Klonopin, or clonazepam, is a benzodiazepine used to treat seizure disorders in adults and children. It is occasionally used to treat panic disorders by enhancing the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. While the medication can prove useful in many patients, it can also become addictive and cause dozens of detrimental side effects.
If you or someone you know is suffering from Klonopin addiction, this guide will take you through proper use and what you should look out for.
Klonopin and Addiction
Though Klonopin doesn’t demonstrate the same addiction potential as opioids, cocaine, or methamphetamine, it’s entirely possible to develop a dependency on the drug. Many will abuse Klonopin and other illicit street drugs to ease withdrawal from heroin or increase the effects of alcohol.
Those who develop a severe dependency may have to undergo addiction treatment and medical detoxification. There are inpatient and outpatient programs for treating Klonopin addiction and individual and group therapy, skill-building sessions, addiction education, medical services, and other care plans.
Klonopin: Do’s and Don’ts
When taking Klonopin, it’s best to adhere to your healthcare provider’s instructions to the T. If you notice any worsening symptoms, such as sporadic depression, unusual changes in behavior, or suicidal thoughts, contact your doctor immediately.
Before starting on Klonopin, you should note any allergies to Valium or similar medications, the occurrence of severe liver disease, or narrow-angle glaucoma. If you have any of the above, Klonopin may not be a suitable medication for your needs.
As with any type of medication, you should avoid ingesting alcohol while on Klonopin. Because Klonopin is habit-forming, you should never share your medicines with anyone else—even if they are prescribed it. Remember, unauthorized distribution of Clonazepam is against the law.
Refrain from mixing Klonopin with other opiate medications, as they can result in sedation, increase the risk of respiratory depression, coma, and even death.
Klonopin Side Effects
Klonopin functions by altering electrical activity between brain cells. For patients suffering from anxiety disorders, Klonopin can either increase feelings of fright or calm. Other significant side effects of Klonopin include:
- Congenital disabilities
- Confusion and hallucinations
- Weak or shallow breathing
- Accidental slips and falls
- Unusual heartbeats
- Headaches and drowsiness
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Painful urination
- Increased risk of bruising
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 20.4 million people will abuse benzodiazepines like Klonopin in their lifetime. When abused, Klonopin is no safer than any illicit street drug.
How Klonopin Affects Behavior
Klonopin can also adversely affect one’s behavior by causing:
- Visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations
- Worries about other people reading one’s thoughts
- Irrational fears and behavior
- Paranoia about being watched
- Inability to control uncomfortable thoughts and impulses
- Nervousness and extreme mood swings
- Out-of-character behavior
- Emotional coldness and disdain towards others
- Unprovoked excitability
- Unexplained rage and anger
- Emotional numbness and inability to feel pleasure
- Suicidal thoughts
- Moods such as:
- Loss and sorrow
- Lack of interest in favorite activities
- Memory loss
As per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 18% of Americans suffering from anxiety and depression will turn to drugs such as Klonopin. Ironically, the drug can exacerbate anxiety-related conditions, causing individuals to feel a lack of compassion or sympathy towards others.
Depersonalization occurs when individuals feel as though they are disconnected from their bodies, watching themselves from above. Finally, short and long-term memory typically becomes impaired after prolonged abuse of Klonopin, with many failing to improve even after medical detox.
The Neurological Effects of Abuse
Other than physical and emotional side effects, Klonopin often causes neurological damage that even prescribing physicians tend to overlook. These include:
- Pain and inflammation
- Coughs, sore throat, and a runny nose
- Sudden weight fluctuations
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Persistent sweats
- Difficulty breathing
- Numbness and limbs tingling
- Stiff muscles and joints or paralysis
- Blurred or double vision
- Urinary problems
- Brain damage, in rarer cases
How Long Does Klonopin Remain in the System?
The half-life of clonazepam lasts roughly 30 to 40 hours. However, the length of time it remains will depend on the bodily samples your healthcare provider takes. Specific factors might also affect detectability. These include:
- Frequency and duration of use
- Date of the last dose
- Body fat measurements
- Liver function
Below measures how long clonazepam remains detectable in specific samples.
- Blood: 5 to 7 days after the last use
- Saliva: 5 to 6 days after the last use
- Hair: up to 28 days after the last use
- Urine: up to 30 days after the last use, though tests will not be able to determine the exact amount of clonazepam present
The Differences Between Klonopin and Xanax
Both Klonopin and Xanax treat panic disorders and also anxiety. They are classified as benzodiazepines as they boost GABA activity. Gaba-aminobutyric acid is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows movement in the central nervous system.
Both medications create a calming and relaxing effect, though they present differences in their function and purpose.
When ingested, the long-acting benzo Klonopin achieves maximum concentrations within the blood between one and four hours. They are available as generic tablets in doses of 0.5, 1, and 2 mg. They also come in orally disintegrating tablets (ODTs) in strengths of 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, 1, and 2 mg.
Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine with a half-life of only 11 hours. After being ingested, they reach peak blood concentrations after one to two hours.
They come in generic tablets in doses of 0.25, 0.5, 1, and 2 mg. You’ll also find extended-release tablets with strengths of 0.5, 1, 2, and 3 mg. If you have trouble swallowing tablets, you can purchase Xanax as an ODT or liquid solution (Intensol).
Which Drug is More Effective?
Unfortunately, there are no existing head-to-head analyses regarding Xanax and Klonopin. Both benzodiazepines are useful depending on how they are administered and for what conditions they are treating.
When it comes to seizure disorders, Xanax is proven to be more effective, as they have a longer duration of action. However, they require more frequent intake to keep blood levels consistent. Thus, this increases the risk of withdrawal symptoms.
Because anxiety and depression naturally occur together, your physician may prescribe benzodiazepine with another antidepressant. According to an NCBI meta-analysis, those with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experience more significant benefits when taking a benzodiazepine and antidepressant together—at least initially.
Still, it’s important to note that treatment using benzodiazepines is highly individualized. How effective it is for you will depend entirely on your unique circumstances.
Shared Side Effects Between Klonopin and Xanax
Klonopin and Xanax share common side effects such as drowsiness, depression, fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, loss of coordination, and memory. Some users will also experience dry mouth.
More severe side effects include seizures, confusion, weakness, and difficulty breathing. When not taken as instructed, use can lead to overdose.
When dealing with a Klonopin treatment, effective addiction centers will recognize that no single treatment works identically for all individuals. Thus, treatment plans should always be tailored and continually updated to suit a patient’s specific needs.