Klonopin, also known as clonazepam, is a benzodiazepine drug that has sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant properties. These drugs act upon the central nervous system of the body and are fast acting, long-term agents with effects lasting up to four hours. Klonopin is most often used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, but when used for long periods of time can lead to the development of an addiction.
Like other benzodiazepines, Klonopin causes feelings of relaxation and euphoria for those who use it. These pleasurable feelings are what often cause an individual to keep taking this drug – looking for that euphoria and relief from negative emotional states. Even those individuals who are taking Klonopin for anxiety relief, as prescribed by their doctor, may find that they need higher doses in order to achieve the same levels of relaxation. This is why it is so important to take medication exactly as it is prescribed.
While most individuals who are prescribed Klonopin take it as directed by their physician and suffer no ill effects, some individuals become hooked on Klonopin, also known as “K-pin.” The feelings of relaxation and well-being caused by this long-acting benzodiazepine can lead to addiction, in which a person spends much of his or her time seeking out more benzodiazepines. In addition, many individuals use Klonopin to augment the high experienced by alcohol, which can lead to serious instances of respiratory depression and hospitalization. Others may use K-pin to subdue the negative effects of stimulants such as methamphetamines or cocaine. Mixing two or more drugs always increases the chances for overdose and health-related complications.
Discontinuing usage of Klonopin or any benzodiazepine without the direct supervision of trained medical staff can lead to very dangerous health-related risks. If you are trying to break an addiction to Klonopin or other benzos, you must consult a doctor to avoid these health risks.
Many individuals who become addicted to clonazepam or other benzodiazepines struggle with co-occurring mental illnesses. The most common co-occurring mental illnesses include:
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic disorder
- Stimulant abuse
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Additional substance abuse
Specific statistics for Klonopin addiction are not as well-known, but there is significant information about benzodiazepines abuse. In 2006, SAMHSA conducted a study of nationwide emergency rooms and discovered that sedative-hypnotics were the most frequently implicated prescription drug in emergency room visits. Clonazepam was the second-most often implicated benzodiazepine in this study.
With the highly-addictive quality of Klonopin the likelihood for individuals who choose to abuse this drug is high. However, the precise cause for Klonopin addiction is not entirely understood. Some common theories for Klonopin addiction may include:
Genetic: Individuals who have first-degree relatives, such as a parent, who are addicted to substances are at a greater risk for developing an addiction later in life.
Brain Chemistry: Klonopin is effective by enhancing the GABA receptors and decreasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. One hypothesis is that individuals who lack GABA receptors in the brain may use benzodiazepines in order to correct that deficiency, allowing the individual the ability to feel pleasure.
Environmental: Individuals who grow up in a household where addiction is present may learn that substance use and abuse is a normal coping mechanism. Without having more constructive ways to cope with stresses in life, an individual may turn to substances such as Klonopin for comfort.
Psychological: Many individuals who become addicted to Klonopin are also struggling with mental illnesses. Long-term, chronic abuse of Klonopin can lead to worsening of mental health conditions.
Signs and Symptoms
Depending upon the length of time an individual is addicted to Klonopin as well as the amount of the drug taken on a daily basis, symptoms of Klonopin abuse may vary among individuals. Common signs and symptoms of Klonopin use may include:
- Paradoxical anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Increased agitation
- “Doctor shopping” or seeking out multiple prescriptions for Klonopin from a number of physicians
- Forging prescriptions for Klonopin
- Obsessive drug-seeking behavior
- Stealing or borrowing Klonopin and other benzodiazepines from others
- Financial difficulties
- Mounting legal problems
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of personal relationships
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Decrease in engaging in once-pleasurable activities
- Numbness in extremities
- Tensions in muscles
- Increased sweating
- Impairment in balance and motor coordination
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to sights and sounds
- Change in sex drive
- Increased salivation
- Increased urination
- Difficulty breathing
- Auditory hallucinations
- Personality changes
- Short-term memory loss
- Difficulty thinking
- Cognitive challenges
- Suicidal thoughts
When used as prescribed, Klonopin can be a very effective medication. However, like all benzodiazepines, clonazepam runs the risk for addiction and other serious effects. These effects include:
- Job loss
- Legal issues
- Family problems and divorce
- Financial issues
- Personality changes
- Worsening depression
- Interpersonal problems
- Disinhibition – or behavior that deviates slightly to the left
- Sexual dysfunction
- Cognitive impairment
- Liver damage
Effects of Withdrawal
After long-term use, an individual may become tolerant and physically dependent upon Klonopin. Immediately stopping Klonopin after a long period of taking the drug can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms. You should not attempt to stop using Klonopin without medical supervision.
Withdrawal symptoms from Klonopin will vary among addicts based upon length of abuse, dosage strength, frequency of use, and the types of other substances being abused. Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Muscle cramps
- Dysphoric manifestations
- Panic disorder