Klonopin is a benzodiazepine, a class of medications prescribed primarily for people with anxiety disorders. They are potent and effective if used for a limited time, but benzodiazepines can be addictive if taken recreationally or for longer (or in larger amounts) than originally prescribed. People who become addicted to Klonopin require detox followed by addiction treatment, and if they get the help they need they have an excellent chance at recovery.
What is Klonopin Addiction?
Klonopin is the brand name for clonazepam, which belongs to the benzodiazepine class of drugs. Klonopin (clonazepam) is prescribed primarily as a remedy for anxiety disorders, and it can be especially helpful for people with panic disorder who need immediate help controlling their disabling symptoms.
Benzodiazepines are tranquilizers that work by depressing activity in the central nervous system. Medications like Klonopin enhance the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which reduces the intensity of anxiety symptoms while causing the muscles of the body to relax. Klonopin has anticonvulsant properties as well and is sometimes used to treat seizures.
While benzodiazepines are usually quite effective as a short-term antidote for anxiety, their potency comes with a price: benzodiazepines are highly addictive and should never be used in ways inconsistent with their prescription. Klonopin is every bit as addictive as any other type of benzodiazepine, and men and women who abuse this medication are playing with fire.
Facts and Statistics
When consumed safely and in moderation, Klonopin and the other benzodiazepines can effectively produce the desired results for which they’re prescribed. But their ubiquity is alarming, and the dangers associated with their misuse cannot be ignored:
- In 2011, there were 26.9 million prescriptions issued for Klonopin or other clonazepam products in the United States, making the drug the third-most prescribed type of benzodiazepine.
- Between 1996 and 2013, the number of American adults who filled at least one prescription for benzodiazepines rose from 8.1 million to 13.5 million annually.
- Less than one percent of Americans above the age of 12 suffered from a tranquilizer use disorder in 2016. But this still represents 618,000 people who were addicted to Klonopin or similar medications.
- Benzodiazepines are implicated in 30 percent of all overdose deaths, and 23 percent of those who died from opioid overdoses had been mixing them with benzodiazepines.
- In 2010, 62,811 Americans visited hospital emergency rooms suffering the ill effects of Klonopin usage.
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Symptoms and Diagnosis of Klonopin Addiction
Like all pharmaceutical medications, Klonopin can produce unpleasant side effects even if used as prescribed. But when Klonopin is being abused the normal side effects may be exaggerated and experienced on a daily basis.
The signs of Klonopin use and abuse include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- High blood pressure
- Tremors, shakiness
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Slurred speech
- Blurry vision
- Sleeplessness, or excessive sleeping
- Disorientation, confusion
- Memory problems
- Hallucinations and delusions
When Klonopin is taken for too long and in large amounts, it will become less effective against anxiety. If consumption continues despite a failure to achieve the intended results, that is a sure sign that addiction is imminent if not already a reality.
Diagnosing Klonopin Addiction
In addition to the physical and psychological effects, Klonopin addiction will also cause changes in behavior that clinicians rely on to diagnose the disorder.
To be diagnosed with Klonopin dependency, which is classified as a “sedative, hypnotic, and anxiolytic disorder,” a person must exhibit at least two of the following symptoms. If six or more symptoms are detected they will be diagnosed with a severe benzodiazepine addiction:
- Multiple incidents of unplanned and/or heavier-than-intended Klonopin use
- Inordinate amounts of time spent obtaining or using Klonopin, or recovering from its effects
- An inability to stop or reduce Klonopin consumption by choice
- Neglect of enjoyable social or recreational activities related to Klonopin abuse
- Continued use of Klonopin despite its interference with home life, work, school, and other important duties
- Recurrent use of the drug in dangerous situations (like when driving)
- Continued consumption despite the drug’s role in causing interpersonal conflicts
- Cravings for the drug, marked by an increase in anxiety when cravings go unsatisfied
- Continued use of Klonopin even after it has been implicated in the onset of physical and mental health problems
- Growing tolerance, meaning more Klonopin must be consumed to achieve the desired effects
- Withdrawal symptoms that are experienced when Klonopin is not used for several hours
Klonopin Addiction Causes and Risk Factors
Because benzodiazepines are inherently addictive, anyone can succumb to Klonopin dependency if they exceed recommended doses or use it for longer than prescribed.
Nevertheless, there are certain risk factors that increase the odds of addiction in people who start using Klonopin:
- Family history of drug dependency. Genetic factors and environmental exposures to drugs at young ages are both implicated.
- A highly-stressful lifestyle. Medications like Klonopin can provide some relief from stress, for a while. But habitual use of drugs as a stress antidote can easily lead to drug dependency.
- Using Klonopin recreationally. Most people who take benzodiazepines for medical conditions do so responsibly. But recreational use comes without instructions or limits, and is therefore dangerous.
