fewer treatment hours each week and last for much longer.
In the UK, outpatient programmes are typically offered by the NHS, local support groups, and charities. Inpatient programmes are mostly provided by private clinics. Whatever programme you do end up choosing, the goal will always be to help you quit Klonopin for good. You will learn valuable skills that will help you to avoid a return to addictive behaviour going forward, and you will be encouraged to get involved with your local support group when your rehab programme finishes. This is known as aftercare and is a vital part of any addiction recovery programme.
The types of treatments that are commonly used in rehab, regardless of whether these are inpatient or outpatient based, are:
- one-to-one counselling
- group therapy
- 12-step therapy
- cognitive behavioural therapy
- dialectical behaviour therapy
- motivational enhancement therapy
- motivational interviewing
- psychodynamic therapy
- art therapy
- music therapy
- mindful fitness
As you know by now, detox is necessary where addiction has developed. Breaking the bond between yourself and Klonopin is the first step on the road to recovery but know benzodiazepine detox is a complicated process. In fact, along with alcohol, benzodiazepines are one of the most difficult substances to break free from. This has a lot to do with the type and severity of withdrawal symptoms that can occur.
Due to the risk of severe symptoms, it is considered best for most affected people to detox in a dedicated facility when trying to quit Klonopin. In such a facility, you will be monitored at all times by individuals with experience and training in how to deal with the issues that may arise during withdrawal.
What About Withdrawal?
Physical dependence, as has been made clear in this article, can occur with prolonged use of Klonopin. When you try to withdraw from it, you will probably experience a range of symptoms, some of which can be life-threatening. They include:
- muscle cramps
- panic attacks
Discontinuation of Klonopin without supervision or without medical advice could lead to serious health problems. It is for this reason that it is never recommended to quit Klonopin by yourself.
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Do You Need to Go onto Rehab?
As we have stated above, detox will only deal with the physical element of addiction. If you are to achieve a full and permanent recovery from Klonopin addiction, you will also need to complete a rehabilitation programme that addresses the emotional and psychological issues pertaining to your illness.
Not dealing with these issues means that they will remain under the surface and could trigger a return to addiction at a later date.
Klonopin Addiction Statistics
- Benzodiazepines are second only to opiates in terms of being the most abused prescription drugs.
- In the US, there are three times as many benzodiazepine-related hospital visits than there are visits relating to illegal street drug use.
- In 2011, there were more than 70,000 Klonopin-related visits to emergency rooms in the US.
- It is the third most commonly used benzodiazepine drug in the US.
- It is possible to become physically dependent on Klonopin within a month of continuous use.
- Around 15% of all Americans are using some type of benzodiazepine.
- There has been a 30% increase in the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions written in the US since 1996.
- 30% of all prescription drug overdoses in 2013 in the US involved the use of benzodiazepines.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Klonopin addictive?
Klonopin is one of the most addictive types of benzodiazepine drugs available and physical dependence can occur very quickly. It is a fast-acting medication that can stay in the system for up to three days. Because of its hypnotic and sedative effects, it is regularly abused by those who want to get high.
However, because a tolerance can develop very quickly, the potential for abuse is extremely high. When abused, the risk for Klonopin addiction increases.
How is Klonopin addiction treated?
Klonopin addiction is treated with a programme of detox, followed by rehabilitation. To ensure a full recovery, both parts of the recovery process must be completed. Detox is designed to address the physical addiction while rehabilitation aims to deal with the psychological part of the illness.
Treatment in a rehabilitation programme typically involves a combined approach that utilises traditional talking therapies with holistic approaches to treat the mind, body, and spirit.
How bad is Klonopin addiction?
Any addiction to mood-altering chemicals can have devastating consequences; Klonopin addiction is no different. Prolonged abuse of this medication can result in harm to your mental and physical health and wellbeing and could affect your relationships with those around you.
In addition, your risk of overdose will be high if you continue to abuse Klonopin. The risk is higher still in those taking larger than recommended doses of their medication and in those who abuse the drug alongside other substances.
