Clonazepam – more commonly known by the trade name Klonopin – is a tranquilizer in the benzodiazepine class, often prescribed to prevent and treat seizures, panic disorder and other conditions. Although in use around the world as a valuable and beneficial medication, clonazepam – a prescription-only medicine in the UK – is also a popular recreational drug. Unfortunately, clonazepam is known to be significantly habit-forming, with withdrawal symptoms that can be dangerous and even deadly.
What is Clonazepam Addiction?
Clonazepam addiction is a condition whereby individuals repeatedly consume clonazepam despite being aware of the negative consequences of doing so. It is often driven by physical dependence to clonazepam: the state whereby the system of someone using clonazepam becomes accustomed to a certain level of the drug and adjusts accordingly, with abnormal function (in the form of withdrawal symptoms) resulting from a cessation of use of clonazepam until the affected individual’s system is able to readjust to the absence of the drug.
Trade names for clonazepam
As well as Klonopin, clonazepam is marketed around the world under trade names including Clonoten, Ravotril, Rivatril, Rivotril, Iktorivil, Clonex, Paxam, Petril, Naze and Kriadex. It has the chemical formula C15H10ClN3O3.
What is Clonazepam Used For?
Clonazepam is used for the short-term management of epilepsy and other seizure-inducing conditions; to treat panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia); other anxiety disorders including social phobia; muscle disorders including restless legs syndrome, bruxism and rapid eye movement behaviour disorder; spasticity related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; and alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
How addictive is clonazepam?
As is the case with all benzodiazepines, clonazepam is known to be habit-forming; it is considered to pose a low to moderate risk of physical dependence and a moderate to high risk of psychological addiction.
Neurological mechanism of clonazepam dependence
As mentioned above, taking the marzipan over a period of time can result in dependence. The brain and central nervous system of the individual in question adjust to the presence of clonazepam, and rapidly come to require that presence in order to function normally. The absence of clonazepam – such as following a sudden cessation of use – can trigger abnormal function manifesting in withdrawal syndrome.
Routes of administration of clonazepam
Clonazepam is most commonly provided in tablet form for oral consumption; however it can also be delivered by intramuscular or intravenous injection, or sublingually (a patch under the tongue).
Clonazepam Dependence Versus Addiction
As discussed above, dependence is a physical phenomenon whereby a person’s system adjusts to the presence of a substance and requires that substance in order to function normally. Addiction, on the other hand, though often closely related to dependence (and commonly confused with the latter in the public mind) is a psychological rather than physical phenomenon, in which the affected person is compelled to engage repeatedly in specific behaviour or behaviours (in this case, the consumption of clonazepam) despite an awareness of the negative consequences of doing so.
Why People Abuse Clonazepam
Like other benzodiazepines, the consumption of clonazepam can produce pleasurable effects in the user, including enjoyable feelings of relaxation and sedation. These feelings – along with the happiness created by any improvement in the conditions for which clonazepam has been prescribed – can drive the repeated consumption of clonazepam, possibly recreationally, which can lead over time to tolerance, dependence and addiction.
Causes of clonazepam addiction
The causes of addiction are not yet completely understood by medical science, though it is known that both environmental and genetic factors come into play. Effectively, however, anyone consuming clonazepam for a prolonged period – usually, a period in excess of that prescribed by a doctor – risks developing both a psychological addiction and a physical dependence to the substance.
Risk factors for clonazepam abuse
anyone with a family history of substance abuse and addiction is known to be significantly more likely both to abuse clonazepam and to develop an addiction to it. Moreover, individuals with a family history of mental health issues are similarly more likely to suffer problems with clonazepam.
people who experience trauma and/or life difficulties; who associate with others who are abusing clonazepam; and who take clonazepam for more than the prescribed period and/or in higher doses than recommended, are all much more likely than the average person to develop an addiction to clonazepam.
Co-Occurring Disorders with Clonazepam Addiction
As with many other benzodiazepines, clonazepam is used to treat various mental health issues and is therefore comparatively likely to feature in case of dual diagnosis (where substance abuse disorders cooccur with other mental disorders). In such cases, treating the addiction is of necessity more complicated, and typically specialist care is necessary.
