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What You Should Know About Quitting Clonazepam

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Clonazepam (Klonopin) is a benzodiazepine that is used to treat seizures and anxiety disorders. Many people abuse and become addicted to clonazepam due to the feelings of relaxation and euphoria that it can cause. People who are addicted may have a hard time quitting due to the withdrawal symptoms and psychological dependence on the drug.
Withdrawal can last several weeks and include life-threatening complications such as seizures. A detox period overseen by a medical professional, followed by formal drug rehabilitation, offers the most effective way to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Benefits of Quitting

People who are able to quit using clonazepam often find that: 1, 2, 3

  • They have more energy, feel more alert, and feel revitalized. They no longer feel ill due to withdrawal effects or experience blackouts.
  • They can fully feel emotions again. Benzodiazepine abuse blunts emotions, and the user may express emotions inappropriately. After the detoxification period, people find that they can actually feel and enjoy things again.
  • They no longer have to worry about side effects. There will be fewer issues with irritability, mood swings, stomach pains, headaches, slowed reaction time, and cognitive dysfunction, such as issues with concentration and memory.
  • They no longer engage in dysfunctional behaviors associated with a substance use disorder. For instance, they no longer have to worry about trying to find more clonazepam, hiding use from others, and worrying about the ramifications from abuse, such as legal, occupational, and financial issues.
  • They can fix their problems. Recovering users can start mending relationships, outlining personal goals, and concentrating on their career or occupation.

The bottom line is: Quitting clonazepam offers the chance to take back control of one’s life and focus on personal issues. Substance use disorders do not resolve personal issues, but instead contribute to existing issues and create new ones.


Treatment Programs

Women hugging in support group for clonazepam addiction

People recovering from clonazepam use disorder should get involved in some type of formal treatment program that allows them to address the issues that drove their substance abuse, develop coping skills, and learn relapse prevention skills. People who simply go through detox are at a high risk for relapse.

The right type of program for you will depend on:

  • How long you have been addicted.
  • How much you have been using.
  • Whether you need detox.
  • Whether you have mental health or medical issues that need treatment.

Because of the development of physical dependence in people with benzodiazepine use disorders, anyone attempting to recover will need to go through some period of withdrawal management. Depending on the seriousness of the person’s substance use disorder, this can be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Withdrawal management for drugs such as clonazepam can be complicated and may be best performed on an inpatient basis so that the physicians and treatment providers can monitor the person closely and address any issues on the spot.

Options for quitting include: 1, 2, 4

  • Inpatient and outpatient treatment services: Users should consider inpatient treatment if they have special needs, such as severe substance use disorders, living in environments with triggers, and needing special interventions for co-occurring mental health disorders. Many people will eventually transition to some form of outpatient treatment, as inpatient treatment is time-limited. Inpatient includes staying at the facility 24 hours a day, whereas with outpatient treatment, the person only attends the facility during scheduled treatment sessions. Inpatient and outpatient programs offer many of the same services, including individual and group therapy. However, inpatient provides a higher level of medical supervision and closely controlled medication management.
  • Group and individual therapy: Therapy in addiction treatment programs is usually performed by a licensed professional therapist. Individual therapy occurs when a person meets one-on-one with a therapist. Group therapy occurs when more than one individual is treated by one or more therapists at the same time. Both types of therapy are useful in substance use treatment.
  • Support groups: Support groups are not typically run by licensed therapists, but by people who are in recovery. These programs can be extremely helpful and include such well-known programs as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous (12-step programs that have a formalized approach to treatment that begins with following 12 specific steps for change). Other community support groups can be found through local or state mental health organizations.
  • Aftercare programs: Aftercare is follow-up care that a person receives after leaving formal treatment. Some type of ongoing care is crucial in avoiding a relapse. Aftercare can consist of several different types of services, including counseling, therapy groups, sober living environments, social support groups, and 12-step groups. These services offer the opportunity to continue participation in a focused and structured treatment program.

Withdrawal Effects

Clonazepam abuse will eventually lead to physical dependence and withdrawal when the person tries to stop using.

Acute Withdrawal

Because clonazepam has a relatively longer half-life (meaning that it stays in the system longer), a person may not begin to experience withdrawal symptoms for up to a week following discontinuation. Symptoms become gradually more intense over the course of the second week and fade in the third or fourth week.3

Man with physical symptoms of clonazepam withdrawal

Symptoms in the acute phase typically include:

  • Sweating.
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Tremors.
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Irritability.
  • Hallucinations.
  • ”Rebound” anxiety that is more severe than the anxiety the person experienced before they were prescribed clonazepam.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Confusion and delirium.
  • The potential to develop seizures.
  • Insomnia.1,2,3

Post-Acute Withdrawal Phase

Some sources also refer to a post-acute withdrawal syndrome (also known as PAWS) that can occur in people who used clonazepam for a long period of time. The symptoms are unpredictable and may not appear on a day-to-day basis. They are also not as intense as acute symptoms.1,3 However, the person is at a risk for relapse during this time.5

During PAWS, a recovering user may experience:

  • Insomnia.
  • Perceptual problems.
  • Tremors.
  • Hypersensitivity to sensory input.1

While this syndrome is probably not a formal withdrawal syndrome, it may last for weeks or months.1,3 Many people suffering from different types of substance use disorders experience some form of it.

