Klonopin, the brand name for clonazepam, is an anti-seizure and anti-anxiety medication. It belongs in the class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which are sometimes referred to as tranquilizers. Nearly 20 million prescriptions for clonazepam were doled out in 2016 alone.
As with any benzodiazepine drug, Klonopin has a high risk for addiction. It works by reducing electrical activity within the brain and brings about a calming effect, which is what makes it a successful anti-seizure medication. It is also a muscle relaxer, making it a successful medication to treat a variety of disorders. Unfortunately, it has a high potential for abuse.
Famous musical artist, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, blamed Klonopin for ruining her life. It has also been found in the autopsies of numerous other celebrities who have died from overdose of combined drug intoxication, or CDI. So, what makes the side effects of this drug so seductive?
What is Klonopin
Klonopin is a prescription medication used to control seizures, panic attacks, and severe anxiety. It may also be used to control a movement disorder called akathisia, which is a state of severe agitation and sometimes a side effect of certain antidepressant or antipsychotic drugs.
Klonopin interacts with GABA brain receptors, which are neurotransmitters that regulate communication and reduce activity between brain cells. Ironically it is sometimes used as a medical treatment for more severe addictions only to become the new addiction for the patient. For this reason, it is recommended to be used under medical supervision.
Some medical professionals believe clonazepam is the most addictive drug of all benzodiazepine medications, and for good reason. It has a rapid onset, which means the patient or user will feel the effects, or the rush, within an hour. The half-life, or time it remains in the system, is anywhere from 18 to 39 hours. Therefore, the user may feel the effects for up to three days, allowing the body to easily get used to the feeling after just one dose.
As a prescription drug, it was meant to be prescribed as a short-term remedy. The long-term effects have potential to build tolerance quickly. After tolerance is raised, the body is more at risk to become dependent on the drug. Unfortunately, Klonopin, along with other benzodiazepines, have been liberally prescribed as anxiety and panic disorders run rampant in our society.
Klonopin makes a person feel good, and sometimes mildly euphoric. It helps relax the body, in turn, relaxing the brain. Anxiety, restlessness and drowsiness envelop the user. For many, especially those prone to addiction, this feeling is very pleasurable as it affects the reward centers of the brain. Because it is a mild and long-lasting drug, some users may attempt to recreate the initial rush by taking more than the prescribed dose.
What Are Signs of Klonopin Use?
Some signs of Klonopin use become apparent as physical effects of the drug take hold. A user may exhibit:
- Slow reaction times
- Impaired judgment
- Slurred speech
- Dry mouth
Some activities can indicate signs of Klonopin abuse. A patient or illicit user may continue to desire the drug despite negative side effects. They may develop financial issues due to missed work while spending more money on their habit. A loss of interest in social interactions, seclusion, secrecy and inability to fulfill professional obligations all become signs of a drug habit that is out of control.
Even if a person was prescribed the drug, it is easy for addiction to set in. Those using it often don’t realize they have a problem until it’s too late. This is due to the mindset that it must be safe because it was prescribed. Paying attention to what may be signs of illicit drug use can help promote early intervention.
Side Effects of Klonopin
One of the most acute side-effects of Klonopin is suicidal ideation, which occurs in approximately one in 500 people, and may even show up within a week of regular use. This makes oversight an important part of treatment if you are using it as prescribed, and an unnerving side effect if it is being used illegally with no medical oversight.
Other side effects to watch for include:
- Blurry vision
- Increased salivation
- Respiratory congestion
- Decreased appetite
If someone experiences any of these side effects, intervention is necessary as they can become more serious with longer use. It is not advised to suddenly stop using the medication as it can be life-threatening.
Aside from the symptoms described above, other serious side effects may begin to appear with long term use. As the drug alters brain chemistry, you may notice:
- Reduced motor coordination
- Slowed thinking
- Memory damage
- Impulse control
- Suicidal thoughts
While Klonopin overdose is not common, it is a risk for those who have built a tolerance or use it alongside other medications or drugs. Signs of overdose can include: hyperactivity, markedly slurred speech, confusion, involuntary body movements (also called ataxia), loss of consciousness and coma.
If a person desires to stop taking Klonopin, working with the prescribing doctor is imperative. If the drug was used purely for enjoyment and then turned into an addiction, working with a doctor should be considered.
