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Klonopin Severely Impairs Teen Judgment; May Be Linked to Fatalities

Posted on July 9, 2010 in Prescription Drug Addiction

A new member has been added to the quickly growing list of prescription antianxiety drugs teens are abusing with dangerous outcomes: Klonopin, known generically as clonazepam, from the drug class called benzodiazepines.

Klonopin, like other forms of benzodiazepines, helps reduce anxiety by restoring balance to brain chemicals. Because it is relatively easy to conceal in comparison to alcohol, and not overly expensive or hard to acquire, teens are abusing the drug in higher numbers. The side effects, however, can be deadly. In 2006, a teen committed suicide after taking Klonopin, and many suspect the drug was a factor in the teen’s decision.

Commonly used to treat panic disorder and seizure disorders, Klonopin is one of the most common benzodiazepines and creates a relaxed state for the mind and muscles during convulsions. The drug was first approved in 1997 for the treatment of epilepsy, but is now sold for other purposes, including as a sedative, to help with insomnia, for bipolar disorder, depression, teeth gnashing and even restless leg syndrome.

When taken recreationally, Klonopin, also known as K-pins, gives a high similar to being drunk and impairs judgment. The effects are multiplied when the drug is taken with alcohol, especially memory and decision-making skills. Not only can a person make dangerous or spontaneous decisions while under the influence of Klonopin, death can result from the combination of alcohol and Klonopin due to central nervous system effects.

Klonopin can be taken as a tablet, an oral solution or an injection and is known to have addictive properties. The drug is recommended for use up to nine weeks, but not long-term. Withdrawal symptoms from Klonopin may include perspiration, insomnia, tremors, vomiting, stomach ache and strange thoughts. Symptoms of overdose include significant fatigue, confused mental state, weakness of the muscles and fainting.

Klonopin is also linked to serious side effects, such as hallucinations, agitation or hostility, shallow breathing, suicidal thoughts, seizures or bruising/bleeding. Even more alarming, experts at the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children’s Hospital say young people may try Klonopin or sedatives like Vicodin even prior to experimenting with things like marijuana or alcohol.

Experts call for more education for teachers, students and parents about prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines, along with opiates like Percocet and OxyContin. Due to the relative ease at which a student can consume a pill, plus the fact that it is relatively odorless and not difficult to acquire, some school officials are recommending random drug testing for every middle and high-school aged student. In some schools, parents can voluntarily register their child for drug testing, including screens for prescription drugs. Across the country, parents and school officials are urged to learn as much as possible about the expanding list of prescription drugs abused by teens.

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