Finding the Best Treatment Options for Clonazepam Addiction

By The Fix staff 05/08/19

If you or your loved one have an addiction to the prescription drug clonazepam, it’s imperative that you seek treatment from a professional. 

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Clonazepam Addiction Treatment

Table of Contents

  1. What is Clonazepam and How is it Used?
  2. Side Effects of Clonazepam
  3. Klonopin Overdose
  4. How Does Clonazepam Addiction Occur?
  5. Detox as the First Step to Addiction Recovery
  6. Inpatient or Outpatient Addiction Treatment
  7. Rehab Options
  8. Choosing Your Addiction Rehab Destination

Unfortunately, it can be challenging to sort through your many options and find a rehab program that meets your needs. That’s why you must have access to the information required to make an informed treatment decision.

One crucial element in your decision-making process is an understanding of how clonazepam abuse causes harm. You must also understand which rehab methods are known to produce successful results. Just as importantly, you must know how to identify recovery programs that use those methods to the greatest effect. With this information at your disposal, you can make smart choices that turn addiction rehab from a vague hope into an achievable reality.

What is Clonazepam and How is it Used?

Clonazepam is the generic name of a prescription medication that forms part of the family of substances called benzodiazepines. In the U.S., the medication is also available under the brand name Klonopin. Benzodiazepines belong to a larger group of substances known as sedative-hypnotics or tranquilizers. When you take them, they travel to your brain, where they increase levels of a chemical called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).

GABA’s main purpose in your brain is to slow down the rate of communication between your nerve cells. It does this by suppressing electrical activity. By increasing normal production of GABA, benzodiazepines trigger decreased activity throughout your central nervous system. (In addition to your brain, this system includes your spinal cord). In turn, this drop in nerve signaling produces a calming, relaxing or sedating effect throughout your body.

While all benzodiazepines share the same core structure, they can differ from each other in several ways. First, not all members of this medication family are absorbed into your bloodstream at the same speed. Benzodiazepines also vary in how long they make changes in your normal brain chemistry. Finally, benzodiazepine medications differ in how quickly they lose their impact and get eliminated from your system. Taken together, these contrasts help explain why medications of this type have their own specific uses and effects.

Clonazepam takes longer to affect your system than a lot of benzodiazepines. However, it doesn’t take as long as others. Once the medication reaches your brain, it produces its effects for a relatively extended amount of time. These properties make Klonopin and its generic equivalent suitable for the treatment of conditions that include panic attacks, convulsion (seizures), insomnia and anxiety. Doctors may also prescribe clonazepam to reverse the effects of a catatonic state or to treat certain side effects of antipsychotic medications.

Other Names for Klonopin and Clonazepam

Like many addictive substances, Klonopin and clonazepam are sometimes known by informal street names. Slang terms for Klonopin in particular include K-pin and Pin. More general street names for clonazepam and other benzodiazepines include:

  • Tranks
  • Downers
  • Benzos
  • Nerve pills

Side Effects of Clonazepam

Benzodiazepines were developed as a safer alternative to an older group of sedatives and tranquilizers called barbiturates. Nevertheless, use of these newer medication options also comes with the risk of significant side effects. Relatively mild potential side effects of clonazepam/Klonopin consumption include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Disruptions in normal thought and memory
  • A decline in your normal ability to coordinate body movements
  • Painful joints or muscles
  • Blurry vision
  • Lightheadedness
  • Increased urination
  • Altered sexual performance or sexual drive
  • Increases in your normal saliva output

As a rule, these effects are only a cause for concern if they become ongoing or take a severe form.

Certain other side effects of the medication are always considered serious, and require immediate attention from a doctor whenever they occur. Examples here include:

  • The development of hives or a rash
  • Problems swallowing or breathing
  • An unexplained hoarse voice
  • Swelling that affects tissues in your throat, tongue, lips, face or eyes

Klonopin Overdose

You can potentially overdose on benzodiazepines if you take them too often and/or in excessive amounts. Overuse of longer-acting medications like clonazepam/Klonopin comes with a higher overdose risk than shorter-acting benzodiazepines. Potential symptoms of a clonazepam overdose include a confused mental state, sleepiness and the unresponsive state known as a coma.

Most people who overdose won’t die if Klonopin is the only substance in their system. However, risks for death can rise sharply if you combine the medication with alcohol, opioids or other substances that also slow down your nervous system. In fact, benzodiazepines are found in the bloodstreams of roughly one-third of all Americans who overdose on opioids. More than 100 people die from such overdoses on the average day. Public health experts believe that clonazepam and other benzodiazepines make a consideration contribution to this death toll.

How Does Clonazepam Addiction Occur?

Tolerance and dependence are not uncommon in people who take clonazepam for extended periods of time. Tolerance occurs when you no longer feel the expected effects from a given dose of the medication. Dependence occurs when your brain grows accustomed to the higher output of GABA triggered by the presence of clonazepam. Most cases of benzodiazepine tolerance appear in people who take these medications for at least half a year.

