Clonazepam, also known as Klonopin, is a benzodiazepine, a classification of medication that is commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, especially panic attacks. It may also be prescribed in combination with other substances to manage seizures.
When used as prescribed, it is normal to develop a physical dependence on the drug. That is, tolerance may develop requiring the patient to take successively higher doses in order to continue experiencing a therapeutic effect. Should it be determined that it is time to stop using the medication, all that is necessary for detox is a slow tapering off the dose under the supervision of the prescribing physician. It is a simple process with few risks.
However, when a psychological dependence co-occurs with the physical dependence, cravings mean that a slowly tapered dose will not be an effective detox. Compulsive use of the drug of choice is one of the defining characteristics of addiction despite negative consequences and risks. A professional medical detox program is therefore recommended to safely and effectively stop using clonazepam.
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Steps to the Detox Process
To safely detox off clonazepam, individuals are advised to take the following steps:
Step 1: Contact a professional detox program
Detox from any benzodiazepine requires medical monitoring and care. Withdrawal symptoms can cause complications that can be fatal without immediate medical intervention, so a professional detox program is the only safe way to undertake the process.
Step 2: Stop use of all substances
Detox requires the cessation of use of all addictive substances – not just clonazepam. Even if that is the primary drug of choice, use of other drugs would interfere with the goal of sobriety in recovery; thus, all drugs of abuse should be avoided. In some cases, it may even be advisable to stop the use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes as well.
Step 3: Report all underlying medical conditions
Chronic ailments can make withdrawal symptoms that much more difficult to manage, depending on the specifics. It is important to undergo a complete medical evaluation to get a baseline for certain factors as well as to screen for some disorders that may not have been identified as of yet and could impact the ability to manage withdrawal symptoms.
Step 4: Disclose all co-occurring mental health disorders
Co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and others can have a significant impact on the individual experience during clonazepam detox. Upon admission, it is important to disclose any mental health symptoms experienced and any mental health disorder diagnoses in addition to medical ailments.
Step 5: Report all use of medications in addition to all drugs of abuse
Whether the use of medications is to treat chronic medical illness, chronic pain, or mental health issues, bring all medications in their correct bottles with a doctor’s written prescription to the detox program.
Step 6: Undergo a medical evaluation
Soon after admission and once stable, it is common to undergo a complete medical evaluation. This can be basic to ascertain that your vital signs are normal and to note any issues that require monitoring, or it can be more intensive, including a range of screenings, blood tests, and more to make sure that all medical needs are attended to appropriately.
Step 7: Undergo a psychiatric evaluation
This may be minimal initially given that withdrawal symptoms will become an issue early on in detox, but it may be employed to better understand the nature of ongoing mental health symptoms, especially if no current diagnosis is in place.
Step 8: Receive medical care
. Depending on the results of the screenings and medical evaluation as well as a thorough psychiatric evaluation and review of medical and psychiatric history, a unique medical care plan will be created for each client in detox.
Step 9: Work with a therapist
Even when dealing with intense withdrawal symptoms, the therapeutic work of recovery can begin. It is helpful to talk to a case manager, nurse, or therapist during detox to get tips on how to manage the emotional and mental health symptoms that often occur in clonazepam detox and to have solid, emotional support throughout the process.
Step 10: Attend support groups
Peers in recovery who are also going through detox or have recently been through the process can be immensely helpful, providing moral support as well as advice on what to do and what not to do to get through the detox experience as quickly and safely as possible.
Step 11: Follow with therapeutic treatment
Once the withdrawal symptoms caused by Klonopin detox have started to fade, it will be easier to focus on the therapy that is necessary to build a strong foundation in recovery. Though an important first step, detox is not a comprehensive treatment program for clonazepam addiction, and it is necessary to follow up with an intensive therapeutic program.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Klonopinis the brand name for a benzodiazepine medication, clonazepam. This prescription psychiatric medication is high potency, with a long half-life, so it treats anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia for several hours. Like other benzodiazepines, Klonopin works on the GABA receptors in the brain, to reduce transmissions between neurons; this helps the person taking Klonopin to relax. However, this action can also lead to euphoria, especially when combined with other drugs, so Klonopin can be addictive. Klonopin abuse resulted in 76,557 visits to the emergency room in 2011, which was a 122 percent increase from similar admissions in 2004.
What are the signs of addiction?
