Clonazepam (Klonopin) is a benzodiazepine that is used to treat panic disorders and certain seizures. Clonazepam is a Schedule IV drug, which means it carries a risk for dependence, abuse, and addiction 1.
Clonazepam abuse can be dangerous. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of deaths from benzodiazepines increased 4.3-fold between 2002 and 2015 2.
The safest and most effective way for heavy users to avoid overdose and quit using clonazepam is to enroll in either an inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment program.
Signs and Symptoms of Clonazepam Overdose
Clonazepam is a commonly abused drug, due in part to the desirable effects it produces (relaxation, euphoria, sedation) and how easy it is to access due to the fact that is widely prescribed.
Although many users are prescribed the drug for short-term use in a medical setting, it can be chronically abused beyond its intended prescription limits. When this happens, health risks are compounded and people can more easily accidently overdose on the drug.
People often abuse clonazepam with other drugs or alcohol, and in doing so, give rise to dangerous drug interactions which can end in serious harm or death.
When a person overdoses only on benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam, it is rarely fatal. In fact, one study found that 3 to 7.9 deaths occur per 1 million prescriptions of benzodiazepines 6. However, people often abuse clonazepam with other drugs or alcohol, and in doing so, give rise to dangerous drug interactions which can end in serious harm or death.
Overdosing on clonazepam is serious. Signs and symptoms of an overdose may include 3,4:
- Impaired coordination.
- Slow reflexes.
- Slowed or stopped breathing.
- Coma (loss of consciousness).
Call 911 immediately if you or someone you know has taken an excess of clonazepam and has collapsed and/or stopped breathing.
Benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam, should be prescribed only for short periods of time. If you use the drug for longer than prescribed, then, it may be easier to fall into a pattern of drug abuse.
The more clonazepam you use over time, the more tolerance can develop. Tolerance is when your body becomes so used to the drug that it diminishes clonazepam’s effects and causes you to want to take more and more of the drug to the get the same high you originally felt. Eventually, your body can become dependent on having the drug in the system and need it just to feel normal.
If you have stopped using clonazepam for a while, your tolerance will likely decrease. Yet this can be a dangerous time because if you begin to use again and take the same amount of the drug that you were used to taking, you could quickly overdose.
It is not recommended that you take clonazepam with an opioid medication since this combination can more easily lead to loss of consciousness, respiratory depression, and overdose death. Similarly, drinking alcohol while taking the medication is also extremely dangerous and can result in accidental overdose 4.
According to the FDA, when benzodiazepines are taken in combination with opioid medications or alcohol, adverse reactions may include 4:
- Dangerously slowed breathing.
- Severe dizziness.
- Extreme sleepiness.
Some individuals may be more at risk than others when it comes to the potential dangers associated with benzodiazepine use. Given the risk for overdose, you will want to make sure that both your medical and mental health histories are fully disclosed before receiving a prescription. Be sure to discuss the following important issues with your health provider 4:
- If you have suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself.
- Any psychiatric or medical problems you may have (including obstructive sleep apnea).
- All other medications you are taking.
- If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding*.
- If you drink alcohol or use recreational drugs.
*Using clonazepam while you are pregnant may place your baby at risk for unwanted health risks. If you are breastfeeding, speak to your medical provider because clonazepam may pass into your breast milk.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to clonazepam, give us a call today at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?. Our rehab placement specialists are available 24/7 to help you find the best treatment center to meet your needs.
What to Do If You Overdose on Clonazepam
If you think you have overdosed on clonazepam, call 911 immediately. Because of the drug’s effects, you may need immediate medical care.
If you know someone who has overdosed, here are some important steps to take 5:
- Check the person’s airway, pulse, and breathing.
- Begin CPR, if needed.
- If the person is unconscious, place them in the recovery position (gently roll them onto their side and bend the top leg so their hip and knee are at right angles).
- Try to keep the person calm.
- Call for medical help right away.
Luckily, there are medications that can help reverse the effects of a clonazepam overdose. For example, flumazenil is a medication that is administered during a benzodiazepine overdose. Flumazenil works by preventing benzodiazepines from binding to the GABA receptor to halt its inhibitory effects.
Preventing Clonazepam Overdose
While clonazepam can be an effective medication when used as directed, heavy use can produce dependence. Physical dependence can develop in as little as 2 weeks of daily use. Dependence often begets patterns of compulsive abuse and, eventually, addiction. The often-escalated dosing and repeated use seen in addicted individuals precipitates dangerous overdose situations. It follows that a direct intervention towards preventing clonazepam overdose is in treating clonazepam addiction.
Addiction is a complex, chronic condition and many people need to access formal treatment to stop using drugs. Treatment can help you do this, stay drug-free, and regain a sense of purpose so that you can be productive in your family, at work, and in other social relationships.
There are several options for treatment that you can access, including:
- Residential inpatient treatment: This can be a desirable form of treatment, especially if your addiction is relatively severe or if you struggle with co-occurring disorders. These facilities offer supportive and intensive care 24/7 so that you receive the attention that you need, no matter the time of day.
- Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment is a great choice if you prefer to live at home while you receive treatment. These facilities offer a variety of programs that you can choose from. With each option, you will meet with a behavioral health counselor on a regular schedule.
As the initial period of benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous, the type of treatment sought should ultimately be arrived at with the help of a physician or other addiction treatment professional.
In all forms of addiction treatment, you may engage in a number of different types of therapies to help address the underlying reasons for your addiction, including 7:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This type of therapy is offered at most drug addiction treatment centers. CBT can help you understand and respond to situations that will trigger you to use clonazepam so that you feel confident and ready as you transition out of treatment.
- Family therapy: The family unit can be one of the biggest sources of support throughout your treatment, but they can also be the people who have been the most hurt or affected by your drug abuse. In family therapy, you will work with a therapist to address issues that will help you and your family resolve conflict and effectively communicate with one another.
- Motivational interviewing: This type of therapy can help you realize your own goals and move toward them. In the end, you are the only person who can change your behavior and turn your life around. Motivational interviewing is a great tool to help you advance your own self-efficacy.
- Motivational incentives (contingency management): This approach uses healthy rewards and incentives to motivate you to remain drug-free. If you meet certain goals in treatment you will be rewarded with a voucher that you can use to get healthy items that are not associated with drug use.
It is not too late to stop using clonazepam. Give us a call today at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? to learn about your options for addiction treatment. Our rehab placement specialists can help you find exactly what you’re looking for so that you can begin living your best and healthiest life.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Drug Schedules.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Overdose Death Rates.
- MedlinePlus. (2016). Clonazepam.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2016). Clonazepam (Klonopin).
- MedlinePlus. (2016). Drug use first aid.
- Godwin, J. (2016). Flumazenil in benzodiazepine overdose. Canadian Medical Association. Journal,188(17/18), E537.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.