The Effects of Clonazepam Addiction on the Brain and Mechanism of Action
Like other benzodiazepines, clonazepam enhances the effects of the GABA neurotransmitter upon the central nervous system (CNS), producing muscle relaxant, anxiolytic and anticonvulsant effects. It does not alter the levels of GABA, merely its capacity to act upon the CNS. When taken over a prolonged period clonazepam can have numerous effects – some extremely detrimental – upon the brain see below.
Relationship between Clonazepam and Other Substances/Contraindications
Clonazepam can have dangerous interactions with a number of other substances. In particular, taking clonazepam in combination with certain antidepressants, drugs in the non-benzodiazepine class, alcohol, opiates, antipsychotics, antiepileptics and sedative antihistamines can produce much stronger sedative effects which can have potentially dangerous consequences.
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Health Risks with Clonazepam
As with any addiction, an addiction to clonazepam can have negative consequences for individuals physical and mental health due to decreased quality of life resulting from addiction. Clonazepam specifically is known to have a wide variety of potential negative effects, including:
- motor impairment
- irritability and aggression
- psychomotor agitation
- lack of motivation
- loss of libido
- impaired motor function
- impaired coordination
- impaired balance
- cognitive impairments
- short-term memory loss
- anterograde amnesia (common with higher doses)
- hangover-like symptoms of drowsiness, headaches, sluggishness, and irritability
- may cause or worsen depression
- induction of seizures/increased frequency of seizures
- personality changes
- behavioural disturbances
- suicide through disinhibition
- liver damage
- paradoxical behavioural disinhibition
Clonazepam Abuse Signs and Symptoms
Substance abuse is associated with a great deal of stigma and individuals abusing clonazepam will often make great efforts to hide that abuse, making it difficult to spot. However, some signs which could potentially indicate clonazepam abuse include: frequent intoxication (including drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, slurred speech and impaired motor control); a constant preoccupation with getting hold of and consuming clonazepam; increased levels of intoxication when drinking alcohol and/or taking other substances of abuse; “doctor shopping” (visiting multiple doctors to obtain numerous prescriptions); long-term symptoms including anxiety, insomnia, anorexia, weakness, cognitive impairment and brain damage; and visible withdrawal symptoms upon stopping taking clonazepam.
Clonazepam Overdose Explained
- difficulty staying awake
- mental confusion
- impaired motor functions
- impaired reflexes
- impaired coordination
- impaired balance
- respiratory depression
- low blood pressure
Anyone observing these symptoms in someone known to have taken clonazepam should contact the emergency services immediately.
Cost of Clonazepam Addiction to Families and Society
Clonazepam addiction can be catastrophic for families, who have to deal with the trauma of observing a loved one struggling with addiction and the impact upon them of that addiction, including serious health risks; furthermore addicts often resort to deceitful and manipulative behaviour which can place great strain upon important relationships. More broadly the cost to society of clonazepam addiction includes millions of pounds spent by the NHS on treating such addictions, and a significant though unknown cost to police and social services.
Teen clonazepam abuse and addiction
Young people are especially susceptible to benzodiazepine abuse and addiction, thanks to its easy availability and low cost. If you are concerned that a young person close to you is abusing clonazepam, contact an addiction specialist for advice.
What to do if a loved one is struggling with clonazepam addiction
If anyone close to you is struggling with clonazepam addiction, you may feel the urge to confront them and insist on trying to help. However, this may exacerbate the situation. Do not take any action without consulting an addiction specialist with whom you can discuss your situation and concerns, and who can give you advice on how to proceed.
What to Do If You Need Help to Detox
if you have an addiction and/or dependence to clonazepam, it is absolutely vital that you do not attempt to detox without medical assistance: benzodiazepine withdrawal can be fatal. Contact your GP and/or an addiction specialist and discuss your condition openly and honestly, and ask what help is available.
