Everything You Need to Know About Clonazepam

Clonazepam, brand name Klonopin, is used to treat anxiety and seizure disorders, but it can be highly addictive.

What is Clonazepam?

Clonazepam is a tranquilizer type of benzodiazepine. It is also known by its brand name, Klonopin. This drug is a controlled medication that is often prescribed to treat seizure disorders, panic disorders, and involuntary muscle spasms.

Some of the off-label uses of this medication also include:1

  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Acute mania
  • Insomnia
  • Tardive dyskinesia

How Does Clonazepam Work?

Clonazepam works by increasing the chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.2 GABA reduces activity in the nervous system. This relaxes muscles and reduces anxiety.

This medication is a long-acting benzodiazepine. It has a half-life of between 30 to 40 hours. This means that it works longer than most other benzodiazepines. It may take longer to feel the initial effect, but it will continue working longer than a short-acting benzodiazepine like Xanax.

Because Klonopin is a controlled substance, to use it legally, a medical provider must prescribe it.

Is it Addictive?

Medications like Klonopin can be habit-forming and addictive. In fact, researchers have found that benzodiazepines, like Klonopin, may make the brain more susceptible to chemicals like dopamine.3 Dopamine is the chemical in your brain that is responsible for pleasurable feelings. Too much dopamine can cause poor impulse control and can lead to addiction. Too little dopamine is linked to depression and psychosis.4

Misusing medications like Klonopin or clonazepam can lead to tolerance, dependence, and finally, addiction.

Can You Develop a Tolerance to Clonazepam?

Tolerance for benzodiazepines can occur in as little as 3 to 6 months of regular use. It has been reported that up to 44% of chronic benzodiazepine users become dependent.5

Some factors that can affect tolerance and dependence are:

  • Age: Medications may affect older people differently.
  • Gender: Men and women often metabolize medication differently.
  • Weight: People who weigh more may need larger doses of medication due to metabolic rates.
  • Overall health condition: An individual’s general health can influence how certain medications will affect them.

How Addictive are Benzodiazepines (Such as Clonazepam)?

Individuals who use benzodiazepines recreationally are often at a higher risk for addiction. Among benzodiazepine users, 17.1% reported that they misused them with 46.3% reporting that the motivation for their most recent misuse was to relax or relieve tension. A further 11.8% reported using benzodiazepines to “get high” or because they were already addicted.6

Potential Side Effects

Like all medications, clonazepam causes side effects that will vary person to person. Some side effects may resolve after a period of time, but others may be more harmful. It is important to discuss side effects with a medical provider when deciding whether or not the substance is a good fit for you.

Mild Side Effects

Common mild side effects are:7
  • Headache
  • Increased salivation
  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Changes in sexual drive or desire
  • Heart palpitations
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nausea

These side effects may be temporary, often lasting a few days to weeks. If side effects persist, are bothersome, or become severe, let a medical provider know.

Severe Side Effects

This medication can cause more serious side effects, but these are less common. The severe side effects that have been reported are:8
  • Trouble breathing
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Increased anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Seizure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Memory problems
  • Dependence or withdrawal symptoms

Clonazepam Dependence and Overdose

Klonopin is intended for short-term use. The body can develop physical dependance to the drug after a few short weeks. Even if you are taking the medication as directed, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms from Klonopin can start within hours of the drug leaving your system. The symptoms can last for days to weeks, with some people experiencing protracted withdrawal symptoms.9 Protracted withdrawal symptoms can last for several months after the last use.
Withdrawal symptoms are impossible to predict and can be different depending on the person, dose, and duration of use. Among people using benzodiazepines for six months or more, 40% report experiencing moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms. The other 60% of people reported mild withdrawal symptoms.10

Withdrawal symptoms for Klonopin include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Increased anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Body aches and weakness
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

To avoid experiencing more severe withdrawal symptoms, it may be helpful to slowly decrease, or taper, the dose of the drug. That way the body has time to adjust.

Clonazepam Overdose

Misusing or abusing benzodiazepines like Klonopin can result in overdose. While overdose resulting in death is uncommon from benzodiazepines alone, overdose symptoms can still be severe. Signs of Klonopin overdose may include:11
  • Extreme sedation
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slow reflexes
  • Slowed or stopped
  • breathing
  • Coma
  • Death

Although benzodiazepine overdose is rarely fatal on its own, there are 3 to 7.9 deaths per 1 million prescriptions of benzodiazepines. Fatal overdose is more likely when benzodiazepines are used in combination with other drugs like opioids and alcohol. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “in 2021, nearly 14% of overdose deaths involving opioids also involved benzodiazepines.”12

Benzodiazepines, alcohol and opioids are all depressants. When used together, they can cause extremely low breathing rates and even stop the breathing.


Treatment Options

The cornerstone of any benzodiazepine addiction treatment is maintenance and supportive care. Treatment options for clonazepam dependence and addiction include:

  • Medically supervised detox: A medically supervised detox can be done in a facility or at home. Often, the safest option is in a facility where they provide 24/7 support. A medical detox includes gradually decreasing the dose of clonazepam. This allows your body to adjust and minimizes the chances of experiencing severe withdrawal.

  • Psychotherapy: Therapy can help to explore any underlying causes or conditions that contribute to Klonopin misuse. Therapy teaches skills to help cope with triggers.

  • Support or self-help groups: Self-help and support groups such as 12-step programs can provide a great place to learn from peers who are experiencing similar problems.

  • Substance use rehab: If you’re finding it difficult to stop using clonazepam, a rehab program may be a good option. Rehab programs are live-in treatment programs that can provide safe and supportive environments while working towards recovery.

  • Outpatient programs: Like rehab programs, outpatient programs provide support and therapy. The difference between rehab and outpatient is that you will remain at home while attending an outpatient program.

Find Help at Essence Healthcare

At Essence Healthcare, we offer a safe and supportive environment for each person to receive the treatment they need. We offer individualized recovery programs that focus on your needs. We treat a variety of addiction and mental health conditions.

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with clonazepam misuse or addiction, there is hope. At Essence Healthcare, we offer:

  • Medical detox
  • Inpatient programs
  • Outpatient programs
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Sober living support
  • Aftercare resources

Reach Out and Begin Healing Today

For more information on how Essence Healthcare can support your recovery journey, contact us today at 818.491.7288 or https://essencehc.com/contact-us/.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.