Clonazepam, also known as Klonopin, falls under the class of Benzodiazepine drugs. In most cases, physicians prescribe these drugs to treat medical issues such as seizures, panic attacks, anxiety disorders, restless leg syndrome and mania. Clonazepam acts rather quickly when taken and produces a calming effect on the body. It works by reducing the excess electrical brain activity that occurs when someone is having anxiety, a seizure or sudden panic attack. Because of this drug’s speed and efficiency, it is commonly combined with other illegal or prescription drugs and alcohol. This combination helps to enhance the drug’s impact or to reduce anxiety or nervousness that may be a side effect of these other substances. In addition, Clonazepam can produce hypnotic and muscle-relaxing effects, which draws many people to use the drug for nonmedical purposes. Due to Clonazepam’s high abuse rate, most mental health counselors and addition therapy specialists regard it as one of today’s most harmful substances.
Clonazepam: How is it Used
Clonazepam is most often abused by oral means or through snorting methods, as snorting can produce an even greater high. Scientific literature suggests the effects of snorting Clonazepam are similar to the effects of snorting other Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax. While snorting allows the user to quickly obtain the drug’s relaxation and entrancing effects, serious symptoms can occur, such as:
- Slowed heart rate
- Cessation of breathing
- Erosion of nose structure
- Enhancement of dangerous side effects if combined with other depressants, such as alcohol.
Effects of Clonazepam and Signs of Abuse
Clonazepam may cause a variety of side effects, many of which can be dangerous if someone is abusing the drug. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states a 2006 study showed over 33,000 trips to the emergency room because of nonmedical use of the drug. Let’s take a closer look at the short and long term effects of this medication.
- Clonazepam’s Short Term Effects This medication produces a fast acting effect of relaxation, by calming electrical brain activity that is overactive (commonly seen during an anxiety attack). It will decrease feelings of agitation and anxiety, which can lead to someone abusing Clonazepam on a recreational basis. Drowsiness can also occur after taking this medication, so it is advised that the user not operate a car or machinery until he or she is familiar with the effects of the drug.
- Clonazepam’s Long Term Effects Long term effects of the drug, or side effects from someone taking a large dose of the drug in a short amount of time, can include confusion, coordination issues, excess salivation, increased urination, inactivity and weakness, lack of concentration, behavioral changes, and sleepiness. Serious side effects can include difficulty or cessation of breathing, dangerously slow heart rates, and altered mental states or thoughts of suicide. While a drastic change in mental state or suicidal tendency is rare, it is a documented side effect of Clonazepam. Long-term use of the drug is also reported to lead to risky behavior such as unsafe sex, more serious drug use, or driving while under the influence.
Clonazepam Addiction and Secondary Drug Abuse
It is not difficult to develop a Clonazepam or Klonopin addiction, due to the medication’s quick tolerance, unusually long half-life and addictive qualities. Most often, Clonazepam is used as a secondary drug along with other drug and alcoholic substances. In fact, 95 percent of those addicted to the medication report abusing it with another substance. The majority of these admissions were from non-Hispanic white females, between the ages of 18 and 34. Another startling statistic involving the drug and women is from The Drug Abuse Warning Network, who states emergency room visits for suicide attempts between 2005 -2006 involving Clonazepam and females, increased by 84 percent.
Benzodiazepine, which is the class of drug Clonazepam falls under, was ranked fifth in 2011 of most commonly abused substances. Many cases of abuse begin when someone starts self-medicating with Clonazepam to deal with stress, peer pressure, a traumatic event, depression or anxiety. Benzodiazepines are documented as habit-forming substances. Users will need more of the drug over time to produce the desired effect, as their body will become tolerant. This fact, along with withdrawal symptoms that can occur when someone stops taking Clonazepam, are main factors regarding developing an addiction to the drug.
Recovery from Clonazepam Addiction
Many people have successfully recovered from a Clonazepam addiction. It is important to note that withdrawal side effects can be severe or painful if someone completely stops taking the drug after using it for an extended amount of time. In these cases, users are often directed to titrate the dosage down until the body is no longer dependent. Severe withdrawal symptoms can include seizures, anxiousness, suicidal thoughts, headaches and insomnia. Slowly titrating down has also been shown to decrease the rate of suicide, and should be done under the supervision of a physician or addiction rehabilitation center. Research shows most people addicted to Klonopin or Clonazepam are unable to recover on their own without outside supervision and help, which highlights the need for addiction recovery support to help users deal with the psychological and physical issues that occur during the detoxification process.