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Klonopin Facts and Clonazepam FAQs

The following Klonopin facts provide insights on the third-most prescribed benzodiazepine in the U.S., after alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan). Like all benzos, clonazepam abuse has not reached the epidemic levels of prescription opioids, although the drug has inherent risks. Knowing a few key facts is essential to understanding and weighing the drug’s benefits versus its risks.1

Is Clonazepam Safe for Older Adults?

Great care needs to be taken with older adults who are prescribed clonazepam and other benzos. While they may not intentionally abuse the drug, many older adults take multiple prescriptions which have potentially serious interactions. Further, they may have forgotten they took a dose of one or more of these drugs, inadvertently ingesting dangerous amounts. Moreover, studies have shown the sedative effects of clonazepam (drowsiness, dizziness and confusion) seem to be more problematic in older adults. The changes associated with aging coupled with the sedative effects of the drug are associated with a greater risk of injuries from falls.2

What Is the Difference Between Klonopin and Xanax?

Xanax is prescribed to treat panic disorders, anxiety disorders and anxiety associated with depression. Klonopin is not only used to treat those disorders, but also used for seizures and epilepsy. The biggest difference between Klonopin and Xanax is the time it takes for the body to process the drugs. Half-life refers to how long it takes for half of a drug to be eliminated from the bloodstream. Klonopin has a much longer half-life, resulting in a slower onset and longer duration of both its therapeutic and detrimental effects. Half-life plays a large role in how symptoms are managed and also factors into how long withdrawal takes when a person stops taking the substance. As such, Klonopin is used to wean people off of Xanax and other benzodiazepines during medically supervised detox.3

How Does Klonopin Help Panic Disorder?

Klonopin influences gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter in the brain involved in regulating several functions such as sleep, feelings of excitement, relaxation and anxiety. By influencing GABA, Klonopin slows down the central nervous system, thereby decreasing nervousness and agitation while evoking a sense of calm and relaxation. This process also helps reduce the severity of anxiety and panic attacks.4

How Does Clonazepam Control Epilepsy?

Clonazepam is used alone or with other seizure medicines to treat absence and myoclonic seizures (especially in Lennox Gastaut syndrome) and can help stop seizure clusters. It stabilizes the electrical activity in the brain, thereby preventing seizures from occurring. The drug also relaxes stiffening or contracting muscles during a seizure. A person who typically experiences an unusually long aura or a series of small seizures may be able to prevent the larger seizure by taking clonazepam when these warning signs begin. The number of seizures are reduced and when they occur, symptoms are less severe.5,6

  1. Clonazepam Abuse. Drug Abuse website. http://drugabuse.com/library/clonazepam-abuse/ 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. Anxiety Medications: Klonopin Versus Xanax. Help RX website. https://www.helprx.info/blog/anxiety/anxiety-medications-klonopin-versus-xanax Published February 6, 2015. Accessed February 12, 2017.
  4. FAQs About Klonopin for Panic Disorder. Very Well website. https://www.verywell.com/klonopin-clonazepam-2584302 Updated April 1, 2015. Accessed February 12, 2017.
  5. Epilepsy Foundation website. http://www.epilepsy.com/medications/clonazepam/advanced Accessed February 12, 2017.
  6. Clonazepam for epilepsy. Patient website. http://patient.info/medicine/clonazepam-for-epilepsy Accessed February 12, 2017.
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