Clonazepam, also known by its brand name Klonopin, is a prescription CNS depressant. The drug can be taken safely by those to whom it is prescribed, but some individuals abuse it in order to experience a euphoric high. Unfortunately, this type of abuse can lead to addiction, among other dangerous side effects.
According to the National Library of Medicine, clonazepam is often used as part of a larger treatment regimen to control seizures. It can also be beneficial to those who require relief from panic attacks. This is because it decreases “abnormal electrical activity in the brain,” which allows patients to avoid experiencing these severe and often life-threatening effects. When taken as prescribed, it is a safe, effective medication.
However, clonazepam is also a benzodiazepine, which means it has a high risk of abuse and can cause serious side effects in those who take it differently than prescribed. Benzodiazepines are particularly dangerous types of CNS depressants, especially when abused, and addiction can quickly set in when someone uses these drugs in larger doses, more often, or in a different way than prescribed.
Signs and Symptoms of Clonazepam Abuse
The main purpose of prescription sedatives is to slow brain activity so a person can relax and not experience severe issues like anxiety, panic attacks, and seizures (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Therefore, two of the strongest signs that a person has taken clonazepam are relaxation and drowsiness.
When someone abuses this drug, though, they are normally hoping to experience the euphoric high caused by large doses of clonazepam. Individuals who do this will likely exhibit a number of other signs and symptoms of abuse, including
- Slurred speech
- Trouble concentration
- Coordination problems
- Memory and cognitive problems
- Lowered blood pressure
- Vision problems
People on this drug should not drive because their concentration will be off and their reflexes will not be as quick. Higher doses can lead to intense euphoria, but an individual on the drug may also experience mood swings, suddenly becoming hostile or unstable.
Dangers of Clonazepam Addiction
One should exercise caution when taking benzodiazepines. These drugs can be especially potent and present a number of risks for regular users. Unfortunately, individuals who abuse clonazepam and other drugs like it put themselves at even more risk of experiencing the dangerous consequences benzodiazepines can cause. These can include
Dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms
Doctors are often careful to wean patients off of benzodiazepines very slowly, but if you have been abusing clonazepam for a long time, there is a good chance that you have already become dependent.
Withdrawal symptoms associated with drugs of this class can be extremely severe and even deadly. According to the medical journal Addiction, they include
- Sleep disturbance
- Increased tension and anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Hand tremor
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight loss
- Muscular pain
- The people most likely to experience seizures are those who were taking the drug for this issue in the first place, but it is difficult to predict the severity and possible symptoms of one’s withdrawal reaction.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, “Like other antiepileptic drugs, Klonopin may cause suicidal thoughts or actions in a very small number of people, about 1 in 500.” However, those who abuse this drug often have a higher chance of experiencing depressive symptoms.
Clonazepam abuse can put a particular strain on the liver. This is why individuals with a history of liver issues are not usually prescribed the medication.
Respiratory depression and death
Benzodiazepines cause significant respiratory depression in those who use it, and abuse can make this effect extremely dangerous. One large dose of clonazepam can cause a person to stop breathing, which can also lead to coma, brain damage, and death.
According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, benzodiazepines are often eliminated from the body very slowly, which means that a person who is constantly abusing them will experience a buildup of the drug in their system. This can lead to
- Impaired thinking
- Memory and judgment problems
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of coordination
Who Abuses Clonazepam?
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, clonazepam is one of the most highly prescribed benzodiazepine drugs. Its availability also makes it one of the most often diverted and abused drugs of its class as well. People of all ages misuse drugs of this type, and unfortunately, abuse often leads to addiction, overdose, and death.
- “There were an estimated 345,691 emergency department visits attributed to benzodiazepines in 2010,” and 62,811 of these were clonazepam, the second most behind only alprazolam.
- A 2011 survey states that “20.4 million individuals aged 12 and older” have admitted to abusing benzodiazepines in their lifetime.
- Women have been reported to visit the hospital more often than men for benzodiazepine abuse related issues (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Unfortunately, like other drugs of abuse, clonazepam can cause addiction. Those who take the drug
- In higher doses than prescribed
- More often than prescribed
- In a different way than prescribed
- Without a prescription at all
put themselves in serious danger of addiction. Some individuals get their medication through doctor shopping, stealing prescription pads, or other illicit activities while others buy it through the internet or get it from friends. Unfortunately, the abuse of benzodiazepines like clonazepam is frequent and likely to lead to addiction.
Individuals who do become addicted to clonazepam won’t be able to think about anything else except getting their next fix. The activities and people who used to be important to them will matter less, and they will start to perform poorly at work and school. In addition, some prescription drug abusers eventually turn to illicit drugs in order to combat tolerance and because some drugs, like heroin, are easier to obtain and cheaper than prescription medications.
Am I a Clonazepam Addict?
If you have been abusing clonazepam and are concerned that you may be addicted, ask yourself the questions below to find out if you have begun to exhibit the signs of compulsive drug abuse.
- Do I think about using clonazepam even when I am not?
- Do I ever experience intense cravings for the drug?
- Have my friends or family members expressed concern over my substance abuse?
- Do I hide my drug use from my loved ones?
- Have I participated in illegal behavior in order to obtain more of the drug?
- Have I thought about switching to a stronger substance in order to experience the high I desire?
- Have the things that used to matter to me (school, work, loved ones, etc.) fallen by the wayside?
- Have I experienced any severe consequences of my clonazepam abuse, including
- Getting reprimanded at work or fired?
- Getting bad grades?
- Losing an important relationship?
- Getting arrested or experiencing legal problems?
- Struggling financially?
- Despite these issues, do I feel I am unable to stop abusing the drug on my own?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your substance abuse has become compulsive and you are more than likely struggling with an addiction. The only way to overcome it safely and effectively is to seek help from a professional rehab center.
Clonazepam Addiction Treatment
The first step of treating clonazepam addiction is to ensure the individual is able to detox safely from the drug. Rehab centers utilize medications to wean the patient off the drug slowly so they do not experience the severe and often dangerous withdrawal effects associated with benzodiazepine drugs. Once the individual is more stable, the real work can begin.
Recovery takes time and patience as well as professional treatment in the form of behavioral therapy. Different programs like
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- 12-step facilitation therapy
- Contingency management
- Motivational enhancement therapy
- Family therapy
- Couples therapy
- Group therapy
can all be helpful to your long-term recovery by teaching you to recognize and avoid dangerous attitudes and behavior patterns and to practice better life and coping skills in the future. Therapy is usually the strongest part of a recovery program from clonazepam abuse, as it allows individuals to make real change to their behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs.
Clonazepam addiction can be severe and incredibly dangerous, but the sooner you seek help, the better your outcome in recovery will be. Treatment can allow you to put an end to your substance abuse and live the life you are meant to live.