Withdrawal & Detox from Klonopin (Clonazepam) Addiction
This Page was last reviewed and changed on May 21st 2022
Withdrawing from any type of benzodiazepine drug is a process that requires careful consideration. It is never recommended that you stop taking Klonopin suddenly as doing so could result in serious withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, the safest way to detox from Klonopin is in a supervised facility where staff can make you more comfortable and can prevent the worst symptoms from occurring.
If you are taking Klonopin for the treatment of seizures, anxiety, or panic disorder, are you aware that this drug can be highly addictive? Perhaps you already know this, which is why you are here reading this article. Either way, know that it is a medication that you can quickly develop a tolerance to; so quick in fact that you may find you are physically and psychologically dependent after just a few weeks of use.
For most people, it is hard to come to terms with the fact that medication prescribed by a doctor for a genuine medical reason could become addictive. Many do not give this a second’s thought, especially if the drug has been providing relief from the condition they are suffering.
What you should know though is that Klonopin is meant only for short-term use and that prolonged use, even at therapeutic doses, can result in a tolerance and subsequent increased risk for dependence and addiction. If this were to happen, you will need to go through the process of withdrawal during the initial stages of receiving treatment and getting better.
Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms
When a tolerance to Klonopin does develop, you will likely find that it is not as effective as it was when you first started taking it. This can happen quite quickly and unfortunately many individuals believe the solution to this is to increase their dosage of the drug.
Nevertheless, taking higher doses of Klonopin increases the risk for physical and psychological dependence. As you take more of the drug, your need for it will grow, and you may find that you are unable to function without it. Trying to quit or reduce the amount that you are using will usually result in withdrawal symptoms. You might quickly realise that the best way to make these symptoms subside is to take more of the medication. This is what causes a cycle of abuse and withdrawal, which can be almost impossible to break from by yourself. Some of the symptoms that can occur with Klonopin withdrawal are:
Causes of Klonopin Withdrawal
When you take Klonopin, it helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety and prevent seizures by stimulating certain areas of the brain. Since conditions such as seizure disorders, panic disorder, and anxiety all stem from an imbalance of chemicals and subsequent overactivity within the brain, medications such as Klonopin work by enhancing the production of a neurotransmitter known as GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid). This is the brain’s natural inhibitory or calming chemical, so by encouraging GABA receptors to produce more of it, Klonopin can help to reduce overactivity in the brain. This then helps relieve symptoms of anxiety and panic and also assists in the prevention of seizures.
While Klonopin does provide relief, the brain quickly adapts to its presence and consequently starts adjusting the production of neurotransmitters. This then has the effect of making the medication less effective over time. The brain also begins to rely on the medication for the production of GABA which means when the medication is withdrawn, it is unable to produce the amount required to maintain the balance by itself. This typically results in a sudden increase of excitatory chemicals in the brain, triggering the onset of various withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and seizures as it tries to adjust.
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How Long Do Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
Klonopin has a long half-life, meaning that it basically takes a longer time for the drug to leave the body than it would for short-acting benzodiazepines. This is the reason that it can take around one to three days before the first symptoms of withdrawal start to appear. During the early stage of withdrawal, symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and panic can set in, which usually last between two and four days.
The next stage of Klonopin withdrawal is known as acute withdrawal and it lasts from about one week up to a month (depending on the affected individual), with symptoms usually peaking after about two weeks. Most of the symptoms that you will get occur during acute withdrawal.
While most of the symptoms will have subsided after the first month, you may notice that some linger for much longer while others come and go for up to a year or more. However, all usually disappear with time.
How long your withdrawal symptoms last will depend on how long you were abusing Klonopin and how severe your addiction was. It will also be contingent on whether your dosage was reduced gradually or whether you were given a rapid detox programme, which involves an abrupt discontinuation of the medication.
Managing Withdrawal Symptoms
The safest place to withdraw from Klonopin is in a dedicated detox facility where trained professionals with the knowledge and experience to make the process easier and safer for you are in attendance. As Klonopin withdrawal comes with the risk of severe symptoms, it is important that you are monitored at all times.
If you are experiencing discomfort during the detox and withdrawal process, staff may be able to provide medication to relieve your symptoms. Beta-blockers and antidepressants can help with symptoms such as depression and anxiety. You might also be given a substitute benzodiazepine drug or an alternative z-drug to help minimise the effects of withdrawal.
Other methods, such as meditation and mindfulness, have also proven effective treatments for managing withdrawal symptoms.
Contributing Factors to Klonopin Withdrawal
Klonopin dependence can occur as soon as one month after you start taking it, which is why the recommendation is (or should be) that it should be taken for no longer than ten days. The risk is much higher though in those who abuse the drug.
