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Klonopin (Clonazepam) Addiction

Posted on February 4, 2013 in Prescription Drug Addiction

Klonopin AddictionTen years ago Klonopin was the sixth most abused substance in the United States, but today it has dropped somewhat in rank because so many people are abusing narcotic painkillers. Nevertheless, Klonopin is widely available and widely abused, especially in certain parts of the country. In Atlanta and Los Angeles, Klonopin and similar benzodiazepines rank second in drug-related causes of death after narcotic painkillers and cocaine; in Chicago, Klonopin is the third most abused drug; and in New York, it is in the top five. Over 20,000 Americans a year receive emergency medical treatment because of Klonopin.

The most recent Monitoring the Future Study from the U.S. government indicates that Klonopin abuse is actually increasing among people under 25 years old because it is easy to obtain, cheap, and legal. Some of the people who enter treatment for Klonopin addictions are college students who became addicted by using the drug on their own for anxiety. Other young people use it the way they do alcohol — to get high, reduce inhibitions, and relax. Others like Klonopin because it can cause psychosis, euphoria, and hallucinations, and still others use it to enhance the effects of alcohol or benzodiazepines, or to moderate the effects of other drugs. Klonopin is popular among those on methadone, because the mixing the two can provide a heroin-like high.

It is relatively easy to build up a tolerance to Klonopin, and then to have to keep increasing the amount you take to achieve the same effects. At this point, you have become physically dependent on the drug and needed just to feel normal. If you wait a long time to win a rehabilitation, your withdrawal syndrome will be extremely difficult, even to the point of causing seizures, hallucinations, psychosis, and other severe symptoms.

Street names for Klonopin are K-pin, pins, and kiddie cocaine.

What Is Klonopin?

Klonopin is a trademarked version of clonazepam, a drug in the benzodiazepine family. When these drugs first appeared in the 1960s, they were revolutionary because they were less dangerous and less addictive than barbiturates. At that time psychiatrists would treat depression and anxiety with the same drugs; benzodiazepines became specific medications just for anxiety. There are 20 benzodiazepines sold in the United States, and an additional 15 available worldwide.

Klonopin and other benzodiazepines are regulated by the United States government as Schedule IV Controlled Substances, which means they have some potential for addiction, but they also have medical benefits, and can be used legally with a doctor’s prescription.

Klonopin is a strong, long acting benzodiazepine. Like all drugs in this family, Klonopin affects chemicals in the brain, probably by enhancing the effect of GABA, a neurotransmitter. This causes an inhibition of nerve activity and muscle contractions, which is why Klonopin is considered both a muscle relaxant and a tranquilizer. The chemical name for clonazepam is -(2-chlorophenyl)-7-nitro-2,3-dihydro-1,4-benzodiazepin-2-one.

This drug comes as tablets that are swallowed or ones that disintegrate in the mouth. Klonopin pills are round with a capital K cut out in them. On one side, they say “Klonopin,” and on the other side, “Roche.” The 1mg pill is blue, 5mg is orange, and 10mg is light blue.

Other brand names for clonazepam are Ceberclon, Paxam, Rivatril, and Rivotril, but Klonopin is the one sold in the United States.

What Are The Medical Uses Of Klonopin?

Klonopin has its limitations because it is not supposed to be prescribed for more than nine weeks. The reasons are that Klonopin probably becomes ineffective after two months, and that some people have become addicted to it within a few weeks. Patients build up a tolerance to Klonopin and need to take it in higher amounts in order to maintain its effectiveness. Patients who take Klonopin for more than nine weeks have to take blood tests to make sure the drug is not damaging vital organs.

Klonopin is prescribed for panic disorders, mycoclonic and atonic seizures in certain epileptics, and hyperekplexia, a genetic disorder characterized by startling. If other drugs such as anti-depressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) cannot be used, Klonopin can be prescribed for posttraumatic stress syndrome, the mania phase in bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. Klonopin is sometime used to help alcoholics in withdrawal because it metabolizes and leaves the body very slowly.

Klonopin does not cure any of these conditions, but only helps control them.

Doctors most commonly start out by prescribing a low dose taken one to three times a day. It may take a few weeks for the drug to be effective in some people. The usual dose for panic disorder begins at 0.25mg taken twice a day, and builds up to no more than 0.4mg a day. Some doctors will prescribe it to a patient who is facing a particularly stressful episode, for example, to the person who must travel by airplane but is afraid of flying.