Factors

A number of variables can affect the withdrawal process, including: 1, 2, 4

  • The use or abuse of other drugs.
  • The length of time and the amount of clonazepam that the person typically took (people taking higher doses or using clonazepam for lengthy periods of time will experience significantly more intense symptoms and longer withdrawal periods).
  • Differences in physiology and psychological makeup.

Detox and Treatment

Medically supervised detox is strongly recommended for anyone who wants to stop using clonazepam. A medically supervised withdrawal program can significantly ease the symptoms and reduce the risk of potentially life-threatening consequences, such as seizures.

People in medically supervised withdrawal will be prescribed medications to assist with withdrawal. They will often be placed on a tapering program where they receive decreasing amounts of clonazepam over several weeks to allow them to withdraw slowly and without complications.1

One should never attempt a tapering program without the supervision of a physician.


Tips for How to Quit

People who attempt to quit using clonazepam should keep in mind that:

  • Chances of success are strongly increased by getting involved in a professional treatment program.
  • Going through medically supervised withdrawal is the safest way to detox, and it reduces the risk of relapse.
  • Simply going through medically assisted detox and withdrawal is not enough to ensure long-term recovery. The person must address the issues that drove his or her substance use disorder.
  • Quitting clonazepam is difficult, and recovery takes time. People who stay focused, remain motivated, and learn from their mistakes often succeed.
  • Getting involved in support groups and developing a support system of people who are committed to one’s recovery can be extremely helpful.
  • Identifying triggers with the help of a therapist or a sponsor, and learning how to avoid or cope with them, can help the recovering user avoid a relapse.

Helping Someone Who’s Addicted

Express concern, research treatment options, and offer support.

Friends and relatives of people with substance use disorders often want to help them. However, the most important thing to understand is that it is up to the person with the substance use disorder to change his or her behavior.

Another thing to keep in mind is that people with substance use disorders will usually deny that there is a problem. If a person becomes defensive or reactive, it is important to roll with that and just express concern – or stop the conversation and try again another time.

There are some things you can do that may increase your chances of getting someone to admit that there is a problem and enter treatment. Here are some do’s and don’ts for approaching your loved one.

Do’s

  • Express concern and tell the person that you want to help.
  • Discuss the possibility that the person may need help and that you would be willing to go with him or her to an assessment.
  • Describe a specific situation where the person’s drug use affected you and how it made you feel.
  • Research several treatment options and have these ready to present to the person if she or he seems receptive to treatment.
  • Find a quiet time and place to talk – preferably when the person has just experienced a negative consequence of clonazepam use (for example, was arrested for an accident due to being under the influence or is experiencing withdrawal symptoms).

Don’ts

  • Express anger.
  • Threaten the person.
  • Be confrontational and make demands or ultimatums (for example, you will never talk to the person again if he or she does not get into treatment right away).
  • Refer to vague situations or hearsay.
  • Try and fix or correct the person.
  • Use drugs or alcohol around the person.
  • Talk to the person when he or she is intoxicated.

Can I Just Stop Using? Is It Dangerous?

Quitting clonazepam cold turkey is not recommended for the following reasons:

  • Dangerous withdrawal symptoms. As mentioned above, due to potentially serious and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, a person trying to quit clonazepam should seek professional help.
  • Mental health complications. During the withdrawal process, individuals can become emotionally distressed and are at risk for harm due to accidents, poor judgment, or even suicidal behaviors.
  • Risk of relapse. Many people going through clonazepam withdrawal experience strong cravings, which can lead to relapse. Even if successful for a period of time, quitting on one’s own may do little to address the reasons that led to the substance abuse, which can lead to relapse later on if these issues resurface.

The most effective way to quit clonazepam long-term is to seek medically supervised detox followed by a structured recovery program that includes behavioral therapy and aftercare.


Learn more about clonazepam addiction and recovery:

Sources

[1]. Ries, R. K., Fiellin, D. A., Miller, S. C., & Saitz, R. (2014). The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

[2]. Doweiko, H. (2011). Concepts of Chemical Dependency. Stanford, CT: Nelson Education.

[3]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition.

[4]. Marks, J. (2012). The Benzodiazepines: Use, Overuse, Misuse, Abuse. New York: Springer Science & Business Media.

[5]. Brick, J. (Ed.). (2012). Handbook of the Medical Consequences of Alcohol and Drug Abuse. New York: Routledge.

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Last updated on August 30, 2018
2018-08-30T11:50:56+00:00