Taking higher doses of Klonopin or using it in a way that it was not intended will increase the chances of developing an addiction, potentially making withdrawing from it that much more severe.
Mixing Klonopin with another drug or with alcohol can also contribute to the severity of the withdrawal process.
It is recommended that Klonopin is withdrawn over a period of time rather than it be stopped suddenly, as sudden cessation increases the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms occurring. A gradual tapering allows the brain and body to get used to the removal of the medication.
Psychological Withdrawal from Klonopin
As mentioned above, Klonopin use means that the brain gets used to its presence and starts to rely on it for the production of GABA. So when you stop taking it, the imbalance of chemicals in the brain suddenly returns and therefore leaving it struggling to keep things under control.
This sudden increase in brain activity leads to many psychological symptoms, including:
cravings for your medication
lack of motivation.
You may also begin to suffer from suicidal thoughts and behaviours as your emotions and feelings are severely impaired.
Physical Withdrawal from Klonopin
As you have probably gathered by now, you are likely to have developed a physical dependence on Klonopin if you have been taking it for an extended period. You may not be able to feel normal without the drug, and when you try to reduce your consumption or quit completely, you will likely suffer from various withdrawal symptoms as your body tries to restore normality.
Examples of these symptoms include:
muscle cramps and spasms
high blood pressure
short-term memory loss
Substance Use Disorders and Detoxification
One of the most important parts of the recovery process for a substance use disorder is detoxification. Detox occurs when you stop taking the substance to which you have developed the addiction. It is the body’s way of restoring itself to normal, which it does by eliminating the remaining chemicals that have built up over your time of abusing the substance.
When you were abusing Klonopin, various physiological functions will have been affected. As Klonopin is a sedative drug, its sedation effects slowed down your breathing, heart rate, and cognitive abilities. When you stopped taking the medication, the opposite effect occurred meaning that these functions started to speed up to compensate. Your brain and body then have to go into overdrive to restore proper working order, which then has the effect of making you feel edgy and uncomfortable. It can also lead to various physical and psychological symptoms developing.
Although detox can be unpleasant, it can be effectively managed in a supervised facility where specialised staff will ensure your comfort and safety throughout the process.
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Withdrawing from any benzodiazepine drug is going to be a complicated process, and it is no different with Klonopin. Quitting ‘cold turkey’ can result in the onset of serious withdrawal symptoms, some of which can end up being life-threatening. It is for this reason that it is never advisable to stop taking the medication abruptly by yourself.
Safely detoxing from Klonopin means taking medical advice and, more often than not, medical supervision. To withdraw in a safe environment, it is advisable to do so in a detox clinic. As we alluded above, a team of professionals will decide the most appropriate way for you to get clean.
It may be the case that your dose of Klonopin is withdrawn gradually over the course of a few weeks. This will help lessen the impact of the symptoms that you have and can prevent some from occurring at all. To speed up the detox process, sometimes it might be advised that Klonopin is replaced with a less potent alternative such as diazepam. This will allow for a quicker withdrawal of Klonopin with the aim of then reducing the dosage of diazepam until you are completely free from both.
How to Detox Safely?
As you now know, safety is priority in any detox facility and most people will benefit from withdrawing from Klonopin under careful medical supervision. As you also know, as we have mentioned a couple of times so far in this content, the safest way to detox from your medication is to do so gradually as this helps prevent the worst symptoms from occurring.
Furthermore, we have also explained that a sudden withdrawal of the medication will cause an imbalance of chemicals that your brain will struggle to control until it learns to produce the required amount of GABA itself or until an alternative medication is prescribed to do the job.
Although a detox facility is considered the safest place to withdraw from benzodiazepine drugs such as Klonopin, it is possible to detox safely at home under certain circumstances. For this you will need to liaise with your doctor regularly and will need a plan in place that you should stick to. This plan is will include instructions for the safe withdrawal from your medication. It will entail reducing your dose gradually over the course of a few weeks or months.
Should you experience any unpleasant withdrawal symptoms during reduction of the medication, you will need to contact your doctor for advice as the tapering plan may need to be adjusted.
Withdrawal Timeline and Length of Detoxification
Withdrawal from Klonopin is different for each person, but how long detox lasts depends on the way in which the drug is withdrawn. For a sudden cessation, the withdrawal timeline tends to follow this pattern:
Days 1 to 3 – Symptoms usually begin around one to three days after Klonopin is withdrawn and typically include rebound symptoms such as insomnia and anxiety. These symptoms usually last for between two and four days.
Days 4 to 15 – The acute stage of withdrawal usually begins after the fourth day and this is when the bulk of other symptoms occur. Most of these symptoms will peak at around two weeks after the last dose.