Street Names for Klonopin
Clonazepam is sold under the brand names Klonopin and Rivotril. It is a commonly abused drug due to the sedative properties and euphoric feeling it may provide. Because of this, it is often illegally diverted so it can be sold on the streets. This results in the creation of nicknames or street names that are used to conceal illicit sales.
The main street names for Klonopin are: K-pin, Pin, Klons (or clons) and Super Valium.
Klonopin may be called by nicknames that are used for the entire class of benzodiazepine drugs. Some street names that may refer to Klonopin are: bennies, benzos, blues, chill pills, candy, downers, tranks, and sleeping pills.
Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms
Klonopin withdrawal symptoms occur whether it was used as a prescription or as a recreational drug. Overtime, the drug alters brain chemistry, causing the brain to become dependent on it. In response to abstaining from the drug, withdrawal symptoms will arise that may be uncomfortable and even life-threatening.
Common symptoms may be similar to acute alcohol withdrawal. These are:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
More severe withdrawal symptoms are hallucinations and Grand Mal seizures. These are associated with suddenly stopping the drug without treatment.
The timeline for withdrawal symptoms varies on use and history, but generally the initial symptoms may appear in the first three days. Symptoms often peak between the first and second week and then fade within the third week of abstinence. Mild symptoms may continue for months. Withdrawal from addiction can be eased with medical intervention.
Treatment for Klonopin Addiction
Treatment for Klonopin addiction should always be done under the care of a physician or in the care of a professional and supervised treatment center. Detoxification may come with side effects, such as seizures, while possible mental health issues may arise during this time.
The first stage of treatment for Klonopin addiction is physical detoxification. The chemistry of the brain has been altered and will attempt to reset itself as the drug slowly leaves the body. This stage is often the most harrowing for patients as the symptoms of withdrawal will be most uncomfortable during this time. Medical intervention is recommended to avoid relapse and possible overdose.
Medical intervention begins with pharmaceuticals that replace Klonopin to help ease withdrawal symptoms. Some of the drugs used may be Clonidine, Keppra, Propanolol, Carbamazepine or Phenobarbital.
During the course of treatment, the doctor will use a taper down schedule. Carbamazepine or Keppra may be used to prevent or reduce the incidence of convulsions. Clonidine or Propranolol may be used for the treatment of tachycardia, or rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing.
Some doctors may prefer to continue Klonopin under supervision and in a controlled environment while utilizing a taper down program. This means the patient will receive less each day over a long period of time to easily withdraw from the effects of the drug and allow the body time to adjust. This can greatly lessen withdrawal side effects and minimize risk of more severe symptoms.
Medical detox treatment may be done in a hospital, inpatient or outpatient facility. Inpatient treatment is the safest option with full oversight and quick response to complications that may arise. Outpatient provides a structured withdrawal protocol to taper down under medical supervision. Instead of living at the facility, however, this requires frequent visits.
Inpatient Treatment Facility
Inpatient treatment facilities for Klonopin addiction are a preferred choice for the more acute addiction profile. The patient can live there while undergoing the detoxification phase. Group therapy, individual counseling or other types of specialized therapy are often available and easy to access on site. Inpatient treatment facilities may range from a hospital stay to a full residential center with many amenities and resources for those recovering from addiction.
Outpatient Treatment Facility
Outpatient facilities are options for those who do not have access to inpatient facilities, or for those who need to stay home for work or any other reason. Detoxification may be done as an outpatient as described above, or the recovering addict may switch to outpatient care once detoxification is complete at an inpatient facility. Outpatient facilities often go beyond physical detoxification and offer various programs for individual counseling, group therapy or even lectures and classes to aid in recovery.
Often called rehabilitation, or rehab, programs vary for each person. Individual sessions help uncover the reasons or issues that may have led to addiction, and possibly teach ways to better manage and cope with the stresses of everyday life. Group therapies work as groups of people with similar issues get together and share success stories or advice on how to handle addictions. Other therapies may include life coaching, anger or behavioral management, or may focus on physical health. Some facilities may offer nutrition classes or yoga and meditation classes to teach stress management while others may offer job or skills training.
Recognizing you have an addiction is the first step toward recovery. If you or a loved one needs help, do not hesitate. Reach out to an addiction center and get started on recovery.