Clonazepam is the generic name for the drug Klonopin, which is a benzodiazepine commonly prescribed to treat seizures. This medication is often necessary for those who would otherwise experience intense and dangerous effects of seizures, but unfortunately, many individuals abuse it because it can cause relaxation, euphoria, and other desirable effects. This misuse can be dangerous, often causing addiction, tolerance, and dependence, but even those who take it as prescribed for several weeks or longer can become dependent on it. When dependence occurs, it is time to consider clonazepam detox treatment.
Clonazepam dependence can lead to withdrawal if the individual suddenly stops using the drug. This can be a serious syndrome that, in some cases, can even become life-threatening. Many people do not realize the severity of clonazepam withdrawal, which requires treatment in a detox center in order for the individual to safely navigate their symptoms.
Understanding Clonazepam Abuse
Clonazepam is often used alone or in combination with other drugs in order to treat seizures, according to the National Library of Medicine. Some individuals need the drug in order to stay safe and healthy, but unfortunately, many people also abuse it.
- Clonazepam is a benzodiazepine, which is one of the most highly abused drug classes in the United States.
- The drug makes people feel drowsy, calm, and relaxed, but large doses can produce significant euphoria (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
- Sometimes, people who are prescribed the drug start taking it more often or in higher doses because they like the way it feels. This counts as abuse just like when a person starts taking the drug without a prescription at all.
Clonazepam has become a more popular drug of abuse in recent years, and more people are trying to get their hands on it when it should only be used to treat seizures. This use is always dangerous and can quickly lead to a number of issues.
Clonazepam Abuse and Dependence
People who abuse clonazepam will become dependent if they continue to do so for more than a few weeks. Regular, long-term abuse of this drug can easily lead to tolerance and addiction as well. However, those who take clonazepam even as recommended by their doctors can become dependent on and tolerant to the drug’s effects. This is one of the reasons why it is so dangerous, as many people think drugs prescribed by a doctor won’t cause any problematic side effects.
Any time a person becomes dependent on a drug like clonazepam, they need to be weaned off it slowly in order to avoid withdrawal. Sadly, many people aren’t aware of this, and withdrawal can occur as soon as a dependent individual stops taking the drug.
Sometimes, clonazepam dependent people stop taking their medication because they feel they no longer need it. Other times, people who have been abusing the drug no longer have access to more. No matter what, stopping the drug’s use suddenly when you are dependent will lead to withdrawal.
The NIDA states that withdrawal is the process of the body readjusting to not having the drug after becoming dependent on it. In some instances, the symptoms are mild and may only require minimal treatment. However, clonazepam causes some of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms associated with any drug dependency syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms of Clonazepam Withdrawal
Clonazepam withdrawal can cause a host of symptoms both physical and psychological. Many of them can spill over into affecting the behavior of the individual (especially the most dangerous symptoms), so it is easy to identify if someone is going through this syndrome. Clonazepam withdrawal is typical of benzodiazepine withdrawal and can cause these symptoms
- Panic attacks
- Concentration problems
- Perceptual changes
- Muscle pain
- Weight loss
- Increased muscle tension
- Mood swings
These symptoms all cause discomfort in the individual. Some people may experience more intense symptoms, according to the medical journal Addiction, such as
- Violent behavior
- Pins and needles feeling
- Muscle contractions or spasms
- Temporary paralysis
Because the medication is specifically used to treat seizures, individuals going through clonazepam withdrawal are in even more danger of experiencing this symptom. However, it is extremely difficult to predict whether or not someone will experience any of these symptoms, so treatment in a detox center that offers intensive care is often necessary.
Timeline of Clonazepam Withdrawal
Clonazepam withdrawal usually lasts about three weeks, generally speaking, although this can be different depending on the individual, the severity of their symptoms, and other variables. Most individuals experience the most severe symptoms in the first week or so of withdrawal.
- Week 1: The first 72 hours are usually when people are most vulnerable to seizures, psychosis, and other dangerous symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms could still occur, however, as late as the seventh day of the syndrome. People also struggle with headaches, depression, discomfort, and nausea.
- Week 2: Although the second week will usually see the individual experiencing nausea and other physical effects, these will begin to subside by the end of the week. The individual will usually no longer be in danger of experiencing psychosis or seizures at this point. They will grapple with sleep disturbances, lose weight, and likely feel extremely anxious, depressed, and irritable.
