Klonopin is the brand name for clonazepam, a prescription medication. While the drug can be taken safely, it can also be abused for its ability to create euphoric effects. Those who misuse it often become addicted very quickly, which is why you should seek help immediately if you or someone you know has been misusing a Klonopin prescription.
Understanding Klonopin Abuse
Klonopin is a medication often used with other drugs to control certain types of seizures, but it can also be prescribed to individuals who suffer from panic attacks and other severe, anxiety-related issues (National Library of Medicine). The drug is effective when taken as prescribed, but those who abuse it put themselves in extreme danger.
Klonopin (its generic name being clonazepam) belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines. These drugs can cause a number of severe side effects, including a potentially deadly withdrawal syndrome, that become more likely to occur when a person abuses the drug. In addition, an individual can easily become addicted to Klonopin if they abuse it consistently. This is why doctors strongly advise against taking any type of benzodiazepine drug in any way other than prescribed.
Signs and Symptoms of Klonopin Abuse
Klonopin controls seizures by slowing down the activity in the brain. This can make a person drowsy and relaxed, which are some of the reasons why it is abused. However, when taken in large doses, euphoria can occur, and this is the state many abusers are attempting to reach. Klonopin also causes other signs and symptoms when abused, including
- Loss of coordination
- Problems with thinking and memory
- Pain in joints and muscles
- Urination problems, including frequent urination
- Blurry vision
People on benzodiazepines are advised not to drive a car or to participate in any activities requiring immense concentration, as they will likely become a danger to themselves and others. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, large doses of the drug can lead to even more intense side effects, including
- Slowed reflexes
- Mood swings, including moving from euphoric or happy feelings to anger or paranoia
- Hostile and erratic behavior
- Severe confusion
Drugs like Klonopin can cause a number of very clear side effects that can allow the loved ones of a user to recognize the issue. Someone who misuses the drug frequently will likely experience even more severe effects in most cases.
Dangers of Klonopin Abuse
Klonopin can be a dangerous medication, and the risks of its use become even higher when it is taken in large doses and abused by those who should not be taking it. The potential consequences of Klonopin abuse can include
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, a person can suffer from intense, depressive effects after using or abusing Klonopin, though it is much more likely to occur in individuals taking large doses of the drug. Suicidal thoughts may occur, which is why individuals experiencing this effect should receive help immediately.
Because benzodiazepines are depressants, they slow the activity everywhere in the body, including one’s breathing. Regular doses are not usually dangerous, but when a person abuses Klonopin, they could breathe too shallowly or stop breathing altogether.
As a result of an overdose, a person could fall into a coma, sustain brain damage, and even die because they are not able to receive enough oxygen.
Pregnant individuals who take Klonopin should understand the risks of birth defects that can occur as a result of this drug. Even pregnancies in the very early stages––where the individual may not potentially know they are pregnant––can be affected.
The drug is often eliminated from the body more slowly than other drugs. Therefore, if a person is abusing Klonopin regularly and in large doses, a buildup of fatty tissues can occur in the body, leading to
- Impaired thinking
- Problems remembering things
- Impaired judgment
- Slurred speech and stuttering
- Muscle weakness
- Coordination problems
Dependence and withdrawal
Individuals who abuse Klonopin regularly will likely become dependent on the drug, but the withdrawal syndrome associated with benzodiazepines can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Withdrawal symptoms include
- Weight loss
- Hypersensitivity to light and sound
Benzodiazepine abuse can be extremely dangerous, and Klonopin is no exception to this. In addition, the more a person misuses a drug, the more likely they are to experience the severe side effects listed above.
Who Abuses Klonopin?
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Klonopin seems to be one of the most regularly abused benzodiazepine drugs, its frequency of misuse coming in second behind only alprazolam (also known as Xanax). Though it had been thought for many years that prescription drug abuse was a white-collar addiction, it is now understood that individuals of all ethnicities and economic standings abuse drugs of this type.
- In 2011, there were 26.9 million clonazepam prescriptions dispensed in the United States, behind alprazolam (49.0 million) and lorazepam (27.6 million).
- However, 345,691 emergency department visits were attributed to benzodiazepines in 2010 with 62,811 attributed specifically to clonazepam (second only to alprazolam).
- In 2011, there were 10,686 clonazepam reports from federal, state, and local forensic laboratories (second only to alprazolam).
People become addicted to Klonopin after abusing it consistently for a prolonged period of time, which can lead to physical changes in the brain that are difficult to reverse. Over time, the individual’s drug use stops being voluntary and becomes compulsive, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Once this occurs, professional treatment becomes highly necessary for the individual’s safe and effective recovery.
Some individuals continue abusing Klonopin even after their tolerances become very high in order to avoid the severe withdrawal symptoms caused by the drug. Others may turn to illicit substances, which are often cheaper and easier to obtain. Addiction makes substance abuse a person’s number one priority to the point where everything else in their life suffers.
Am I a Klonopin Addict?
If you are concerned that you might be addicted to Klonopin, ask yourself the questions below.
- Do I abuse Klonopin frequently?
- Do I feel I cannot get through the day, fall asleep, get through stressful situations, etc. without the drug?
- Have other people expressed concern about my substance abuse?
- Do I attempt to hide the extent of my substance abuse from others?
- Do I abuse Klonopin even when I am alone?
- Have I experienced any severe withdrawal symptoms when I wasn’t able to obtain more of the drug?
- Have I ever done anything dangerous or risky to obtain more or use more?
- Do I make excuses for myself to take Klonopin?
- Have I experienced any professional or personal problems because of my substance abuse?
- Despite the issues Klonopin has caused in my life, do I feel I won’t be able to stop using it on my own?
Klonopin is an addictive drug, and if you answered yes to the questions above, it is time to seek help. Without it, you will put yourself at tremendous risk by trying to put an end to your substance abuse on your own.
Klonopin Addiction Treatment
According to the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, “Treatments for benzodiazepine addiction generally begin with a slow detoxification process.” This is because drugs of this class can cause severe withdrawal effects, and patients must be protected from experiencing these to their full extent. Once the individual is stable, the real addiction treatment can begin.
Behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, and contingency management can all be beneficial in helping patients change negative thoughts and behaviors and manage their recoveries. Beneficial lifestyle goals like abstinence are often taught in therapy as well as the ability to
- Recognize and avoid triggers
- Cope with cravings
- Cope with stress
- This is especially important because stress is the number one cause of relapse among recovering addicts (NIDA).
- Understand and appreciate the needs of others
- Restore one’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth
Treatment for benzodiazepine addiction is dominated by the use of behavioral therapies to change the thoughts and attitudes of the patient. In addition, any comorbid mental disorders (especially those for which the individual started treatment with Klonopin in the first place) must be addressed as part of one’s recovery and can be treated in therapy as well.