Clonazepam, which is also referred to as Klonopin, is a prescription medication that is in the benzodiazepine categoryof drugs. Benzo drugs are known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants that cause anxiolytic and sedative effects.
The drugs are highly effective in treating the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. Additionally, benzos are used to treat insomnia, epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and restless leg syndrome. These many ailments are why the drugs are sought by many people.
In the United States, an estimated CDC aged 18 or over struggle with insomnia and other sleep disorders, and another 40 million adults struggle with anxiety annually. With such high levels of people experiencing these disorders that, at times, can be crippling, it’s easy to understand why Klonopin and other benzos are sought out to treat their ailments.
As you may expect if you are familiar with benzodiazepines, long-term use of drugs such as Klonopin has the potential to cause chemical dependency and addiction. Many of those who use the drug will become tolerant to its effects, which will lead to dependence in a few weeks’ time.
The side effects of long-term Klonopin use can be both physically and psychologically damaging. One of the most common problems that people experience is misusing Klonopin, which can lead to depression, and other co-occurring disorders. Other adverse health effects of long-term use include memory problems, dizziness, and loss of coordination.
Many people that abuse Klonopin frequently does so in conjunction with other substances, such as taking them to come down from cocaine or amphetamine. Some users regularly combine the drug with alcohol, which is not only dangerous but can be potentially fatal due to the sedative effects compounding those produced by Klonopin to slow down the heart rate and breathing. Breathing can slow to the point of causing oxygen deprivation and lead to death.
Klonopin is exceptionally addictive, and long-term abuse of the medication can lead you to experience Klonopin withdrawal symptoms with abrupt cessation. Like all benzos, detoxes from withdrawal can be dangerous, and without medical care, the extreme symptoms can be fatal.
The safest and most efficient way to avoid an overdose or death by withdrawal is to begin the addiction recovery journey and commit yourself to treatment. It is especially important when it comes to battling Klonopin withdrawal.
As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, Klonopin works similarly to other benzos by entering the brain and binding themselves to the brains GABA receptors. GABA, which is short for gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that helps the mind remain calm by regulating how it processes feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear. GABA does so by blocking nerve impulses that transmit those feelings throughout the brain and central nervous system.
Someone becomes dependent on Klonopin when their brain begins producing less of its own GABA and becomes reliant on the artificial GABA that Klonopin creates, and that is why when someone tries to stop taking the drug, or significantly reduce their dose, the body experiences a crash as GABA bottoms out.
Klonopin has the potential to cause severe withdrawal symptoms that affect the body, and someone going through Klonopin detox may experience a set of symptoms known as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Often, if someone has taken the drug for a long time, they will resort to other drugs that can alleviate the symptoms. Physical symptoms of Klonopin withdrawal include:
- Blurry vision
- Chest pain
- Dilated pupils
- Dry mouth
- Gastrointestinal distress like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Increased sensitivity
- Muscle spasms
Klonopin withdrawal can also produce unfathomable psychological symptoms. Some are likely to appear as the first sign of withdrawal, even during a tapering period. Psychological symptoms include:
- Akathisia – a movement disorder that’s brought on by a feeling of restlessness.
- Rebound anxiety
- Rebound insomnia
- Mood swings
- Dissociative disorder
- Panic attacks
What are the Stages of the Withdrawal Timeline?
There are varying factors that will influence the severity of withdrawal, as well as the time it can last. These include:
- How long someone was abusing Klonopin
- How much Klonopin they were taking and how frequently
- Whether they were abusing Klonopin at the same time as other drugs or alcohol
- How they were taking Klonopin (orally as a tablet, snorted as a crushed powder, etc.)
- If they have a co-occurring disorder or other mental health issues
- If they have a history of previous addictions
- If they experience benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome
- If they stop using Klonopin via a tapering schedule
If you were to wean off Klonopin, the symptoms might be mildly uncomfortable, and they can include anxiety or nausea. However, if you slow down quickly and stop abruptly, you can experience much more severe symptoms. A proper Klonopin taper should take up to two months to complete, but it is the safest option and a small price to pay for avoiding seizures or other dangerous symptoms.
Klonopin withdrawal will affect someone in two distinct phases — the first phase is the rebound stage, and the second portion is full-blown withdrawal. In terms of the timeline, it’s crucial to keep in mind the impact the above factors will contribute to someone’s personal withdrawal experience. It will usually go as follows:
- Days 1-4: Klonopin has a long half-life and can take anywhere from 18 to 50 hours before it exits your body, which means that it can sometimes be several days before the rebound stage initiates.
- Days 5-10: Once you have achieved a week sober from Klonopin, you may enter into the full withdrawal syndrome phase. It is characterized by more severe symptoms that include tremors, sweating, and irritability. In some cases, without medical supervision, symptoms such as seizures can be life-threatening.
- Three to four weeks: Even when you’ve achieved nearly a month clean from Klonopin, the withdrawal period can continue due to the long half-life of the drug. However, although many of the symptoms may be present, they will have weakened significantly and become easier to manage.
- One month and beyond: Once a former user has reached this point, Klonopin withdrawal symptoms should completely disappear. For heavier users, however, withdrawal symptoms can be present for months or even years, which is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
Why Should I Detox?
Detox is the process of medically weaning off a chemical that you’ve become physically dependent on. Skilled medical professionals can help alleviate the worst symptoms of withdrawal with a variety of medications they have at their disposal.
Klonopin withdrawal may also cause intense cravings and drug-seeking behavior. If you are weaning off benzos, you must commit yourself to treatment. The 24-hours of care is essential when coming off dangerous substances.
What is the Next Treatment Step?
After you have completed detox, you are likely to crave Klonopin still and have an urge to use. To continue on the path toward recovery that you’ve worked so hard for, it’s imperative that you continue addiction treatment. There are many options available, and it’s in your best interest to choose a program tailored to your individual needs.
Depending on the severity of the addiction, the specialists can recommend that you either attend long-term residential treatment, where you live on-site for up to 90 days or attend an outpatient program that allows you to go home once therapy sessions complete. Each case is unique and requires an approach as such.