Side Effects Of Klonopin

When Klonopin is used for medical purposes and under a doctor’s supervision, side effects can be minimal and easily managed. If you use Klonopin for more than two months, or if you use it at amounts higher than medically recommended, its side effects are worse, which is why British doctors are only allowed to prescribe Klonopin for eight weeks at a time.

People who are abusing Klonopin can appear drunk with slurred speech, lack of balance and coordination, and they will have trouble seeing and thinking clearly and controlling their movements.

Common side effects of Klonopin if taken as medically recommended are drowsiness, dizziness, unsteadiness, lack of coordination, impaired memory, increased saliva, muscle or joint pain, frequent urination, blurred vision, and changes in sexual drive.

Less common side effects are runny nose, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, headache, insomnia, sadness, lack of interest in life, fatigue, body aches, and changes in weight. Klonopin side effects that may require medical attention or stopping the drug are hallucinations, easy bruising, tremor, pounding heart, fevers and chills, and difficulty in breathing.

Klonopin can cause changes in mental health, especially when used over time. One study of epileptics taking this drug found that one in five developed suicidal thoughts. Others taking Klonopin for anxiety have had paradoxical reactions and experienced panic attacks, agitation, mania, irritability, inability to suppress dangerous impulses, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors such as giving away possessions.

Allergic Reactions To Klonopin

Some people are allergic to this drug and experience a life-threatening reaction the first time they take it. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, tightness in chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips or tongue, behavioral changes, bloody urine, sore throat, fever, severe drowsiness, shortness of breath, and yellowing of the skin and eyes. These people should stop taking Klonopin and seek medical attention.

Drugs That Interact With Klonopin

Klonopin should never be taken with alcohol or heroin, methadone, or any other narcotic, even though this is a common practice among drug addicts. These combinations can have fatal consequences.

Klonopin should not be combined with other benzodiazepines, such as Valium or Xanax, barbiturates, sedatives, tranquilizers, opiate painkillers such as OxyContin or Percocet, or any drug that depresses the central nervous system. Drugs that depress central nervous system are ones that make you feel drowsy, such as anti-histamines, cold and allergy medicines, sleeping pills, or carisoprodol. Klonopin reacts with selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, antibiotics, HIV inhibitors, medications for mental illnesses, oral contraceptives, and propantheline. It also should not be used with St. John’s Wort, grapefruit or ginkgo.

Dangers Of Taking Klonopin

The main risk of taking Klonopin is addiction. It is relatively easy to become addicted to Klonopin, and relatively hard to physically withdraw from it and to achieve abstinence. Klonopin is not often the first choice of physicians because of its addictive potential, and because some patients build up a tolerance to it within a matter of weeks and require a higher dose to achieve the same effects. Addicts keep increasing the amounts they use for the same reason.

Klonopin taken in excessive amounts can cause irreversible brain damage. People who take Klonopin and then drive automobiles put themselves at extreme risk for car crashes.

Klonopin is linked to liver and kidney problems, and should not be taken by people who have diseases in these organs. It is also linked to breathing difficulties and should not be taken by people with asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or other breathing problems. It should not be used by people with glaucoma.

Klonopin is prescribed with caution to people over 65 years old, because it increases their risk for falls and mental fogginess. Klonopin and other strong benzodiazepines can cause birth defects and breathing difficulties in infants so they are not prescribed to pregnant or nursing women.

Klonopin Overdoses

Klonopin is involved in a fairly high percentage of drug-related episodes treated in medical emergency facilities. For example, in 2004, there were 1.3 million emergency room visits related to drugs, and 500,000 of them involved nonmedical use of prescription drugs. In that group, 30% or 144,385 visits were about benzodiazepines, and almost 20% of the benzodiazepine incidents (26,238) were about Klonopin. The majority of people overdosing on benzodiazepines used for nonmedical reasons are combining it with alcohol, illegal narcotics, opiate painkillers, or other prescription drugs.

A person overdosing on Klonopin will appear drowsy and confused with weak muscles. The person may lose consciousness and become comatose. You should call 911 for advice, because it may be better to follow their advice quickly over the phone than try to move the person to an emergency room, especially if it is a long distance.

