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Klonopin and Clonazepam Addiction Treatment

What Is Klonopin?

Klonopin (clonazepam) is a type of benzodiazepine with sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic and anticonvulsant properties. Benzos act on the brain and central nervous system by producing a calming or tranquilizing effect, impacting the depressive neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Originally, clonazepam was introduced as an antiepileptic drug to treat certain types of seizure disorders (e.g. absence seizures or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome) in both adults and children. It is also used less frequently as an adjuvant therapy for some psychiatric conditions including generalized anxiety, social and panic disorders. It is also efficacious for controlling impulsivity and grandiosity associated with bipolar disorder, irrational fears related to agoraphobia and to decrease agitation, anxiety, aggression and tension in individuals with schizophrenia.1,2

The brand Klonopin was manufactured by Roche and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June 1975. The first generic version of clonazepam was approved by the FDA in September 1996 and many companies manufacture it today. Clonazepam comes in regular and dissolving tablets in 0.5, 1, and 2 mg doses.1,3 It is the third-most prescribed benzodiazepine in the U.S., after alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan).4

Klonopin and Clonazepam Abuse

The pleasurable sensations that make addictive drugs so attractive to vulnerable individuals occur when dopamine levels in the brain’s reward area abruptly surge. Researchers have discovered evidence that the addictive power of benzos is similar to that of opioids, cannabinoids and GHB. These are all substances with exceptionally strong addictive characteristics. It is theorized that when benzos accumulate in the body, they alter the structure and function of certain receptors in the brain, making them more susceptible to excitable surges from other neurotransmitters. This further increases and intensifies dopamine rushes.5

Like other benzos, clonazepam is used recreationally by people because it can produce effects similar to alcohol intoxication, including a euphoric high, profound sense of calm and increased relaxation. The more one uses a benzo, the greater the potential for building a tolerance. This phenomenon causes a person to need escalating amounts of the drug to achieve the same effect and is another reason why this class of drug can be addictive and subject to abuse. Klonopin is much harder to detect than alcohol, making it popular among teens who want to get high without much risk of discovery. Although one study indicated a low daily dose could help reduce the frequency of panic attacks in adolescents, the high risk of Klonopin abuse contradicts its therapeutic use in this age demographic.4,6

Benzodiazepine addiction can be challenging to overcome and present health risks during the acute withdrawal period. For this reason, medically supervised detox is recommended for people struggling with clonazepam addiction and other sedative use disorders. During detox, other medications may be prescribed to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms associated with the gradual tapering of clonazepam. After detox, clients work on the psychological aspects of addiction during either inpatient or outpatient treatment programs.

Stats and Facts

  • From 2005 to 2011, 943,032 emergency department visits involved benzodiazepines alone or in combination with opioid pain relievers or alcohol.7
  • In 2011, 76,557 emergency room visits resulted from the abuse or misuse of clonazepam, an increase of 122% from 2004.3
  • In the same time period, mixing benzodiazepines with opioid pain relievers or alcohol was associated with a 24% to 55% increase in the predicted risk of a more serious outcome than benzodiazepines alone.7
  • From 2005 to 2011, people ages 65 and older had a 36% greater risk of a more serious outcome than those ages 12 to 34, even though both groups took benzodiazepines alone.7
  • Opioids were taken concurrently in an estimated 75% of overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines.8
  • In 2015, an estimated 446,000 people ages 12 or older were current misusers of sedatives including benzodiazepines.9

Relapse Prevention

Preventing relapse begins by safely tapering doses until the body becomes less dependent on the sedative effects of clonazepam. At The Right Step, clients undergo detox supervised by medical professionals around the clock, an essential first step in recovery due to potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Key factors contributing to successful relapse prevention include a person’s willingness to change, management of co-occurring mental health disorders and acquisition of healthy coping skills.

  1. Drugs website. https://www.drugs.com/klonopin.html Updated February 6, 2017. Accessed February 12, 2017.
  2. Tóth K, Csukly G, Sirok D, et al. Optimization of Clonazepam Therapy Adjusted to Patient’s CYP3A Status and NAT2 Genotype. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016;19(12):pyw083. doi:10.1093/ijnp/pyw083.
  3. What Is Clonazepam (Klonopin)? Everyday Health website. http://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/clonazepam Updated July 30, 2014. Accessed February 12, 2017.
  4. Clonazepam Abuse. Drug Abuse website. http://drugabuse.com/library/clonazepam-abuse/ Accessed February 12, 2017.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2012/04/well-known-mechanism-underlies-benzodiazepines-addictive-properties Published April 19, 2012. Accessed February 12, 2017.
  6. Klonopin Overdose Symptoms and Treatment. Project Know website. http://www.projectknow.com/research/klonopin-overdose/?v=lib1-control Accessed February 12, 2017.
  7. Benzodiazepines in Combination with Opioid Pain Relievers or Alcohol: Greater Risk of More Serious ED Visit Outcomes. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/DAWN-SR192-BenzoCombos-2014/DAWN-SR192-BenzoCombos-2014.pdf Published December 18, 2014. Accessed February 12, 2017.
  8. Bachhuber MA, Hennessy S, Cunningham CO, Starrels JL. Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996-2013. Am J Public Health. 2016 Apr;106(4):686-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303061.
  9. 2015 Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators report. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. https://www.samhsa.gov/samhsa-data-outcomes-quality/major-data-collections/reports-detailed-tables-2015-NSDUH Updated November 7, 2016. Accessed February 12, 2017.
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