- Week 3: Withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside by the end of this week. Insomnia and depression may still occur, but the physical symptoms will subside. Most people are able to feel like themselves again by the end of week three.
PAWS is the term for the post-acute withdrawal syndrome that occurs after withdrawal ends. For clonazepam dependent individuals, PAWS can sometimes last between a few weeks and a few months. Usually, people experience long-lasting malaise, depression, anxiety, and mental fog. PAWS is incredibly common, and going through detox will help ensure that you have the tools to cope with these symptoms during recovery.
Dangers of Clonazepam Withdrawal
Clonazepam withdrawal can be extremely dangerous. Unlike some drug withdrawal syndromes that only last one week, it can last as long as three, and its PAWS can last several months. Also, many of the potential symptoms associated with it can be extremely dangerous.
- People who experience psychosis as a result of clonazepam withdrawal can become delirious, delusional, and a danger to themselves and others. Often, hallucinations, depersonalization, violent behavior, and other serious side effects occur that can cause the need for sedation during withdrawal (Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior).
- Seizures are a serious risk of clonazepam withdrawal because the drug itself is used to treat them. Therefore, anyone who experiences seizures regularly will do so again after being taken off the drug, and those who didn’t might because of the drug’s withdrawal effects.
- Relapse is always a dangerous potential side effect of withdrawal, but it is especially severe with benzodiazepines. Those who try to go back to using the drug often don’t realize their tolerances have diminished, which can lead them to overdosing on a small amount of the drug.
- A benzodiazepine overdose can cause respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, coma, brain damage, and even death. It is more likely that a person will overdose if they relapse during or after withdrawal than any other time in their abuse of these dangerous drugs.
It is always important to keep in mind how dangerous clonazepam withdrawal is, especially if you or someone you love is thinking of going through the experience without the proper treatment.
Am I Dependent on Clonazepam?
Determining whether or not you are dependent on clonazepam can be difficult but asking yourself the questions below can make the issue clearer.
- Do you abuse clonazepam regularly?
- Do you take the drug every day?
- Have you been taking it for more than a few weeks?
- Are you unsure of what you would do if you weren’t able to get access to the drug?
- Have you ever experienced fear, anxiety, irritability, or other symptoms when you couldn’t obtain more clonazepam?
- Are you worried you rely on clonazepam too much (to get out of bed in the morning, to fall asleep at night, etc.)?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is a red flag that you are already dependent on the drug. If you are abusing it, you are probably addicted too.
Should I Go through Clonazepam Withdrawal at Home?
No. Going through clonazepam withdrawal at home is extremely dangerous. Because you could experience seizures, psychosis, or other serious side effects suddenly and without warning, you should instead seek a safe treatment facility—like a detox center—that will be able to offer you clonazepam withdrawal help. Preferably, this center should offer inpatient treatment, as you cannot be certain if you will experience the dangerous side effects of withdrawal.
Clonazepam Detox Treatment
Medically assisted clonazepam withdrawal treatment (or detox) usually involves medications that can treat your symptoms and help wean you off the drug. In most cases, a different type of benzodiazepine is used to treat your symptoms and to stabilize you while you are slowly weaned off the drug.
- Clonazepam itself can also be tapered off, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. When this occurs, the patient is given smaller and smaller amounts of the drug on a specific schedule in order to ensure they do not experience dangerous symptoms.
- If psychosis or seizures occur, the patient may be sedated more heavily in order to safely get through these symptoms.
- Behavioral therapies and other options may be used during detox depending on the patient’s specific needs.
What Happens After Detox?
After detox, those who were addicted to clonazepam will need to attend rehab. Detox itself is only a treatment for dependence and cannot treat addiction. You may choose to attend more than one rehab program or different aftercare options once your initial treatment has ended. Many people choose long-term care or multiple treatment programs in order to help them stay sober and healthy throughout their lives.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Clonazepam.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Misuse of Prescription Drugs- Which Classes of Prescription Drugs are Commonly Misused?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says- 8: Medical Detoxification.
- Addiction. (1994). The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome.
- Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. (n.d.). Benzodiazepine Addiction.
- Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. (2010). Tapering Clonazepam in Patients with Panic Disorder After at Least 3 Years of Treatment.