Klonopin (clonazepam) is a benzodiazepine or “benzo” typically prescribed to treat panic and seizure disorders. 1 It is a safe when taken in therapeutic doses, but many people misuse or abuse Klonopin for its calming, sometimes euphoric properties.
Chronic clonazepam abuse can lead to tolerance, physical and psychological dependence, and addiction.
What Is Klonopin?
Klonopin, or clonazepam, is a central nervous system depressant, meaning that it slows brain activity. It is effective as a standalone or adjunct treatment for seizure disorders. 1 It is also prescribed for those suffering from panic disorder, which is characterized by repeated and unanticipated panic attacks, or sudden feelings of intense unease or fear. 2
People commonly abuse clonazepam and other benzodiazepines for their euphoric and relaxing effects. 3 Those who misuse the medication by taking more than prescribed may soon develop dependence and begin to display drug-seeking behaviors.
Street names for Klonopin and benzodiazepines include: 3
- Nerve pills.
Methods of Use
Many people who abuse Klonopin also abuse other drugs.
Clonazepam is available as both a standard or disintegrating tablet and is usually taken orally. Some people may attempt to hasten the onset of the high by crushing clonazepam pills and snorting them or dissolving them in liquid and injecting them.
Those who abuse benzos such as Klonopin often acquire the medication by forging prescriptions, obtaining prescriptions from multiple physicians, or buying clonazepam on the street. 3
Klonopin abuse is associated with poly-drug abuse, particularly alcohol and opioids. 2, 3, 4 Additionally, users of cocaine sometimes use benzos such as Klonopin to alleviate some of the undesirable effects of binges. 3
Klonopin is a sedative that depresses the central nervous system. It can elicit desirable and beneficial effects when taken as prescribed. But adverse effects are likely if someone misuses or abuses it.
The short-term, therapeutic effects of Klonopin and other benzos include: 5
- Feeling of well-being.
- Anxiety relief.
Klonopin relieves anxiety and tension by enhancing gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that depresses brain activity. 5 Amplifying the activity of this neurotransmitter increases its inherent sedative effect.
Klonopin users experience euphoria and pleasurable feelings due to an associated increase of dopamine release in the brain’s reward centers. 6 The “high” that accompanies these events in the brain can lead to compulsive drug-seeking behaviors and the subsequent development of addiction in some individuals.
Klonopin can cause side effects even when taken in therapeutic doses. But the risk of adverse effects increases greatly when the drug is abused. Possible side effects include: 1
- Increased risk of suicidal thoughts.
- Increased salivation.
- Impaired judgment, thinking, and motor skills.
- Loss of control of movements.
- Poor concentration. 7
- Slurred speech.
- Memory problems.
- Shortness of breath.
- Heart palpitations.
- Muscle weakness.
Consequences of chronic clonazepam abuse may include:
- Physical and psychological dependence.
- Cognitive problems. 8
- Legal problems (DUI, assault, burglary).
- Physical injuries resulting from intoxication.
- Financial problems.
- Poor work or school performance.
- Relationship problems (child neglect, divorce, loss of friends).
In addition, a recent 12-year, longitudinal study suggests that long-term Klonopin use may increase the risk of developing cancer. 9
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
Who Answers? to get more information about Klonopin rehabilitation programs. A treatment support representative can offer options based on your insurance.
A Klonopin addiction (diagnosed as a sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic use disorder) is characterized by a problematic pattern of clonazepam use that leads to impairment and negative consequences in the person’s life. 2
Signs and symptoms of an addiction to Klonopin include the following: 2
- Taking greater doses of Klonopin or for a longer period than intended.
- Displaying an inability to cut down or stop using the drug.
- Spending a considerable amount of time getting and using Klonopin and recovering from its unpleasant effects.
- Having a strong desire to use clonazepam.
- Continuing to use Klonopin and experiencing work, home, or school problems as a result.
- Persistently using clonazepam regardless of social or interpersonal problems worsened or caused by drug use.
- Abandoning previously enjoyed hobbies in favor of Klonopin use.
- Consistently using Klonopin in hazardous situations, such as while driving a car.
- Continuing to use Klonopin despite physical and mental problems exacerbated or caused by the drug.
- Developing tolerance: more of drug is needed to produce desired effects, and the same amount of the drug produces a diminished effect.
- Experiencing withdrawal: stopping use of the drug leads to withdrawal symptoms, and Klonopin is taken to ease or prevent withdrawal symptoms.
It’s possible to overdose on Klonopin . But severe and life-threatening effects are rare unless it is combined with alcohol or other drugs, particularly other sedatives. 1
Signs and symptoms of an overdose include: 1
- Excessive drowsiness.
- Decreased reflexes.
If you suspect that someone has overdosed on clonazepam, call 911 immediately and monitor the person’s pulse and respiratory rate while waiting for medical help to arrive.
The following benzodiazepine statistics are from 2011:
- Over 20 million people aged 12 and older reported abusing benzos at some point in their lives. 3
- Nearly 90,000 emergency department visits involved benzo use. 4
- Over 50,000 emergency room visits involved a combination of benzos and opioids. 4
- Over 27,000 visits to the emergency room involved a mix of benzos and alcohol. 4
- More than 8,000 emergency department visits involved benzos, opioids, and alcohol. 4
Additionally, nearly 63,000 emergency department visits involved clonazepam in 2010. 3
Find Treatment for Klonopin Addiction
. Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Klonopin Tablets.
. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2013). Benzodiazepines.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). Benzodiazepines in Combination with Opioid Pain Relievers or Alcohol: Greater Risk of More Serious ED Visit Outcomes.
. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Benzodiazepines.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Well-Known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines’ Addictive Properties.
. Longo, L.P. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines-Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives. American Family Physician, 61(7), 2121-2128.
. Stewart, S.A. (2005). The effects of benzodiazepines on cognition. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 66(2), 9-13.
. Iqbal, U., Nguyen, P.A., Syed-Abdul, S., Yang, H.C., Huang, C.W., Jian, W.S, Li, Y.C. (2015). Is long-term use of benzodiazepine a risk for cancer? Medicine (Baltimore), 94(6), 483.