“Klonopin ruined my life. It takes away your drive, and in the morning, you don’t want to get out of bed, because you feel so groggy. I don’t even know what it’s like to feel normal. This is my world. Things don’t get me as excited as most people, because I’m in a constant state of sedation. It should have never been prescribed for long-term use.”
~ Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America
For many people who suffer from panic disorder or anxiety, or who are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms while quitting other drugs or alcohol, the benzodiazepine drug clonazepam, popularly known by its brand name, Klonopin, is a godsend. As recently as 2010, Klonopin was the sixth-most prescribed medication in the US.
Unfortunately, despite its benefits, Klonopin is only safe when prescribed for a short period of time, since approximately one-third of individuals taking the drug longer than four weeks develop a dependency.
The Good – How Klonopin Helps
People who are diagnosed with anxiety or panic disorder can feel debilitated by their conditions. Symptoms of panic disorder or anxiety include –
- rapid heartbeat
- choking sensation
- chest pain
- uncontrollable fear
Some individuals suffering these disorders can feel that they are dying or having a heart attack. Klonopin helps sufferers manage their condition by controlling the symptoms.
The Bad – Klonopin Side-Effects
Like other tranquilizing drugs in the benzodiazepine class, Klonopin brings with it a number of possible adverse side effects, including –
- pronounced drowsiness
- loss of coordination
- impaired balance
- reduced motivation
- decreased sex drive/sexual dysfunction
- physical agitation
- short-term memory loss
- a lessening of “quality sleep”
- worsened depression
- loss of inhibition
Many of the side-effects are compounded when the drug is taken for more than a period of just a few weeks, or when prescribed higher doses. Alcohol can also greatly intensify both the effects and the side-effects of Klonopin.
The Ugly – Klonopin Dependence
Benzodiazepine medications can cause both physical and psychological dependence. When treated on a long-term basis, even patients on low doses of Klonopin can develop a dependency.
Patients on Klonopin quickly develop a tolerance, for which the only remedy is increasing the dosage. Unfortunately, a tolerance to the higher doses can also occur, thereby magnifying any adverse effects.
After using Klonopin for as little as four weeks, patients can become dependent to such a degree that they will experience withdrawal symptoms even if the dosages are just reduced.
The Dangerous – Klonopin Withdrawal
Klonopin has a long “half-life”, meaning it stays in the bloodstream for a considerable time after the last dose, typically up to 40 hours. On average, withdrawal symptoms may start in as few as three days after the last use.
Stopping Klonopin abruptly or decreasing the dosages to rapidly can result in benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome which is characterized by –
- rapid heartbeat
- elevated blood pressure
- muscular spasms
- extreme agitation
- heightened aggressiveness and irritability
As with all benzodiazepines, Klonopin withdrawal should ALWAYS be medically-supervised by trained personnel, because the most severe withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.
Sudden cessation of Klonopin can result in extremely dangerous seizures known as status epilepticus, seizures that can last more than five minutes. According to clinical studies, 10%-30% of individuals experiencing status epilepticus die within 30 days of the onset.
The “acute phase” of benzodiazepine withdrawal – the most dangerous period of time – will last anywhere from 7 to 90 days, depending upon the dosage taken and the length of time that it was used.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), a mild manifestation of withdrawal symptoms such as slightly-increased insomnia and anxiety, can last up to two years.
The Hopeful – How to Safely Withdraw from Klonopin
When a person has become physically addicted to Klonopin, the safest way to detox while still managing the physical and psychological symptoms is through a very gradual “tapering off” of the administered dose.
By slowly reducing the amount of Klonopin taken by the dependent person, that person’s brain can start naturally reproducing the neurotransmitters that were blocked off while they were abusing the medication. This gradual tapering allows the person’s body to slowly return to normal, lessening the potentially-fatal “shock”.
Under medical supervision, the dosage is reduced by 10% per week, meaning it takes approximately 10 weeks to successfully detoxify a person from benzodiazepines like Klonopin.
The downside of this method of detox is that the length of time means an extension of the time that the sufferer must endure withdrawal symptoms.
Some drug detox facilities prefer to do a “rapid detox”, where the person is given subcutaneous injections of other medications in place of the Klonopin. This method usually produces a successfully-detoxified individual in approximately 7-10 days.
Getting Help for Klonopin Addiction
Anxiety, panic disorder, and withdrawal from alcohol or drug addiction are real concerns for which Klonopin can provide a positive solution. However, when that solution creates its own problem, it is time to get help.
It is not advised to try to beat a Klonopin addiction by yourself, because of the long-lasting, unpleasant, and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. If you or someone you know is addicted to Klonopin, it is imperative that you contact a professional drug addiction recovery facility today.
Only a facility that is run by a trained and experienced medical and therapeutic staff that specialize in recovery from drug addiction can guide you safely through the detoxification process, the inpatient benzodiazepine rehab program (if needed), and longer-term, as you attend outpatient therapy.