HowHow to cure Klonopin addiction?
If a full recovery from Klonopin addiction is something you are interested in, you will need to consider a comprehensive treatment programme. This will mean starting with a detox programme that will allow you to quit your medication safely. In a secure detox facility, you will be at virtually no risk and your comfort will be a priority.
What you do need to remember however is that addiction is not a curable illness. With the right treatment programme that deals with all aspects of the illness, you can recover permanently. To ensure your addictive behaviour does not return though, you will need to work hard on maintaining your sobriety once the treatment programme comes to an end.
You can access aftercare support within your local community. You may have heard of groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These groups give members the opportunity to meet regularly with the aim of giving vital support for ongoing sobriety maintenance. It is likely that your treatment provider will encourage you to join your local support group when your programme ends.
Where else can I find help?
There is plenty of help available for those with addiction here in the UK. Your first port of call may be your doctor who can refer you to your local drug treatment service and provide the information you require about what programmes are available. You can also self-refer if you prefer.
You will also find plenty of information throughout online addiction databases, or if you would like to speak to someone over the phone about the various programmes that are available in your area, please call UKAT today.
How does Klonopin addiction start?
Klonopin addiction begins with an increased tolerance to the effects of the drug, and this can happen very quickly. Your body will adapt when you start taking Klonopin, and as it gets used to it, the effects of the drug will diminish. This means that you will need to take more of it to achieve the same sense of satisfaction or relief.
By increasing your dosage of Klonopin, you will be taking more than the recommended amount. This usually results in a physical dependence. You may get to the point where you find it difficult to be normal without your medication and you will start taking it more frequently. At this stage, you will find it impossible to quit the drug without suffering withdrawal symptoms. The only way to relieve these symptoms is with more Klonopin, and thus, a cycle of abuse and addiction begins.
Who gets addicted to Klonopin?
It is often assumed that those addicted to drugs are bad people with no willpower. The reality is that drug addiction can happen to anyone, and as is often the case with benzodiazepine addictions, those who do find themselves addiction have usually never touched an illegal drug in their lives. They might be the last people you would expect to be classed as an addict.
Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem and unfortunately, most people who do get addicted do not even realise what is happening until it is too late.
What should I do about Klonopin addiction?
If you believe you are addicted to Klonopin, it is important to get help as soon as possible. No matter how much you might want to, the last thing you should do is ignore your situation. Your addiction will not go away if you do nothing; in fact, it is far more likely that your situation will get worse.
Your need for Klonopin will get stronger, and as the drug loses its effectiveness due to your body adapting to it, you may begin looking for alternative ways of getting the relief you crave. This may cause you to abuse other substances at the same time, putting your health and life at risk. If you find yourself in this situation, you will need to get help as soon as possible before your situation spirals further out of control.
How to help someone who is addicted to Klonopin?
If someone you care about has been prescribed Klonopin and you have noticed worrying changes in his or her behaviour, it may be that he or she is abusing the drug. It is common for regular use of Klonopin to develop into abuse, often without the individual realising what has happened.
It is crucial to address the issue as soon as possible as failure to do so may mean the situation deteriorating further. Try speaking to the affected person in a calm manner about your concerns, while being supportive and non-judgemental.
You might be met with angry denials, particularly if the individual has not yet realised the full extent of his or her problem. Nevertheless, by showing your love and support and by planting the seed, you may find that your loved one comes around to the idea of getting help.
Is Klonopin addictive in low doses?
Because Klonopin is such a powerful benzodiazepine, even low doses can become addictive if taken for an extended period.
How can I spot Klonopin dependence?
The most obvious sign of Klonopin dependence is the presence of withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit or cut back on your use. You might notice symptoms such as headaches, sweating, nausea, stomach pain, and dizziness whenever the effects wear off.
If you are also psychologically dependent on Klonopin, you might feel as though you are unable to cope without your medication and you may become anxious or tense whenever you need it.