Klonopin Addiction And Abuse

Klonopin is a federally-controlled substance in Schedule IV in most states.

Klonopin is a potentially addictive drug used primarily to control certain types of seizure and anxiety disorders. It was originally spelled Clonopin but was changed to Klonopin to differentiate it from the generic drug clonidine, helping to prevent pharmacy and nursing dispensing errors.

Clonidine is a non-related drug used for certain types of hypertension and heart problems. It’s also used off-label to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms.

What is Klonopin?

This drug belongs to the benzodiazepine drug family, a very large group of short, mid and long-acting drugs prescribed medically for anxiety, sleep,seizure and panic disorders. Some benzodiazepines or benzos have very specific uses. For example, alprazolam or Xanax, although prescribed to ease both anxiety and promote sleep, was once the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of panic disorder.

Klonopin now has this FDA endorsement for the same condition.

It’s also widely used for certain types of epilepsy and anxiety, but it’s particularly known for its important role in the prevention and reduction of epileptic attacks.

More About Klonopin

This is a federally-controlled substance in Schedule IV in most states. This means it has a moderately significant abuse potential, but it’s lower than that of Schedule II drugs like the opioids and stimulants. Like its chemical cousin Valium, Klonopin is long-acting, although it does have a shorter half-life. A half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for the body to break down half of the dose taken.

As Klonopin is long-acting, it both promotes steady drug levels in the blood and reduces the need for many repeated doses. Known by its generic name clonazepam, Klonopin was first introduced in early 1960s. By 1975, its manufacturer Roche was promoting it to physicians for the effective treatment of epilepsy. Roche was also the first pharma company to introduce the first true benzodiazepine Valium, known generically as diazepam. All benzos are chemically closely related, and most have generic names ending in
-lam or -pam. All have sedative actions that work by altering a neurotransmitter system in the brain called GABA.

More About Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are not painkillers and do not bind to or activate the brain’s opioid receptors, but combining these two drug classes can be very dangerous. When first developed in the late 1950s, diazepam was hailed as a true miracle drug, easing anxiety and insomnia at least as well as the very dangerous barbiturates. Barbiturates have a much higher abuse potential, can kill in relatively small doses and even today, have no specific overdose antidote. It was a common tragedy of the day for people to die of barbiturate overdose even with intensive supportive care.

Klonopin Abuse

Like all benzos, Klonopin can both be abused and with regular use, produce a powerful and dangerous set of withdrawal symptoms should the drug be suddenly withdrawn:

  • Grand mal seizures with lung aspiration of stomach contents
  • Rebound anxiety and insomnia
  • Drug cravings
  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Stomach pain
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Klonopin may produce feelings of mild euphoria and serenity in some people. This is the reinforcing feeling that abusers seek. Not everyone will experience Klonopin in this way, however.

Dangers of Klonopin Withdrawal

Klonopin and all the benzos and alcohol, too, are very dangerous to withdraw from once someone is physically addicted. This is due to the risk of grand mal seizures and lung aspiration. If a grand mal seizure caused you to fall unconscious and you vomited at this time, you could breathe your stomach contents into your lungs. This is very serious and potentially fatal. It’s why doctors require you to fast before any surgery requiring general anesthesia. It’s also why you will see medical personnel turn an unconscious person on their side and hold them there. This greatly reduces the aspiration risk.

Detox from Klonopin and Other Benzodiazepines

While occasional use of Klonopin is highly unlikely to cause a problem when the drug is suddenly stopped, physical addiction from regular use of benzodiazepines or alcohol always requires medical supervision. This doesn’t always or necessarily mean inpatient or hospital treatment, but it could.

In some cases, withdrawal from benzodiazepines or alcohol may be safely done at home under expert medical supervision. The key is a thorough evaluation by an addiction medicine specialist. Detox centers may offer at-home withdrawal in some cases. Only a medical professional can tell you if you qualify for home withdrawal or not. Do not ever try this on your own.