Days 15 + – Although most symptoms will subside after about a month, some can continue for longer. Drug cravings in particular can come and go for many months and without warning. When symptoms persist for months or more, it is known as protracted withdrawal and this is much more likely to occur with Klonopin withdrawal than with shorter-acting benzodiazepines such as diazepam or alprazolam.
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Klonopin Detox Protocol
When you detox in a dedicated facility, it is likely that a detox protocol will be put in place. This will include the details of how your detox is to proceed and it is important that all staff members are familiar with the plan. This will ensure that everyone is aware of the way in which your medication is to be withdrawn.
The detox protocol will include recommendations for a reduction in dosage if this is the type of detox that is to be followed. There will also be notes about action that should be taken to ensure your safety throughout the process.
Before the detox begins, your care team will meet to discuss the best way forward. From this, it will be decided if and what medications will be appropriate to ensure the safest and most comfortable way for you to withdraw from Klonopin.
Medical Detox for Klonopin Use
A medical detox is necessary in many instances because breaking free from Klonopin use can be extremely complicated. If you have been a long-term user of this medication, or if you have been abusing it along with alcohol or another type of sedative drug, you are likely to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.
It may be necessary for a substitute drug to be administered to lessen the impact of withdrawal. If this is the case, you will need to be monitored to ensure that the procedure is carried out safely and that you do not have a reaction.
Although generally accepted as the safest way to withdraw from Klonopin, a gradual reduction is not always appropriate. There are times where it may be necessary to withdraw quickly from the medication. When this is the case, rapid detoxification may be required.
During a rapid detoxification, you will stop taking Klonopin abruptly; to prevent the onset of withdrawals, doctors will administer a selective benzodiazepine receptor antagonist. This type of medication acts on the same receptors as Klonopin but does not cause the same withdrawals.
A drug known as flumazenil is typically administered in low doses over a period of eight to ten days, during which time very few withdrawal symptoms will occur. Although typically used to reverse the sedative effects of a benzodiazepine overdose, flumazenil has been found to be an effective treatment in a medical detox from Klonopin use.
Klonopin Detox Medications
Although the risk of fatal withdrawal symptoms during a Klonopin detox is very low, the risk is still present nevertheless. It is because of this that medical detox is usually necessary. There are several types of medication that may be used to lessen the impact of withdrawal or to prevent some of the more severe symptoms from occurring.
If during your detox, you experience seizures, an anticonvulsant medication such as carbamazepine may be used. Your doctor might also use this medication to help in the prevention of seizures if he or she believes there is a risk.
Other medications that can be used during Klonopin detox include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), melatonin, beta-blockers, and antidepressants, all of which can help to relieve some of the symptoms associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal.
To close out this section on Klonopin detox medications, we will just mention again that substitute benzodiazepines such as diazepam can also be prescribed to help in the withdrawal from Klonopin with as few symptoms as possible. In addition, in the case of a rapid detoxification, a selective benzodiazepine receptor antagonist such as flumazenil can be administered.
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Gradual Dose Reduction Withdrawal
Severe withdrawal symptoms associated with Klonopin cessation typically means reducing the dose gradually. This is considered the best option for those who have not been abusing Klonopin for a long time but are still at risk of developing withdrawal symptoms should they quit their medication.
Whether you are trying to quit Klonopin at home or in a detox facility, the advice might be to taper the dose of the medication over a period of weeks. You might even be expected to reduce your dosage over several months to ensure that withdrawals are kept to a minimum.
At the end of the day, your doctor will advise you of the best way to reduce the dose. It may be the case, for example, of you reducing it by around ten per cent every couple of weeks until you are completely free of Klonopin.
Psychological Interventions for Klonopin Withdrawal
During Klonopin withdrawal, you know by now that various medications are used to help minimise the effects of symptoms but know that there are other ways of managing the withdrawal symptoms as well. Psychological interventions such as counselling and therapy can help, as can certain holistic therapies.
Motivational interviewing may be used to increase your motivation to get better, while cognitive behavioural therapy is a technique regularly used to help you learn how to address the negative emotions and thoughts driving your addictive behaviours.
Holistic therapies such as meditation and mindfulness can help relieve certain symptoms and can reduce cravings and are therefore often used during withdrawal.
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Pharmaceutical Interventions for Klonopin Withdrawal
Medications are often used to aid withdrawal from Klonopin and to help minimise the withdrawal symptoms that one might experience. Nonetheless, there may be other pharmaceutical interventions that can become necessary during the process. As already mentioned a few times within this article, there is a risk of serious complications with a Klonopin detox, one of which could be the onset of seizures. In this case especially it will be necessary for medical intervention.
There is also the risk of suffering hallucinations, severe anxiety, or panic attacks, which could all cause the need for a sedative drug to calm you down or to prevent you from harming yourself or others. Pharmaceutical interventions will only be used if absolutely necessary and only when it is in your best interests.
