Klonopin® is the trade name of clonazepam, a benzodiazepine approved by the FDA to treat seizure disorders and anxiety disorders. Klonopin was patented in the 1960’s and became available in the US in 1975. Since then, it has become a commonly abused recreational drug for its relaxing effects.
How Does Clonazepam Work?
Clonazepam increases gamma amino-butyric acid in the brain, which is more commonly known as GABA. The neurotransmitter works by inhibiting the central nervous system, creating a sense of ease, comfort, and muscle relaxation. Because it acts on the GABA receptors, withdrawal and detox from clonazepam can be quite uncomfortable and physically dangerous.
Klonopin has a longer half-life than many other benzodiazepines. The half-life of a drug is how long it stays in your system, and clonazepam’s is over twice as long as the related drug alprazolam (Xanax®). This makes clonazepam better suited for longer term care of anxiety disorders, and alprazolam more effective in short-term interventions. However, the long half-life leads to a long withdrawal process as it can take weeks or months for the drug to leave the system completely.
Like all benzodiazepines, Klonopin has a very high risk for abuse and addiction. The body becomes increasingly resistant to its effects, which prompts the individual to ingest higher or more frequent doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects. Over time, the brain will adapt to the chemical response to the Klonopin, eventually causing the individual to become chemically dependent on the drug. Klonopin is both psychologically and physically addictive.
Klonopin withdrawal can be serious or fatal if not treated properly. As such, it is not advisable to stop taking clonazepam “cold turkey.” Generally, your doctor will wean you off the drug slowly over time in order to minimize discomfort and danger. It’s important to come off benzodiazepines correctly in order to maintain your health and comfort.
Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms
The severity of symptoms in withdrawing from clonazepam depends largely on the individual. Factors in severity of withdrawal symptoms include amount of use, length of use, the individual’s health, and the presence of any co-occurring disorders.
Klonopin withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Hallucinations and/or nightmares
- Memory loss/lapses
- Irritability and mood swings
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- High blood pressure
- Impaired motor control
- Depression, fatigue, and lack of motivation
Psychological Symptoms of Withdrawal
Like the withdrawal process from many substances, coming off Klonopin can cause intense psychological symptoms. An individual coming off this benzodiazepine may experience waking hallucinations, intense nightmares, pervasive sadness, heightened anxiety and panic, severe drug cravings, and bouts of anger or rage.
Those detoxing from Klonopin use are at a heightened risk of suicidal ideations. Along with the previously mentioned psychological symptoms that may arise, this makes Klonopin withdrawal a dangerous process to go through alone. With proper medical attention and therapeutic care, these psychological symptoms can be eased in order to help the person detox with minimal discomfort.
Physical Symptoms of Withdrawal
As clonazepam impacts the GABA receptors in the brain, the withdrawal process is physically dangerous as well. When suddenly ceasing Klonopin use, an individual may experience headaches, nausea, shaking, irregular sleep patterns, heightened blood pressure, dizziness, muscle tension and spasms, and irregular bowel movements.
In addition, more severe cases of Klonopin withdrawal can result in the individual having seizures or falling into a coma. It’s important to know that the detox process can be incredibly dangerous and fatal. The physical symptoms of withdrawal make it imperative that you seek professional medical help when coming off Klonopin.
Klonopin Withdrawal Timeline
Because Klonopin is a long-acting benzodiazepine, the withdrawal process takes time and patience. Generally, withdrawal symptoms begin arising 2 or 3 days after the last use, which is when it begins to leave your system. During this time, an individual is likely to experience anxiety, insomnia, heightened blood pressure, fatigue, and mental confusion or memory lapses. During this period, the cravings for more clonazepam are often strong.
After a couple weeks, the acute withdrawal symptoms generally begin to subside. However, an individual may experience continued physical and psychological discomfort for weeks or months after. The longer-term withdrawal symptoms are often more mild, but may include anxiety, irregular sleeping patterns, and increased sensitivity to stress.
The timeline of withdrawal depends on the nature of the use and the individual’s biology. The longer you used Klonopin, the more likely you are to experience a lengthy withdrawal process.
Klonopin Withdrawal Help
If you or somebody you know is coming off Klonopin, it is crucial to seek help. Without professional help, Klonopin withdrawal can be lethal. In addition to the physical dangers, the cravings from withdrawing can be overwhelming and lead the person to abruptly stop the detox process and revert to the Klonopin.
Unfortunately, Klonopin withdrawal needs to be monitored by professionals even if you’ve been taking it as prescribed. With a trained medical team, you can come off clonazepam and stay completely safe. At a quality treatment center or detox, you may be treated with medications, constant monitoring of vital signs, and therapy. This level of care helps ensure your safety and comfort throughout this difficult process.
Comprehensive Treatment for Dependence on Klonopin
Some may be so happy to have successfully completed the Klonopin detox and withdrawal process that they make the mistake of thinking they do not need addiction treatment. While that is understandable, it would be a significant misstep in the goal to remain Klonopin-free. This is because the drug is psychologically addicting, and has resulted in a thought-behavior response that keeps the individual hostage to the addiction cycle.
Overcoming a Klonopin addiction relies heavily on changing those distorted thought and behavior patterns. This is only achieved through a structured rehab program using evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and others. The individual in recovery must replace their response to triggers with new healthy responses, and this process takes time, practice, and patience. CBT, combined with several other treatment elements within a comprehensive program, provide the interventions needed to achieve a sustained recovery from Klonopin addiction.
An integrative rehab program will include the following:
Psychotherapy: The centerpiece of addiction treatment is evidence-based psychotherapy. These one-on-one talk therapy sessions are essential in helping patients examine the underlying factors that may be contributing to the substance abuse.
Group therapy: Peer support is an important aspect of establishing trust bonds that can foster a source of mutual support while in treatment. In group therapy, the members of the small group will be invited to openly share their personal feelings and experiences with the others, while under the guidance of a clinician.
Family therapy: Addiction can significantly impact the family dynamic, causing broken trust, financial troubles, and codependency. Family group therapy helps family members address any frustrations or ask questions about how best to support their loved one’s recovery.
Dual diagnosis treatment: Klonopin is often prescribed for patients with an anxiety disorder. When treating the individual for the Klonopin addiction it is important to also address the co-occurring anxiety disorder at the same time for the best recovery result.
Complimentary therapies: Treatment of a Klonopin dependency will be enhanced when complimentary therapies are added to the treatment protocol. Holistic and experiential therapies can help patients learn techniques to help regulate the stress response associated with benzodiazepine addiction. These activities are included in treatment to help reduce anxiety, which can in effect augment treatment results. After the patient has completed treatment, they are able to access these same therapies and incorporate them into their aftercare plan. The activities may include yoga, meditation, art or music therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, mindfulness exercises, equine therapy, journaling, and aromatherapy.
Continuing care planning: Completion of a comprehensive rehabilitation program is the first important step on the recovery journey, but just as important is the continuing care planning that will follow treatment. Recovery exists on a continuum, meaning that ongoing efforts will help ensure that recovery is sustained over time. These measures can include scheduling weekly therapy sessions, living in a sober living home during the early months of recovery, and participation in a recovery community.