Klonopin Withdrawal

Some people addicted to Klonopin are afraid to go through withdrawal because they have read various horror stories on the Internet and elsewhere. Indeed, there are plenty of stories of people who spend two years in rehab after a six-month Klonopin habit, and some who become psychotic during the withdrawal process. However, every person’s experience will be different. Withdrawal symptoms will depend on how much Klonopin you have been taking, how long you have been taking it, and individual factors such as your height, weight, age, general health, and whether you are abusing other drugs as well.

It is always dangerous to just simply stop taking Klonopin. First of all, there is a slight possibility of death or serious symptoms such as hallucinations and seizures, which are impossible to manage if you are alone. The Internet is full of formulas for how to gradually replace Klonopin with Valium, and then how to wean yourself off Valium, but the process can take years. If you try to withdraw from Klonopin on your own, you may be okay for a couple of weeks and then you have a high risk of developing extreme anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, and even committing suicide. If you stop taking Klonopin suddenly, you are more likely to experience “protracted withdrawal,” which means you will have symptoms longer than if you simply gradually cut down on the amounts of Klonopin you are taking, and do it under a doctor’s supervision.

Klonopin withdrawal syndrome is similar to the ones for barbiturates or alcoholism. Symptoms can be seizures, agitation, restlessness, anxiety, delirium, psychosis, moodiness, vomiting, tremor, rashes, sweating, uncontrollable shaking, stomach and muscle cramps, hallucinations, behavioral changes, heart palpitations, loss of appetite, diarrhea or constipation, dry mouth, hysteria, depression and insomnia. Not every person will have every symptom, and some find it relatively easy to withdraw from Klonopin, especially under doctor’s supervision. Withdrawal begins 24 to 72 hours after the last dosage, and symptoms peak between day five and day seven. Most people need two weeks or more to achieve chemical detoxification from benzodiazepines, compared to two to three days for heroin. Some people have symptoms for months.

The ideal way to withdraw from Klonopin is to enter a residential treatment center and undergo detoxification with medical supervision. Some of the drugs used to help people in withdrawal are anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, and buspirone.

Klonopin Addiction Treatment

Klonopin addiction is different than Klonopin physical dependency. Someone who was using Klonopin for medical reasons and in appropriate amounts will go through withdrawal symptoms and may have built up a tolerance to the drug, but that person is not necessarily addicted. Addiction occurs when the drug itself motivates its continuing use. The addict has no choice but to keep using Klonopin. Today’s addiction specialists believe that addiction is a physical disease of the brain as well as a behavioral disorder, and that genetics may play a part in whether you develop an addiction.

Some people abuse drugs like Klonopin to self-medicate emotional pain. To achieve a drug-free life, these people must learn to understand their pain, and to cope with it and everyday life without using Klonopin or other psychotropic (mood-altering) substances. The majority of Klonopin addicts have undiagnosed problems such as clinical depression, unresolved childhood traumas, personality disorders, and so forth. When you enter a residential treatment center, you will undergo a complete physical and psychological examination to determine the best way to help you let go of addiction. If you have undiagnosed psychiatric disorders, these have to be treated along with your addiction or you are much more likely to go back into drug abuse.

The first line of treatment is intense counseling on a one-to-one basis. If you enter a residential center, you will have your own case manager and counselor to help you understand yourself. These professionals can help you understand the basis of your addiction, why it occurred, how to manage cravings, and how to achieve abstinence on a long-term basis. You may need to change some of your relationships and even your career path.

Lisa Laitman, the director of Rutgers University’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program, has said that if you are not having fun in recovery, you’re not going to stay sober. These treatment programs can be fun in that along with doing a lot of self-exploration and growth, you are also learning how to relax and enjoy life without drugs. Most residential treatment centers offer sports, parties, sight-seeing and shopping trips, and other recreational activities.

Government studies indicate that the longer you remain in residential treatment, the more likely you are to succeed in your program. Once you return home, you will probably continue in individual counseling and support meetings within your community.

Signs You Are Addicted To Klonopin

If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions, you should consult your family physician or local mental health center about your addiction to Klonopin.

