Klonopin (a.k.a. clonazepam) is a prescription benzodiazepine medication. It is primarily used to relieve anxiety, but Klonopin can also be used to reduce seizure activity (anticonvulsant), relax muscles, and produce sedation. The drug is known to have amnestic (causes memory deficits) and hypnotic (induces sleep) properties as well. Because of the way it acts on the body, Klonopin can be more dangerous than many illicit drugs when taken improperly. Withdrawal from any benzodiazepine can be life threatening.
What Does It Treat?
Klonopin is generally used to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorder, seizures, Tourette syndrome, and insomnia. It is also used frequently to help alcoholics recover from addiction and avoid withdrawal symptoms. Like alcohol and other benzodiazepines, clonazepam binds to a specific neurotransmitter receptor called the GABA(A) receptor. GABA(A) is an inhibitory receptor and, when activated, reduces neural activity in the central nervous system (CNS). This is how clonazepam produces its sedative and anxiolytic effects.
Why Is It Addictive?
Addiction to Klonopin generally starts as physical dependence, which is a physiologic reaction to the drug in higher and higher doses of the drug need to be consumed, over time, to achieve the same effects. This leads to physical dependence and, ultimately, to the psychological dependence that characterizes addiction. When taken in large quantities, Klonopin can produce hallucinations and make people feel calm. It is for these reasons that Klonopin abuse usually begins.
The entire class of benzodiazepines work in a manner similar to Klonopin. Drugs in this class include Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and nearly a dozen others. All are prescription drugs with legitimate medical uses.
Barbiturates are similar in effect to Klonopin as well. Drugs in this class include phenobarbital, Trapanal, and many others. Barbiturates have analgesic (pain-relieving) properties as well and have legitimate medical uses in controlling seizures.
It is important to note that alcohol works in a manner similar to both benzodiazepines and barbiturates. In fact, all three of these substances bind to GABA channels and decrease activity in the CNS. This is why mixing any of these drugs can be deadly. Their combined effects can stop respiration (breathing), cause irregular heartbeats, or lead to coma.
On the street, Klonopin and other benzodiazepines might be referred to as tranks, downers, or benzos. Klonopin itself is often called K-pin, K, Pin, or Super Valium. It is important to note that most Klonopin abuse/addiction leads to purchase of the drug on the street, which can be dangerous if it is cut or mixed with other substances.
Klonopin Addiction Symptoms
Signs of Klonopin abuse include taking more than is prescribed by a doctor, taking it for non-medical purposes, developing an increased tolerance for the drug, seeing multiple doctors to get Klonopin (i.e. doctor shopping), forging Klonopin prescriptions, undergoing Klonopin withdrawal when not taking it, and continued use of Klonopin to avoid withdrawal symptoms. In severe cases, individuals may experience hallucinations, impaired motor function, mental confusion, and difficulty staying awake. The continued use of Klonopin despite obvious adverse effects is the definition of abuse.
Klonopin Side Effects
The most common side effects of Klonopin include drowsiness, low blood pressure, mental confusion, and a general feeling of slowness. More severe effects include easy bruising, heart arrhythmias, thoughts of suicide, seizures, and memory problems. Many people who use Klonopin complain of a runny/stuffy nose.
Klonopin and Alcohol
Because the mechanism of action of Klonopin is similar to that of alcohol, the two should never be used together. Many people abuse both drugs, which can lead to increased severity of withdrawal symptoms or even death. Oddly enough, Klonopin and other benzodiazepines are often used to reduce the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal (and to reduce the symptoms of Klonopin withdrawal) by tapering the dose of drug over time to allow the body to adjust.
Klonopin vs Xanax
Xanax and Klonopin are both prescription benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety and other medical conditions. The biggest differences between the two are their onsets and durations of action. Klonopin is slow to take action, but also provides longer symptoms relief. It is generally taken every twelve hours. Xanax is quick to act, but is also cleared from the body quickly. It is generally taken every four to six hours. Both drugs can be abused.
Klonopin withdrawal is similar to alcohol withdrawal. It is characterized by sweating, tremors, anxiety, and muscle cramps. In severe cases, Klonopin withdrawal leads to seizures, hallucinations, and psychosis. Withdrawal from Klonopin can be life threatening.
Treatment for Klonopin abuse follows the same standards as treatment of alcohol abuse. Individuals generally go through a period of medical detox while the drug clears from their system. Medical detox is then followed by inpatient or outpatient therapy aimed at addressing the behavioral aspects of addiction. As with alcohol, Klonopin addiction is considered a lifelong illness and abstinence is actively maintained through support groups and ongoing cognitive behavioral therapy.
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