When a person struggles with addiction to Klonopin, they are likely to develop both a tolerance to, and physical dependence on, the drug. While Klonopin is very habit-forming and can lead to physical dependence even when taken as prescribed, this is more likely to occur in a person who frequently ingests Klonopin for nonmedical reasons. Dependence occurs when the brain needs the presence of the chemical to reach a normal state, while tolerance is when the body needs more of the substance to experience the desired effects, like euphoria or a high. When the person tries to stop taking clonazepam, or is not able to take the drug, they will experience withdrawal symptoms.
Intoxication is a potential sign of addiction too. Signs of Klonopin intoxication include:
- Loss of inhibition
- Appearing drunk
- Slurred speech
- Paradoxical anxiety
- Mood swings
- Rebound insomnia
While a person taking Klonopin as prescribed may experience some of the intoxicating effects of the drug, as well as side effects and withdrawal symptoms, these are less likely to occur at regulated doses. The person will also not display behavioral changes that can indicate addiction. Some of these behavioral changes include:
- Compulsively taking Klonopin, even when trying to stop doing so
- Feeling the need to take Klonopin all the time
- Worry about where the next dose will come from and obsessing about maintaining a supply of Klonopin
- Lying to doctors, visiting multiple doctors, or otherwise exhibiting “drug-seeking” behavior
- Lying to friends and family about taking Klonopin, or becoming irritated or aggressive when confronted about it
- Taking Klonopin instead of participating in other events, such as social engagements or family events
- Performing risky behaviors while under the influence
While other prescription medications like opioid painkillers are closely monitored to reduce the number of people who struggle with addiction to these substances, benzodiazepines are still listed as Schedule IV depressants according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and they are prescribed more freely than many other substances. People who struggle with Klonopin abuse most likely developed the addiction after receiving a prescription for the drug; however, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) notes that most people who struggle with addiction to Klonopin or other benzodiazepines actually suffer polydrug abuse problems and use benzodiazepines to enhance the intoxicating effects of other substances, most often alcohol and opioids.
What are the side effects of Klonopin?
Klonopin can produce many side effects, which are more likely to occur in people who are taking the drug recreationally. Some of these include:
- Increased saliva production
- Confusion or cognitive trouble
- Memory loss or amnesia
- Changes in appetite, especially decreased appetite
- Rebound or paradoxical anxiety, panic, or insomnia
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Blurred vision
- Muscle aches and pains
Are there risks of long-term use?
Because Klonopin is a potent anti-anxiety medication, taking this drug regularly for more than two weeks can produce physical dependence and tolerance, which may lead to withdrawal. The drug may also lead to addiction. Withdrawal symptoms from long-term, high-dose abuse include seizures, which can be very dangerous.
Another risk from abusing Klonopin for a long time may be worsening mental health. When Klonopin or other benzodiazepines are abused for nonmedical reasons, brain chemistry could be permanently changed. This could lead to worse anxiety or panic disorder, dramatic changes in sleep patterns, and even depression or suicidal ideation.
Klonopin addiction may also cause changes in cognitive ability, including processing speed, vision, and verbal learning. However, many studies have found that these changes in thinking are reversible over time when the person detoxes from the benzodiazepine.
What treatment options work best?
Working with a medical professional to safely taper use of Klonopin as part of detox is the first step in overcoming an addiction to this medication. Because benzodiazepine addiction can lead to some dangerous withdrawal symptoms, like seizures or suicidal thoughts and actions, tapering helps to ease the body off the need for the drug, which can reduce the risk of these symptoms. Once the person has safely detoxed, entering a rehabilitation program gets them access to therapy to overcome addiction. There are no drugs to manage Klonopin addiction, like there are for opioids, and a tapering strategy is most often employed.
Can you overdose on Klonopin?
Yes, it is possible to overdose on benzodiazepines like Klonopin, especially when combined with other drugs. The DAWN Report found that there were 408,021 emergency department admissions because of benzodiazepines, either used alone or in combination with alcohol or opioids; about 111,165 visits, or 27.2 percent, were due to a combination of benzodiazepines and alcohol. Mixing CNS depressants is more likely to lead to overdose than abusing one drug. However, it is still possible to overdose on Klonopin by itself.
Klonopin overdose symptoms include
- Extreme confusion
- Rebound symptoms like paranoia, anxiety, and panic attacks
- Changes in vision, specifically blurry vision
- Loss of physical coordination or stumbling
- Changes in breathing or trouble breathing
- Falling unconscious