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines is considered one of the least pleasant and most dangerous forms of withdrawal syndrome; nonetheless, it is an inevitable step in the recovery process for anyone who has developed a dependence to clonazepam. Fortunately, it can be made easier with the help of medication and the assistance of expert medical professionals.
Symptoms of withdrawal
Some of the most common symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome include:
- stomach pain
- suicidal thoughts or urges
- exacerbations of existing panic disorders
- seizures similar to delirium tremens
Duration of withdrawal
Every case of withdrawal from clonazepam is different, but generally speaking withdrawal should last for between two and four weeks, with acute withdrawal setting in three or four days after the last dose is consumed and typically lasting around a week. In some cases protracted (or post-acute) withdrawal syndrome will develop, with symptoms lasting months or even years.
Why You should Contact a Professional for Detox
As noted above, detoxification and withdrawal from clonazepam can be dangerous and even fatal; it is imperative that you do not attempt to go through clonazepam detox without the help of medical professionals. Speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist about how to detox from clonazepam safely.
Clonazepam Addiction Treatment
As clonazepam addiction has become increasingly widespread in the UK, more and more facilities have been established around the country to provide treatment for the condition. Treatment typically consists of two phases: detoxification and withdrawal (during which the patient’s system is cleansed of substances of abuse including clonazepam); and therapy (in a wide range of formats and models).
Therapy for Clonazepam Addiction
Therapy lies at the heart of all addiction treatment, as only therapy can both reveal and address the fundamental psychological causes of addiction: detoxification can remove the immediate pressures of dependence, but the underlying drivers to consume clonazepam (and any other substances of abuse) are likely to remain without therapy. Addiction therapy comes in a huge variety of approaches and formats, and is provided both one-to-one and in group settings.
Clonazepam Abuse Detox Process
There are different ways to approach detoxification and each treatment facility may have its own regime; meanwhile, each case of addiction is unique and the way one individual needs to be treated can differ significantly from another. For example, some patients may be required to taper down their consumption of clonazepam prior to commencing detox; some may be provided with medication to assist with withdrawal. If you are considering going through clonazepam detoxification, make sure you understand as fully as possible the process ahead of you, in consultation with the doctor/s who will be assisting you.
Possible complications in clonazepam rehab
As noted above, certain withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous or even fatal, while your specific medical history and physical condition may pose a risk of detrimental complications during any rehab process. Be completely open and honest with the doctors at any rehab facility which you may be considering visiting to avoid the risk of any damaging complications during your stay.
Clonazepam Relapse Prevention
Avoiding relapse is key to a successful recovery (though it is important to note that if you do relapse it is not the end of the world and does not automatically mean that you will inevitably fall back into addiction). Therapy such as that provided in rehab can give you psychological defence mechanisms against relapse; furthermore attendance at self-help groups, and regular counselling, throughout the recovery period can further shore up your defences. Speak with an addiction specialist about measures you can put in place to minimise the likelihood of relapse.
Clonazepam Addiction Statistics
Just under 10% of individuals receiving structured treatment of substance abuse disorders in the UK in 2017 were addicted to benzodiazepines.
Over 40% of people taking clonazepam for over six weeks will become addicted.
A study published in the
British Journal of Psychiatry
shows that around 7.7% of Britons have misused one or more benzodiazepines at one time or another.
Benzodiazepines were initially developed as nonaddictive drugs, with their addictive potential only becoming evident towards the end of the 1970s.
In 2015, around 12 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines were written by UK doctors.
Ready to Get Help?
If you suffer from clonazepam addiction, only you can take the first step towards recovery by acknowledging your condition and reaching out for help.
Get help today
If you are ready to take that step, there are organisations and facilities across the UK providing assistance to people suffering from clonazepam addiction. Don’t waste any more time: speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist today to discuss treatment options which may be appropriate for you.
Take control of your life – get started on the road to recovery
The prospect of overcoming your addiction may be a daunting one – but the benefits of treatment are incalculable. If you feel clonazepam addiction dominating your life, take back control today and set out on the path back to happiness by reaching out to your GP and/or an addiction specialist.
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