Klonopin is a commonly prescribed benzodiazepine or benzo. Like all benzos, Klonopin is a Schedule IV controlled substance. This means that it has a risk of abuse, dependence and addiction. Although a benzo addiction can be difficult to overcome on your own, medical help and treatment strategies can help you to leave benzos behind and live a Klonopin-free life.
What is Klonopin?
Klonopin is a brand name for the benzo clonazepam. It also has slang street names, including K-Cuts, K-Pins, Super Valium and Pins. The brand name version of the drug is available as a tablet with a K-shaped indentation. The drug works by enhancing gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, slowing down brain activity in the central nervous system. The drug is FDA-approved for seizures and panic disorders, but doctors can also prescribe it off-label for other conditions.
Anti-Anxiety Prescriptions: The Next Epidemic
Before COVID-19, doctors were celebrating a more than 12% decrease in benzo use over the previous several years. Between February 16 and March 15, 2020, prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications (like benzodiazepines) increased by more than 34%.
Klonopin and other benzos have long been drugs of abuse, with at least one New Jersey doctor indicted in early 2020 on charges of distributing controlled substances (including Klonopin) with no medical reason. In 2017 alone, there were almost 1,500 hospital visits in New Jersey involving benzos.
Klonopin addiction has affected celebrity lives as well, sometimes with tragic consequences. Although Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks and actress Lena Dunham have overcome their Klonopin struggles, others have not been so fortunate. Actress Brittany Murphy died in 2009, with Klonopin likely contributing to her death from pneumonia. Disc jockey Adam Goldstein, better known as DJ AM, also died in 2009 of a drug overdose involving Klonopin.
Klonopin Side Effects
Like all drugs, Klonopin has side effects. Most commonly, its side effects include:
- Drowsiness, which occurs in about 50% of people
- Movement difficulties, which happen in about 30% of people
- Behavior changes and difficulties, which happen in around 25% of people and are most likely to occur in people with a history of mental health struggles
Signs of Klonopin Abuse
Signs often start to emerge as a person begins to struggle with a dependence on Klonopin. Substance abuse symptoms include:
- Withdrawing socially from family or old friends
- Spending excessive time with new friends
- Ceasing previously pleasurable activities
- Having mood swings
- Being Irritable
- Having trouble sleeping or sleeping at odd times
- Forgetting appointments or deadlines
- Having problems at work, school or with family
- Exhibiting reckless behavior
- Having legal problems
Because benzos are controlled substances, health care workers are cautious about prescribing them. Often, people struggling with benzos show drug-seeking behaviors around health care workers. These include:
- Being overly assertive with the health care worker
- Having an unusual knowledge about controlled substances like Klonopin and requesting specific substances
- Having no regular doctor or missing followup appointments when they are scheduled
- Asking for a new Klonopin prescription or refills before they are due
- Being interested only in getting a Klonopin prescription, and not their medical diagnosis
- Asking their pharmacy to fill their Klonopin earlier than it is due
- Claiming the pharmacy did not dispense as much Klonopin as the label states
- Claiming they lost or that someone stole their Klonopin
- Seeing multiple doctors to get Klonopin prescriptions
- Giving the pharmacy a forged Klonopin prescription
- Going to urgent care or the emergency room for Klonopin
Signs of a Klonopin overdose are similar to signs of an overdose with other benzos. These signs include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Coordination problems
- Reflex problems
- Slowed breathing
- Profound sedation
A Klonopin overdose can be fatal. If you suspect someone is overdosing on Klonopin, you should seek medical attention immediately. The opioid reversal agent naloxone will not work on a benzo overdose.
That said, benzos are commonly implicated in opioid overdoses. More than 30% of opioid overdoses also involve benzos. The FDA has a Black Box Warning on Klonopin and all other benzos about the overdose risks of taking benzos and opioids together.
Klonopin withdrawal is a serious concern. In September 2020, the FDA strengthened its Black Box Warning about the dangers of benzos, specifically about the risk of abuse, dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
Because Klonopin is a long-acting benzo, withdrawal symptoms can start 2–7 days after the last dose of the drug and can last for eight weeks or longer. Symptoms do not necessarily follow a fixed time course and can fluctuate during the withdrawal process. Klonopin withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Sleep problems
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Muscle problems like tension and aches
In severe cases, a seizure can also occur. For these reasons, a person coming off Klonopin should consider doing so in a medically-supervised setting. In a supervised medical detox setting, withdrawal symptoms can be treated so the person can wean off Klonopin in the most comfortable way possible.
A Klonopin taper, or slowly reducing the Klonopin dose over time, is one of the best ways to come off a benzo. Tapers can help to avoid or minimize withdrawal symptoms. Often, the person will switch from Klonopin to diazepam, sold under the brand name Valium. Because diazepam is one of the longest-acting benzos, it is the drug of choice to wean a person off other benzos.
Taper schedules can vary widely depending on the person. The time between each dose decrease often depends on whether the person is having any withdrawal symptoms on their current dose. It’s therefore vital to follow your doctor’s instructions exactly when tapering your Klonopin dose. Addiction specialists and treatment facilities often have the best training to assist you in this process.
Klonopin Treatment Options
Multiple treatment options are available to help you wean off Klonopin and stay off the drug long term. The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper has a variety of treatment settings and strategies for you to choose from. Each option will support you as you overcome your struggle with benzos and is tailored to your needs by our experts. Treatment choices include:
- Medical Detox: In medical detox, you are admitted to an inpatient facility where you come off benzos under medical supervision. Our staff can create a custom benzo taper schedule to fit your needs and help you avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- Residential Rehab: Detox alone is unlikely to keep a person benzo-free. In our residential rehab program, you continue to stay in an inpatient setting after your system is clear of benzos. Here, you can heal without distractions from the outside world. Individual and group therapy during this time helps you explore why you began to rely on Klonopin and prepares you for life without the drug.
- Outpatient Rehab: After residential rehab is complete, you may be ready to start facing the outside world. In outpatient rehab, you continue to have therapy sessions at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, either in person or via teletherapy. Meanwhile, you can begin to start your benzo-free life.
- Aftercare: After rehab is complete, the lifelong process of aftercare begins. Aftercare provides long-term support to address and prevent any slips or relapses and often consists of support groups and relapse prevention plans.
- Dual Diagnosis: Underlying mental health issues are common in those who come to rely on substances like Klonopin. By addressing both the Klonopin addiction and the underlying mental health disorder at the same time, you stand a better chance of overcoming both. For this reason, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper offers a dual diagnosis program to help you heal from both Klonopin and a mental health struggle.
Doctors can prescribe Klonopin for a variety of medical conditions. However, it is FDA-approved for seizures and panic disorder.
The definition of a high dose depends on several factors. If you are just starting the medication, a high dose is anything over a total of 1.5 mg in 24 hours for seizures. Anything over 0.5 mg in 24 hours is high for panic disorder. For individuals already on the medication, a high dose for seizures is anything over 20 mg daily. For panic disorder, it’s anything over 1 mg daily. The definition of a high dose for children depends on their weight. A higher dose for seizures in childhood is measured at 0.2 mg of the drug per 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of body weight.
Klonopin is a long-acting benzo and can stay in your system for days, depending on what is being tested. Klonopin and its breakdown product can be detected in urine for up to 4 days. The drug can be detected in saliva for up to 2 days. It can also be detected in hair, with a 1.5-inch hair sample showing Klonopin use in the past 90 days.
It is possible to overdose on Klonopin, especially if you are taking other central nervous system depressants like opioids. The FDA has issued a Black Box Warning about the overdose risks of Klonopin.
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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.