  • Are you using Klonopin without a doctor’s prescription?
  • Are you taking more than four milligrams of Klonopin a day?
  • Do you have to keep increasing the amount of Klonopin you take in order to make it work for you?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, when you stop taking Klonopin?
  • Have you tried to stop taking Klonopin on your own and been unsuccessful?
  • Do you have certain physical symptoms, such as sleep problems or dizziness, that you know are caused by your Klonopin abuse?
  • Do you believe that you need to take drugs like Klonopin because your life is more difficult and stressful than that of the average person?
  • Do you use Klonopin with alcohol or other drugs, either legal or illegal?
  • Do your family members or friends criticize you because of your drug abuse?
  • Do your loved ones think you have become more moody and distant since you began using Klonopin?
  • Are you obtaining Klonopin in some illegal way? Do you worry that someday you may face consequences for breaking the law?
  • Is it hard for you to go more than two days without using Klonopin or other drugs?
  • Do you feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed about your Klonopin abuse? Are you afraid to talk about it with a medical professional?

Sources:

Colvin, Rod. Prescription Drug Abuse (Omaha, NB: Addicus Books, 2002), p.40.

Maxwell, Jane (PhD). “Trends in the Abuse of Prescription Drugs,” The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, see http://www.utexas.edu/research/cswr/gcattc/documents/PrescriptionTrends_Web.pdf

Ibid.

Moore, Abigail. “A Bridge to Recovery on Campus,” The New York Times, January 20, 2012.

“Benzodiazepines: Drugs of Concern,” The United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, see http://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/benzodiazepines.html

“Methadonia (2005),” The New York Times, September 24, 2005.

“Benzodiazepines: Drugs of Concern,” The United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, see http://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/benzodiazepines.html

“Klonopin,” Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/klonopin.html

“Clonazepam” (Oral Route), the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602741

“Medications for Panic Disorders,” The New York Times, see http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/panic-disorder/medications.html; and “Bipolar Disorder, An InDepth Report,” The New York Times, see http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/bipolar-disorder/ and”Epilepsy, An Indepth Report,” The New York Times, see http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/epilepsy/print.html

Bakalar, Nicholas. “A Host of Anxiety Drugs,” The New York Times, February 22, 2005.

“Clonazepam,” PubMed Health, A Service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000635/

“Clonazepam” (Oral Route), the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602741

Williams, Alex. “You Are Cleared for Takeoff,” The New York Times, September 17, 2006.

“Clonazepam,” PubMed Health, A Service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000635/

“Clonazepam” (Oral Route), the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602741

“Klonopin,” Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/klonopin.html

“Clonazepam” (Oral Route), the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602741

“Klonopin,” Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/klonopin.html

“Clonazepam” (Oral Route), the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602741

Griffith, Winter (MD), editor. Complete Guide to Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs, 2009 Edition, New York: The Penguin Group, 2009, pg. 229.

“Klonopin Addiction,” Information from a British support group helping people with addictions to benzodiazepines, Benzodiazepines: Co-operation Not Confrontation (BCNC)., see http://www.bcnc.org.uk/aims.htm

“Klonopin,” Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/klonopin.html

“Medications for Panic Disorders,” The New York Times, see http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/panic-disorder/medications.html

“Klonopin,” Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/klonopin.html

“Clonazepam,” PubMed Health, A Service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000635/

“Clonazepam” (Oral Route), the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602741

Maxwell, Jane (PhD). “Trends in the Abuse of Prescription Drugs,” The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, see http://www.utexas.edu/research/cswr/gcattc/documents/PrescriptionTrends_Web.pdf

“Clonazepam,” PubMed Health, A Service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000635/

“Klonopin Addiction,” Information from a British support group helping people with addictions to benzodiazepines, Benzodiazepines: Co-operation Not Confrontation (BCNC)., see http://www.bcnc.org.uk/aims.htm

Ibid.

Colvin, Rod. Prescription Drug Abuse (Omaha, NB: Addicus Books, 2002), p.22.

“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Medications,” the New York Times Health Reports, see http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/medications.html

Colvin, Rod. Prescription Drug Abuse (Omaha, NB: Addicus Books, 2002), p. 13.

Moore, Abigail. “A Bridge to Recovery on Campus,” The New York Times, January 20, 2012.

Treatment Episode Data Set 1997-2007,  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, see http://www.samhsa.gov/data/DASIS/TEDS2k7AWeb/TEDS2k7AWeb.pdf

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