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Clonazepam Abuse

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Introduction to Clonazepam Abuse

What Is Clonazepam?

Clonazepam is a prescription drug that belongs to a group of medications called benzodiazepines. Clonazepam is known also by the brand name Klonopin. It is the third most prescribed benzodiazepine in the US, behind alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan). These medications have very similar properties, but vary in their speed of onset and duration of their effects.

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Primarily, clonazepam is used to treat a number of anxiety disorders including:

  • Social anxiety disorder.
  • Specific phobias.
  • Panic disorder.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder.

Beyond its mental health applications, clonazepam is prescribed to treat spasticity and seizure disorders, as well to manage some symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal. Clonazepam is sometimes used as an induction agent prior to the administration of anesthesia before a surgical procedure.

The medication works by regulating overexcitement or overstimulation in the brain. Many people abuse the drug for non-medical purposes to experience its sedating range of effects.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines like clonazepam have depressant effects on the body– resulting in various slowed mental and physical processes. Benzodiazepines are therapeutic medications that have sedative, anti-anxiety, muscle relaxant, anti-convulsant, and hypnotic effects when taken as prescribed.

When abused, benzodiazepines can create a euphoric high, as well as a sense of calm marked by diminished worry and anxiety, and a relaxation of the body marked by less tension and restlessness. Though not indicated for insomnia, clonazepam is sometimes misused as a sleeping pill due to its ability to elicit drowsiness.

Is Clonazepam Dangerous?

Like other benzodiazepines, clonazepam is associated with a number of risks. A person can form a physical dependence on the drug in a short amount of time, even when using the drug as instructed.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction


One sign of clonazepam abuse or addiction is tolerance to the drug. After using the drug for a while, the body becomes used to the effects of the medication, requiring the individual to consume increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same effect. The development of tolerance may trigger the onset of a dangerous cycle of increasing drug use.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Another sign of addiction is the onset of withdrawal symptoms after ceasing use of the drug for a period of time. This is a sure sign that a physical dependence to clonazepam has developed.

Some withdrawal symptoms associated with clonazepam present as a rebound effect–meaning that the symptoms managed by the medication return with increased intensity.

Symptoms of withdrawal from Klonopin include:

  • GI disturbances.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Tingling or numbness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Loss of memory.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Sensitivity to light or sound.

  • Rapid heart beat.
  • Palpitations.
  • Anxiety.
  • Panic.
  • Agitation.
  • Seizure.

Psychological Symptoms

Other psychological signs of clonazepam abuse or addiction include:

  • Feeling as though you must take the drug to get through the day.
  • Moving slower than usual.
  • Having difficulty concentrating and/or remembering facts or events.
  • Inability to curtail compulsive use of the drug.

Worried About Someone You Love?

If you’re concerned that a friend or loved one may be having a problem with substance abuse, a few telltale changes in behavior may help confirm suspicions. Be on the lookout for the following external signs of Klonopin abuse:

  • Reduced performance at work or school.
  • Abandonment of previously enjoyed activities in favor of drug use.
  • Illegal purchase of the drug.
  • Numerous visits to the doctor in an attempt to get a prescription.
  • Visiting multiple doctors to obtain the drug, or “doctor shopping.”
  • Financial problems due to use.
  • Noticeable changes in habits and friends.
  • Continued use of the drug despite the obvious negative consequences.

Effects of Clonazepam Abuse

depressed woman

Like other drugs with potential for abuse, Klonopin can cause unwanted side effects. Taking too much of the substance can result in:

  • Lack of motivation.
  • Fatigue.
  • Memory loss.
  • Constipation.
  • Feelings of depression.
  • Poor nutritional status.

Clonazepam Overdose Risk

Abusing clonazepam places one at risk for a drug overdose. As noted before, the body builds a tolerance to the drug. As the user increases the dose taken, the risk for overdosing becomes greater.

The risk is compounded if the person consumes clonazepam with alcohol or other drugs, as the combined depressant effects can slow the body to dangerous levels. An overdose of the prescription drug can cause:

  • Profound sedation.
  • Confusion or delirium.
  • Marked respiratory and CNS depression.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

Clonazepam Abuse Treatment

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People may believe that they can overcome their clonazepam dependency alone. Benzodiazepine addictions can be quite difficult to overcome, and can present health risks during the acute withdrawal period. For these reasons, evaluation by an addiction treatment or other medical professional is strongly urged prior to any attempts at recovery. Many struggling with clonazepam and other sedative use disorders are helped immensely by enrolling in a professional substance abuse treatment program.

As part of a treatment program, you’re likely to first be put through a detoxification program, which should consist of gradually reducing the dosage to avoid and manage dangerous symptoms that accompany benzodiazepine withdrawal. At the onset of the program, it will be essential to communicate the dose, frequency, and duration of your clonazepam use to ensure the appropriate level of care.

In addition, you may be prescribed other medications to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms associated with ceasing use of clonazepam that were outlined earlier.

After you complete the detox program, the psychological aspects of your addiction will be addressed with ongoing addiction treatment–either in an inpatient rehab facility or through an outpatient program. Generally, treatment for addiction includes counseling or therapy aimed at helping understand the underlying factors that drove the drug abuse or addiction. Also, mental health treatment can work to plan measures for the future to improve coping skills and prevent further abuse of clonazepam.

Typically, clonazepam rehab programs can last anywhere from 28 to 90 days depending on the severity of the addiction and the patient’s physical and mental needs. To learn more about clonazepam abuse and clonazepam rehab centers, contact us at .

Statistics on Clonazepam Abuse

Nearly 17 million prescriptions for clonazepam were written in the US in 2011.

Benzodiazepines like clonazepam are a very commonly abused class of prescription drugs. Often, people who consume these drugs do so in combination with other drugs or alcohol. Nearly 95% of people who sought treatment also abused another substance in addition to benzodiazepines. Typically, polydrug abuse occurs to enhance or modify the desirable influence of the respective substances.


Consider these other statistics related to clonazepam and other benzodiazepines:

  • According to SAMHSA, the number of people seeking treatment for benzodiazepine abuse or addiction tripled in the 10-year period between 1998 and 2008.
  • In 2010, more than 80,000 calls were made to poison control centers involving benzodiazepine misuse. These calls resulted in 11 deaths.
  • Also in 2010, there were almost 350,000 visits to ERs due to benzodiazepines. Of the 350,000 visits, clonazepam ranked behind only alprazolam in number of visits–with over 62,000 instances.
  • A 2011 survey found that over 20 million people have used benzodiazepines for nonmedical reasons in their lifetime.

Learn more at our article, Klonopin History and Statistics.

Teen Clonazepam Abuse

The Monitoring the Future Study found that 7.4% of high school seniors have abused tranquilizer substances in their lifetime–a category that includes benzodiazepines such as clonazepam.

Clonazepam is commonly abused by teens and young adults because:

  • It has a perceived low risk due to its prescription drug status.
  • It is widely available at home or school.
  • It is cheap compared to other drugs of abuse.

For assistance with finding a treatment center that can help a Clonazepam addict, call our confidential hotline at .

Resources, Articles, and More Information

To learn more, read the following articles:

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Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, is a professional counselor who has been working for over a decade to help children, adolescents, and adults in western Pennsylvania reach their goals and improve their well-being.

Along the way, Eric worked as a collaborating investigator for the field trials of the DSM-5 and completed an agreement to provide mental health treatment to underserved communities with the National Health Service Corp.

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