Always Seek Help for Klonopin Withdrawal

Never attempt withdrawal from Klonopin or any benzodiazepine or alcohol without medical supervision. If you’re abusing both alcohol and benzos, you may need inpatient treatment, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long time and high doses are involved.

Alcohol withdrawal can also be fatal, especially if a serious complication called delirium tremens or the DTs appears. The DTs is typically limited to those abusing large amounts of alcohol over long periods of time, but it can happen to anyone.

Withdrawal from alcohol or benzos is not like withdrawal from opioids or stimulants. Although painful and unpleasant, withdrawal from these drug classes is not typically life-threatening.

Is Klonopin Once a Week Addictive?

Physically, no, at least not directly. A single dose once weekly is not enough to cause a physical dependence or addiction. Physical dependence and related withdrawal symptoms from a drug suddenly withdrawn are both caused by changes in the brain from regular drug exposure.

With regular and typically daily use, the brain adapts to the presence of the drug and eventually depends on it to function. This is true of all drugs of abuse. Until the addicted brain adapts to the absence of the drug and normalizes neurotransmitter function, withdrawal symptoms will persist. Symptoms may last for a week, a month, many months and may even exceed a year.

What is PAWS?

Klonopin and other benzos are the most likely drug class to cause post-addiction withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. PAWS may involve lower-level but stubborn symptoms that may not be treatable except by time. Former abusers of Klonopin with PAWS may experience daily anxiety and insomnia, for example. Drug treatment specialists are very familiar with PAWS and may be able to suggest non-drug treatment options for you that may be very effective.

All that said, any regular use of any drug always carries the risk of addiction at some point in some people. For example, one dose a week could lead to two, then three, then four and so on. There is always a risk, no matter how small.

Can you take Klonopin for Life?

Yes, and many people with seizure disorders do. They must, or dangerous seizures may appear again or increase in frequency and severity. Medical use of benzodiazepines as directed is not abuse. People who need benzodiazepines, opioids or stimulants for medical reasons are not junkies and should never be judged. However, even pharmacists are sometimes guilty of this prejudice. It’s not fair, it’s not professional and moreover, these highly educated and trained individuals should know better.

Is Klonopin Psychologically Addictive?

Of course it is! All addictions involve a heavy emotional and psychological factor. People depend on the drug to function socially, at work and in all aspects of their lives. It’s why maintenance drugs like Suboxone work best when combined with counseling. Drug addiction never occurs in a vacuum.

What is Considered Long-Term Klonopin Use?

This depends on the original reason to take Klonopin. If it’s just to help you cope with a major life trauma, such as the death of a spouse, anything beyond two weeks is probably going to be considered too long for that purpose.

On the other hand, someone with epilepsy, which is controllable but not currently curable, would need this drug daily. The concept of long-term use is not really applicable or germane in this case. Of course, such an individual would need life-long epilepsy medication.

Are you Addicted to Klonopin?

Addiction is generally defined as drug use that persists even in the face of clear harm. One way to know for sure if you’re addicted is to ask yourself this question: have I tried to quit on my own and failed again and again? If the answer is yes, you’re addicted. Non-addicted people can take the drug or leave it at will. Inability to stop or control drug use is the hallmark of addiction. Other addiction signs include:

  • Increasing your dose on your own
  • Trying to get refills early
  • Lying to your doctor and faking symptoms to get more of the drug
  • Buying Klonopin on the black market or getting extra doses some other way
  • Spending any amount of money to get the drug
  • Constant preoccupation with Klonopin
  • Being unable to cope with life without it
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you cannot get the drug
  • Losing interest in hobbies, work and friends
  • Financial problems due to spending money on Klonopin
  • Feeling extremely anxious, trapped and depressed when you can’t get Klonopin

Long Island Treatment Center

We’re here to help you find your way back from Klonopin addiction. Believe us when we say there is always hope. We offer safe, comfortable detox options and quality rehab and aftercare. You’re not alone. Call today for the help you need and deserve.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Long Island Treatment Center