- Mixing Klonopin with other mind-altering substances. Too often recreational users combine Klonopin with alcohol or other drugs, like prescription opioids, and that increases the chances of substance use disorders dramatically.
- Self-medicating or doctor shopping. People who use Klonopin without consulting a physician, or who try to get extra prescriptions beyond their initial dosage by visiting multiple doctors, are acting recklessly and setting themselves up for trouble.
- Exposure to trauma, especially in childhood. People who are neglected or abused as children, or severely traumatized by violence, natural disaster or other forms of trauma as adults, face an elevated risk for mental health disorders (like anxiety disorders) and for drug and alcohol dependency.
The Dangers of Klonopin Overdose
Benzodiazepines are implicated in about than 30 percent of drug overdose deaths, and the risks are especially high for those who mix these medications with alcohol or opioids. In fact, few people die from overdosing on benzodiazepines alone, but when drugs like Klonopin are combined with other drugs that depress the central nervous system it can lead to death from respiratory failure or heart failure.
The symptoms of Klonopin overdose include:
- Poor equilibrium and coordination
- Mental confusion
- Slowed breathing patterns; shallow breathing
- Low blood pressure and pulse rate
- Irrational behavior or speech
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Extreme drowsiness, possibly to the point of unconsciousness
When Klonopin overdose is known or suspected, medical attention should be sought immediately. The danger is acute and the results could be tragic if no action is taken.
Withdrawal and Detox
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be a drawn-out process, and if the dependency is severe it may take three or four weeks—or sometimes even longer—for the symptoms of Klonopin withdrawal to fade away. Supervised medical detox is necessary in at least the initial stages of Klonopin withdrawal, since strong symptoms can be painful and debilitating, or might exacerbate other pre-existing health problems.
The most common symptoms of Klonopin withdrawal include:
- Panic attacks
- Heavy sweating
- Restlessness and agitation
- Nausea and stomach cramps
- Pounding headaches
- Severe insomnia
Gradual tapering of dosage is the preferred method for achieving benzodiazepine abstinence. Depending on the strength and depth of the addiction, tapering may continue for two or three months, extending beyond detox, or it may be accomplished in as little as 7-10 days for a mild-to-moderate Klonopin dependency.
One possible complication is the presence of an alcohol use disorder. Many people with benzodiazepine dependence mix their pills with alcohol to achieve an enhanced effect, which can lead to a dual Klonopin/alcohol addiction diagnosis. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are often severe and could be fatal if allowed to run out of control, and people in detox for both alcohol and benzodiazepine addiction must be carefully monitored and may require extensive medical services.
Klonopin is prescribed primarily to treat anxiety disorders, and when Klonopin addiction develops it is often a consequence of severe anxiety symptoms that are difficult to manage and can encourage self-medication.
Major depression is another frequent comorbid condition diagnosed in people with Klonopin dependency. This is not surprising, since at least 60 percent of people with anxiety disorders will have co-occurring depression at some point. Unfortunately, the tranquilizing effects of Klonopin can exacerbate depressed moods, and many people who need treatment for Klonopin addiction show signs of severe depression.
Because people who misuse benzodiazepines often mix them with other drugs and alcohol, additional substance use disorders are often diagnosed alongside Klonopin dependency. The odds of alcohol and opioid addiction developing in conjunction with Klonopin addiction are especially high, and anyone who has suffered an overdose after combining benzodiazepines with these mind-altering substances should be evaluated for substance abuse immediately.
Klonopin Addiction Treatment and Prognosis
Medical detox must be completed before a person can begin treatment for Klonopin addiction, based on the strength and persistence of the withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine dependency. Withdrawal may not subside completely during this period, but once it is under control the patient should be ready to make the transition to full-time rehabilitation.
Drug and alcohol rehab centers offer comprehensive inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for people battling Klonopin dependency and equally comprehensive dual diagnosis programs for people who need treatment for anxiety disorders or other co-occurring conditions.
People enrolled in customized treatment plans will attend individual, group, and/or family therapy sessions on a daily basis, and their programs may be supplemented by special services like holistic healing practices and life skills training.
During treatment for Klonopin addiction, addiction specialists will introduce practical strategies and procedures that can help people learn to live without medication. But they will also encourage their clients to reflect deeply on their lives to uncover the hidden traumas or conflicts that made them vulnerable to drug abuse.
After treatment programs are complete, people in recovery from Klonopin addiction will move into aftercare or continuing care programs that are designed to reinforce the positive life changes they’ve made and reduce the risk of relapse. By focusing on relapse prevention, men and women overcoming Klonopin dependency will develop constructive habits that can serve them well in the future, when life’s stresses return and the temptation to go back to drugs will be strong.
For those who remain diligent and determined in their recovery, treatment for Klonopin addiction has a high success rate. Untreated Klonopin dependency can ruin lives, but treatment can save them.