Clonazepam (brand name Klonopin) is neither an opioid or opiate.
In fact, clonazepam is a benzodiazepine prescription drug that helps to treat symptoms of anxiety such as panic attacks caused by anxiety disorders. Clonazepam also helps treat seizure disorders and acts as an anticonvulsant.
Sometimes referred to as “benzos,” benzodiazepines such as clonazepam are considered schedule IV controlled substances according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means clonazepam has a potential for abuse.
Is Clonazepam A Narcotic?
Narcotics only include natural opioid pain medications. Therefore, clonazepam is not a narcotic. However, it can be heavily abused and combined with opioids which can lead to a life-threatening overdose.
Clonazepam & CNS Depressants
Clonazepam works by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. The medication binds to receptors and depresses the central nervous system (CNS).
Because Clonazepam is a CNS depressant, it should not be combined with other drugs that also depress the CNS as this can increase sedation and cause potential falls, accidents, or overdoses. This includes opiates, opioids, and alcohol.
Clonazepam Side Effects
Clonazepam has abuse potential due to the side effects it causes such as euphoria. However, clonazepam has a number of other side effects as well.
Common Side Effects
Some of the short-term, more common side effects of clonazepam can include:
- frequent urination
- increased saliva
- muscle pain
- blurred vision
Serious Side Effects
Any of the above side effects can become life-threatening when clonazepam is abused or combined with other drugs. Serious side effects can take place when clonazepam is taken in high doses.
These side effects may consist of:
- respiratory depression
- severe withdrawal symptoms
- difficulty swallowing
- increased heart rate
- memory impairment
- changes in mood
Abusing clonazepam or taking the drug for long-term use can result in a person developing a tolerance to the drug. When this occurs due to repeated use, a physical dependence may have developed.
If withdrawal symptoms are present, a person may exhibit:
- difficulty concentrating
- sleep problems
- memory problems
- thoughts of suicide
Dangers Of Mixing Clonazepam & Opioids
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when benzodiazepines and opioids are combined, there is an increased risk of an overdose.
Unfortunately, a number of prescription narcotics are opioids, causing medications to overlap if surgery is needed and medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) are required for pain management.
Always speak to your healthcare provider to determine which medications are safe for you to take. A number of drug interactions may occur when clonazepam is combined with other legal or illicit drugs.
For instance, those taking Klonopin should contact their doctor before taking:
- opioids such as fentanyl, codeine, tramadol, hydromorphone, and methadone
- CNS depressants such as alcohol
- other benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan)
- vitamins or supplements
- herbal products such as St. John’s wort
- certain antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Taking any of these medications with clonazepam can increase adverse effects of the medication.
Those who abuse clonazepam increase their risk of an overdose. When opioids are involved, however, an overdose may occur quickly.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), when benzodiazepines are combined with opioids, there is an increased risk of an emergency room visit and even an overdose.
Some of the symptoms of an overdose may include:
- severe sedation
- impaired coordination
- possible death
In addition to these symptoms, a person may also experience diminished reflexes and confusion during an overdose, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If you discover you are pregnant and you take clonazepam, contact your doctor right away. For women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, this drug can potentially be transferred from breast milk to the child, which can cause a number of health issues including a risk of overdose.
Those suffering from glaucoma and other medical conditions such as kidney or liver disease, should avoid clonazepam as well.
Before taking clonazepam, discuss with your doctor any current medications you take as well as any disease you may currently have or have had in the past, such as lung disease.
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Northeast Addition Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.