Klonopin Abuse

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An Introduction to Klonopin

Klonopin is a prescription sedative medication useful as an anti-anxiety and anti-convulsant drug.

Doctors prescribe Klonopin to control or prevent seizures and reduce anxiety from panic attacks. Also known as clonazepam, this drug is a benzodiazepine—a class of drugs that is highly addictive.

This substance works by slowing down certain functions of the body. As an oral medication, the drug is widely prescribed in the US because of its noted efficacy in the short-term.

Is Klonopin Dangerous?

Even individuals who start taking Klonopin as prescribed can find themselves quickly progressing to problematic levels of use due to the drugs propensity to elicit tolerance and dependence. If left unchecked, the compulsive cycle of use can lead to addiction.

Because of this, Klonopin is a recommended to be prescribed for short durations only. Unfortunately, because of its ability to result in a euphoric high, Klonopin is often abused by those with no legitimate medical need for the drug.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of Klonopin abuse may include:

  • Lack of coordination and clumsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Profound sleepiness throughout the day.
  • Delayed and slowed reaction time.
  • Trouble remembering things that occurred after use began.
  • Slurred speech.

  • Depression.
  • Restlessness and agitation.
  • Stomach upset, including nausea and vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Psychotic symptoms like paranoia and hallucinations.
  • Aggression and violent behaviors.

These signs may be subtle at first, but can gradually intensify as use increases over time–in both dosage and/or frequency.

Concurrent use of other intoxicating substances – like alcohol or opioids – will increase the dangers associated with the unwanted symptoms and can end in severe negative health effects including death, in some cases.

Effects of Klonopin Abuse

The desired effects of Klonopin will typically be noticeable within an hour of taking the medication orally. These results will be due to the depressant effects taking place in the central nervous system that serve to make the body feel slowed and relaxed. Depending on the severity of symptoms that the Klonopin is treating, effects will be felt for between 6 and 24 hours. The pleasurable feelings Klonopin may produce include:

  • A euphoric feeling.
  • A relaxed mindset with slowed thoughts and feelings of calm.
  • A relaxed body with reduced muscular tension, rigidity, and agitation.
  • Drowsiness, with hastened onset of sleep and prolonged sleep duration.

In addition to the negative signs and symptoms listed above, misuse of Klonopin can result in even more severe, sometimes dangerous physical effects that may include:

  • Rashes or hives.
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depression.
  • Respiratory difficulty.
  • Seizures

Development of Addiction

Abusing Klonopin will likely lead to tolerance and drug dependency if use continues over an extended period of time.

When Klonopin is taken over time, the pleasurable and medically-necessary benefits of the medication begin to reduce as the body begins to adjust to the increased amount of the neurotransmitter GABA that Klonopin provides in the brain. This tolerance to the substance results in the user taking more of the substance more often to facilitate the same results (or the same “high”).

This leads to the body functioning sub-optimally unless some level of Klonopin is present in the system at all times. When dependence on the medication has been established, an individual will begin to experience potentially severe benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms when Klonopin levels fall below a certain level.

The onset of addiction to Klonopin can be established during this time as the abuser will begin behaving and thinking in different ways with increased focus and attention assigned to acquiring and using more of the substance. The potential for Klonopin to lead to addiction will be influenced by:

  • How long the substance has been used.
  • The typical dosage used each time.
  • The frequency of use.

Typically, the greater level of use leads to greater levels of tolerance and dependence and increases the risk for addiction. Remember, even people taking the medication as prescribed can become dependent on the drug.

Klonopin Abuse Treatment

Treating any addiction is a complex and highly-individualized process that should be performed by qualified professionals. Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines like Klonopin can be dangerous at times–supervised medical detoxification is advised. During this process, your vital signs will be observed for a period while the Klonopin dose is gradually reduced to ensure your safety and maximize your comfort. In some cases, longer acting sedative medication may be required to manage any resultant seizure activity.

Stay calm without benzos

Following detox, some people will continue their recovery via outpatient treatment while others will require a more intense, residential setting that rehabilitation centers have to offer. At a rehab, someone struggling with an addiction to Klonopin will receive frequent individual and group therapy to address and resolve issues related to addiction.

At times, other medications may be used as part of treatment to mitigate the dependence on Klonopin.

When rehab is completed, many continue with treatment – termed “aftercare” – which typically occurs in an outpatient setting, with weekly therapy or drug and alcohol treatment being common approaches. Community-based treatments like 12-step meetings can be used in conjunction with outpatient treatment to help prevent relapse, and strengthen recovery efforts.

Klonopin Abuse Statistics

With nearly 27 million prescriptions written in 2011, Klonopin is the third-most prescribed benzodiazepine in the United States–behind Xanax and Ativan. Consider these statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration:

  • In 2011, Klonopin was the second-most diverted benzodiazepine based on the amount seized and processed in forensic laboratories.
  • About 5 million people in the US over age 12 used a benzodiazepine like Klonopin in their lifetime.
  • The substance is known to be related to thousands of calls to poison control and almost 63,000 visits to emergency rooms in 2011.

To learn more, visit our article, Klonopin History and Statistics.

Teen Klonopin Abuse

Since Klonopin is relatively cheap and readily available in homes and at school, the substance is a popular choice to be abused by teenagers and young adults.

According to information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 7.4% of high school seniors have used a substance from the “tranquilizer” category in their lifetime. This category includes benzodiazepines like clonazepam, or Klonopin. Alarmingly, this rate is seven times the rate of heroin use and about 4 times the rate of methamphetamine.

To prevent abuse, it’s essential to stress to your teen the dangers of prescription drug abuse and that the legal status of a prescription drug does not make it less addictive or dangerous than an illegal drug.

Resources, Articles and More Information

For more information, check out the following pages:

You can also join the conversation about benzodiazepine abuse by visiting our Forum.

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Amanda Lautieri is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for DrugAbuse.com. She holds a bachelor's degree and has reviewed thousands of medical articles on substance abuse and addiction.
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