Possible Complications from Klonopin Withdrawal
If you have been a long-term user of Klonopin and you try to quit, you are more likely to suffer from severe symptoms than someone who has been using it for a short period of time. The risk is also high for those who have been abusing Klonopin in high doses, or for those mixing it with other substances. In such cases, symptoms might include seizures and psychotic episodes, which could lead to fatal consequences if not treated properly.
There is also a risk of developing what is known as post-acute withdrawal, or protracted withdrawal. Around ten to fifteen per cent of people will develop post-acute withdrawal, which means that they may experience symptoms for around a year or more after stopping Klonopin use. These symptoms can include:
anxiety, which can continue for up to two years
depression, which may continue for months
paraesthesia, which is a tingling or pins and needles feeling in arms and legs; this can continue for months or years
gastrointestinal symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome, which can continue for months
muscle spasms and jerking movements; some people will develop restless leg syndrome or violent jerking while sleeping.
Klonopin Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Detox is the necessary first step for those looking to overcome a Klonopin addiction, but beyond this, more treatment is usually necessary. As well as dealing with the physical element of the addiction, it is necessary to tackle the emotional and psychological impact in a more comprehensive manner. This takes place with a programme of rehabilitation.
Rehab for Klonopin addiction can take place on a daycare setting in an outpatient facility or on a residential basis in an inpatient clinic. Either way, you can expect to be treated with various behavioural and talking therapies, holistic treatments, and medication if appropriate.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will I know if I’m experiencing Klonopin withdrawal?
If you stop taking Klonopin and begin to feel unwell, it is likely you are experiencing withdrawal. Symptoms might include blurred vision, headache, and a rapid heartbeat. You may also notice that the symptoms that you began taking Klonopin for in the first place return; they may be worse than they were before you took your medication. These are known as rebound symptoms and are often the first to appear when the drug is withdrawn.
Can Klonopin withdrawal kill you?
Although fatal complications are rare with Klonopin withdrawal, there is a risk of life-threatening symptoms such as respiratory depression and seizures. It is important, therefore, that your withdrawal from this medication is managed properly. The best and safest way to detox is with a gradual reduction of the medication rather than an abrupt cessation, where the risk of severe complications would be higher.
Can Klonopin withdrawal cause seizures?
When Klonopin is suddenly withdrawn it can lead to a chemical imbalance in the brain, and this can trigger seizures in some individuals. The risk is higher among those who were taking the drug to treat seizures in the first place. If you have previously suffered seizures, your doctor may prescribe medication to prevent a recurrence of these when you stop taking Klonopin.
Does Klonopin withdrawal cause depression?
Depression is one of the symptoms that can occur with a Klonopin withdrawal. As Klonopin withdrawal can take a long time, during which you may experience a number of unpleasant symptoms, you may become depressed at the idea of there being no end in sight. If you are of the minority of people who experience protracted withdrawal symptom and your symptoms continue for many months, your risk of depression will be higher.
What does Klonopin withdrawal feel like?
Klonopin withdrawal is different for everyone and how you experience it will depend on several factors. If you have underlying medical issues, you may suffer more than someone who was quite healthy before taking Klonopin. If you have a history of mental health problems, then you may be more likely to suffer severe anxiety or depression.
But if you choose to withdraw from Klonopin in a dedicated detox facility, there are many different psychological and pharmaceutical interventions that can be used to lessen the severity of withdrawal.
What will help Klonopin withdrawal?
There are a few methods for helping in Klonopin withdrawal. As well as medication that can relieve or prevent the symptoms of withdrawal, there are various holistic therapies that can be used. In a detox facility, you will be taught the basics of methods such as mindfulness and meditation, which have proved repeatedly to be useful in helping to relieve the symptoms of several types of substance withdrawal. Hypnotherapy may also be utilised, and you may find that other therapies like music therapy and art therapy are beneficial when it comes to distracting you from the unpleasant symptoms you might experience.
How to ease Klonopin withdrawal?
The best way to minimise the effects of Klonopin withdrawal is through a gradual reduction of your dosage. Continuing to receive smaller doses of the medication until you are ready to quit completely is considered the most effective way of easing Klonopin withdrawal.
How to minimise Klonopin withdrawal?
As abrupt discontinuation of Klonopin is associated with the highest risk for severe withdrawal symptoms, it is advisable to consider a gradual reduction of the medication if you want to minimise the severity of the process. Your doctor will offer advice about the best way to implement a tapering schedule.
Is Klonopin withdrawal dangerous?
Withdrawal from benzodiazepine drugs such as Klonopin is considered dangerous because of the risk of severe and sometimes life-threatening symptoms. It is, therefore, never recommended that you stop taking the medication without advice from your doctor. To do so can result in dangerous complications.