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Klonopin History and Statistics

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Girl with Klonopin


Klonopin (generic name: clonazepam) is a benzodiazepine drug prescribed for the management of:
  • Seizures.
  • Panic disorders.
  • Certain movement disorders.

Until the 1950’s, barbiturates were the main prescription option for treating anxiety and other conditions requiring sedation. These drugs, however, had a very high potential for addiction and for accidental overdose. Thus, there was a market need for a safer class of drugs.

In 1955, the Hoffman La Roche company commissioned chemist Leo Sternbach to design this new drug compound, which ended up being the drug class benzodiazepines.

Clonazepam (Klonopin) was developed and patented in 1964 by the Hoffman La Roche company following the extreme success of other benzodiazepines in the market. By 1975, Roche was marketing the drug  for treating epileptic seizures.

Klonopin’s Potential for Abuse and Addiction

Klonopin has potential for dependence, abuse and addiction. Benzodiazepines work by increasing the activity of a substance in the brain known as GABA. GABA is an inhibitory molecule, and serves to down-modulate the communication, or signaling activity in the brain, resulting in:

  • Anxiety reduction.
  • Sedation.
  • Muscle relaxation.

The more you use a benzodiazepine, the more tolerance can develop for the drug. The phenomenon of tolerance makes you feel like you need more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects. This is one reason why benzodiazepines are addictive and often lead to prescription drug abuse.

Recreational users of Klonopin often acquire the drug through prescriptions from multiple doctors, forging prescriptions, or buying pills diverted to the illicit market.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), in 2011, there were 10,686 clonazepam (Klonopin) reports from US Federal, state, and local forensic laboratories, and this number increased through 2012.

Who Abuses Klonopin?

According to the 2013 National Survey for Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 2.0 million people aged 12 or older tried prescription psychotherapeutic drugs non-medically for the first time within a year before completing the survey. This averages to 5,500 new users every day.

NSDUH data from 2013 also indicates that the average age of a first-time experience with illicit use of prescription tranquilizers (such as Klonopin) was 25.4 years old, though the number of past year first time non-medical use of tranquilizers has been fairly stable from 2002 to 2013, ranging from 1.1 million to 1.4 million.

Teen Klonopin Abuse

Abuse of tranquilizers, such as Klonopin, is startlingly common among teenagers. Hundreds of thousands admit to having tried it, including tens of thousands of children aged 12-13.

Trends of the Drug

While the number of people abusing Klonopin has remained relatively stable over the past few years, there is a trending interest in the drug that has increased since 2008.

Google Trends demonstrates the regional interest level according to Google searches made in each state for the term “Klonopin.” This interest level seems to relate to what region of the country a person lives in. The east coast and southern states show a particularly high interest in Klonopin.

There has been a definite increase in Klonopin interest over the past 10 years, and the interest level is continuing to rise.

The Market Place

Prescription drugs that get diverted to non-medical users run a much higher risk for the person taking them. When prescribed by a doctor, Klonopin is carefully dosed and given with clear instructions for use to keep the user as safe as possible.

When taken illicitly, the doses are not as carefully monitored and the true risks not fully communicated.

As with all prescribed medications, the brand name pills cost more than the generic pills. In the case of legal prescription Klonopin, pills cost around $3 per pill, depending on the dosage (0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg pills are available). However, generic clonazepam costs anywhere from $0.30 to $1 per pill.

klonopin street value

Illegally obtained Klonopin or clonazepam generally ranges between $1 to $5 per milligram, adding up to a much higher price on the street.

Is Klonopin Illegal?

As mentioned before, Klonopin is a legal prescription medication that can be obtained illegally for recreational purposes. It is classified as a Schedule IV drug by the Federal Controlled Substances Act, which means that it is a medically-purposed drug with abuse potential.

With legitimate medical need, and a valid prescription, Klonopin is entirely legal. Possession of Klonopin without a prescription is illegal.

Legislation and Policymaking for Klonopin

Restrictions are being put on benzodiazepines in certain locations. For example:

  • Tennessee has passed legislation banning benzodiazepines such as Klonopin from being dispensed in any more than a 30-day supply.
  • Ireland is planning strict controls on benzodiazepines like Klonopin to reduce drug abuse and illicit trade.

Even if you have a prescription for Klonopin (or clonazepam), it is illegal to sell your prescription pills. If caught, you can be charged with intent to distribute, distributing, and intent to ship drugs.

Legal Penalties Involving Klonopin

  • Klonopin is federally classified as a Schedule IV
  • Unlawful possession of prescription drugs can result in both misdemeanor and felony charges, with potential prison time or fines. In some states, this can carry a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
  • Use of Klonopin can cause impaired driving and lead to a DUI charge.

If caught with Klonopin or clonazepam without a prescription, you may face $500,000 to $1 million in fines and/or up to 10 years in prison.

How Dangerous is Klonopin?

Abusing Klonopin can result in a number of serious side effects:

  • Rash.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.

From 2005 to 2011 almost one million emergency department visits involved benzodiazepines alone or in combination with other substances (DAWN Report 2014).

Klonopin is a benzodiazepine, so it is especially dangerous when combined with alcohol. This is because both benzos and alcohol influence the same inhibitory neurotransmitter (GABA) to reduce activity across the brain.

The 2014 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Report found that combining benzodiazepines with alcohol or opioid pain relievers increased the risk of a serious outcome by 24 to 55%.

DAWN Benzos ER

Image credit: Samhsa.gov

There has also been a big increase in the number of deaths associated with Klonopin and benzodiazepine use since 1999.

Like all prescription sedatives, Klonopin can be quite dangerous when used in excess of prescribed doses and scheduling. There is pronounced potential for users to develop abuse patterns and chemical dependency. Additionally, long term use of benzodiazepines increases one’s risk of experiencing dangerous seizure activity or additional severe withdrawal symptoms if the medication is stopped. Medically supervised detoxification is imperative in such situations.

If you are abusing Klonopin, you are putting your health at severe risk. Get help today by calling  and speaking to someone who can get you started on your journey to recovery.

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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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