If you become dependent on Klonopin, you can develop withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the medication or take a significantly lower dose. Acute (short-term) withdrawal can begin in a week or so if you stop taking a short-acting benzodiazepine. However, acute symptoms may take 30 to 60 days to appear in people who take a long-acting medication like clonazepam.

If you experience Klonopin withdrawal, the most likely acute symptoms include an anxious or irritable mental state, sleeplessness, unusual changes in your muscle function, a rapid heartbeat and blurry vision. Other potential symptoms include depression and feelings of detachment from your sense of self or your surroundings.

Dependence is common in anyone who takes daily doses of Klonopin for at least two months. However, your doctor can help you manage dependence, avoid withdrawal and maintain a stable lifestyle.

If you abuse the medication, you can transition from manageable dependence to uncontrolled clonazepam addiction. If you’re a legitimate prescription holder, you can abuse that prescription by taking the medication more often or in larger amounts than indicated. You can also abuse Klonopin by taking it in any amount without a prescription.

Besides abuse, other factors can also contribute to your chances of  getting addicted to clonazepam. They include having a prescription with a high dosage and simultaneously engaging in alcohol abuse or barbiturate abuse. Your addiction risks also rise if you have a condition that requires long-term use of the medication.

People who are addicted to Klonopin or other benzodiazepines may be diagnosed with something called sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic use disorder. The same diagnosis may also apply to non-addicted users who still experience serious, medication-related disruption of their ability to function. When checking for the presence of the disorder, doctors and addiction specialists look for symptoms such as:

  • Inability to limit your intake of the medication
  • Devotion of much of your day to acquiring or consuming Klonopin, or recovering from its effects
  • Keeping up your intake even if you understand that it causes mental or physical damage
  • Keeping up your intake even if you understand that it causes your relationships to suffer
  • Experiencing cravings for Klonopin when not actively using the medication
  • Choosing consumption of the prescription drug over things you used to do for fun or recreation
  • A pattern of use that stops you from meeting established obligations or duties

Detox as the First Step to Addiction Recovery

At the start of rehab for your Klonopin problems, you must go through a period of supervised detoxification or detox. The detox process gives you time to go through withdrawal in the safest manner possible. To maximize your comfort and help avoid relapses, your doctor will lower your intake gradually, not all at once. The length of this process is determined in large part by how long you’ve used the medication. It also depends on how long you’ve been addicted. Detoxification can last for months in people with a long history of consumption or abuse.

The course of detox may change significantly if you also abuse alcohol, opioids or other addictive substances. Your doctor will need to account for withdrawal symptoms related to these substances. Simultaneous alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal can be especially challenging, since benzodiazepines are often used to manage alcohol withdrawal.

Inpatient or Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Detox and enrollment in active rehab are often separate phases of addiction treatment. However, that situation can change for people addicted to Klonopin or other long-acting benzodiazepines. Since it may take months to complete the withdrawal process, rehab and detox can overlap for substantial amounts of time. In fact, rehab counseling can help addicted people keep up their efforts during the long detoxification process.

Counseling can take place in an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility. Inpatient care in a residential facility is recommended for anyone moderately or severely affected by Klonopin withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend an inpatient program if you have co-existing problems with other types of substances. In addition, you may receive an inpatient recommendation if you’ve been diagnosed with any form of serious mental illness. That’s true because the presence of a separate mental illness can complicate the course of effective addiction treatment.

Outpatient care may be suitable if you only suffer from mild benzodiazepine-related addiction. However, even in these circumstances, a residential facility offers some important benefits. A short list of these benefits includes 24/7 health monitoring, rapid assistance for any emergencies and avoidance of daily situations that make medication abuse more likely to occur.

Rehab Options

If you’re only addicted to clonazepam, medication may not play a role in your rehab treatment plan. Instead, your plan will probably center on supportive care and the use of some form of evidence-based psychotherapy. One form of therapy with known benefits for benzodiazepine rehab is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has a couple of primary goals. Its first objective is to help you understand some of the underlying reasons why you got involved in medication abuse. Next, the therapy helps you change your old behaviors, thought patterns and general expectations in stressful situations. The overall benefit is an improved ability to resist the temptation to abuse Klonopin. You may receive CBT or other therapies in a group setting or in individual sessions.

Choosing Your Addiction Rehab Destination

All high-quality rehabs for clonazepam addiction will offer basic services designed to help you recover your sobriety. They will also employ skilled addiction professionals and perform thorough assessments of your current mental and physical health. However, the best rehabs go beyond this accepted standard with supportive care that boosts your ultimate odds of treatment success. This type of care comes in many forms, and may include such options as relaxation therapy, yoga or stress management.

When selecting your preferred rehab, make sure to ask questions and get a full picture of what to expect. No matter where you go for treatment, you should be allowed to participate in an active way and state your needs and opinions. Your doctor should also verify your understanding of the benefits and challenges of the care plan created for you. At the end of the day, the best rehab option is the one that makes it possible for you to achieve and maintain long-term sobriety.

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