Clonazepam Addiction

Dr. Vilma Ruddock
woman with pills

People who misuse and abuse clonazepam can become addicted to the benzodiazepine. Most people start misusing the prescription medicine because they are abusing or are addicted to other drugs. According to a 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report, between 1998 and 2008 the number of people seeking treatment for benzodiazepine (benzo) abuse or addiction had an almost threefold increase from 22,400 to 60,200.

Some Statistics on Clonazepam Use and Abuse

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) notes that in the United States:

  • Out of almost 27 million prescriptions, clonazepam was the third most prescribed benzo in the United States in 2011.
  • It was the second most diverted benzo for illegal misuse in the same year.
  • There were close to 11,000 reports of tests positive for clonazepam in U. S. forensic labs; the second most common after Xanax (alprazolam).
  • Clonazepam was also the second most common reason for benzodiazepine-related emergency room visits in 2010 for abuse or addiction - almost 33,000 out of about 345,700 visits .

Symptoms and Signs of Addiction to Clonazepam

Short-term use of clonazepam (brand name, Klonopin) in the usual doses, frequency, and route prescribed by a doctor has a low risk of addiction. The path to addiction can start with misuse of clonazepam prescribed for legitimate medical purposes, getting extra prescriptions by fraudulent means, or using clonazepam diverted to the illegal street market.

Long-term use of more frequent or higher doses of the drug or using it by unintended routes can lead to addiction. According to a review by drugabuse.com, symptoms and signs that someone is addicted to clonazepam can include the following.

Impaired Ability to Function

Benzos depress the activity of areas of the brain. Therefore, addiction to clonazepam can cause the following noticeable impairments in your body's ability to function:

  • You feel tired, drowsy, or sleepy all the time, which makes it difficult to concentrate or drive safely.
  • Your speech becomes slurred.
  • You have difficulty with your balance, coordination, and walking.
  • You develop problems with your memory and learning.
  • Your have decreased motivation, attention, and focus, which can affect your daily life.
  • You can also have confusion and impaired judgement of your surroundings and your life.

With severe clonazepam abuse or addiction, you might also have episodes of anxiety and depression, seizures, delirium, hallucinations, or a psychosis.

Tolerance to the Drug's Effects

When you become a habitual abuser of clonazepam, you soon develop tolerance to the effects of the drug. This means you start taking higher and higher and more frequent doses to achieve the same drug high and sedative effects. Tolerance continues the cycle of escalating clonazepam abuse and addiction.

Psychological and Physical Dependence

Physical and a psychological dependence are common symptoms of drug abuse and addiction. You can develop these symptoms early in your abuse of clonazepam as you take increasingly higher doses:

  • Physical dependence: Long-term use of high doses of clonazepam causes the brain to adapt to a new level of function only in the presence of the benzodiazepine. This causes withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug abruptly. These symptoms include anxiety, jitteriness, palpitations, and insomnia.
  • Psychological dependence: A clonazepam user can become psychologically dependent on the drug because he feels he cannot function without its effects. He might fear the possibility that without clonazpam, he will become uncontrollably anxious and unable to function.

The fear of withdrawal effects due to physical dependence and the psychological attachment to the drug are what make people continue taking clonazepam.

Drug Craving

An involuntary, compulsive craving for the drug is another symptom of an addiction to clonazepam. The hard-to-control drug craving:

  • Occurs because of the changes in neurotransmitters in the brain that occur with long-term use of high and frequent doses of the drug
  • Causes the addict the actively seek the drug despite the risks and consequences
  • Can drive the user to go to great lengths, including illegal routes, to obtain the benzo

Clonazepam drug craving and drug seeking might cause feelings of isolation and lead you to neglect of your finances, family, friends, work, or school.

Use of the Drug by Alternate Routes

One of the paths to addiction to clonazepam, and a sign of your addiction, is if you are using the benzodiazepine by an alternate route instead of by mouth.

Crushing and snorting clonazepam is the most common route an addict abuses the drug, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) fact sheet. Snorting the medicine increases the risk of adverse effects and fatal overdose.

Taking Clonazepam With Other Drugs

Addiction to clonazepam might be a sign you are also addicted to or abusing another substance or substances. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), clonazepam and other benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, are rarely abused by themselves.

People who become addicted to the fast-acting clonazepam often start misusing it to:

  • Pills and alcohol
    Increase the high and other effects of their drug of choice, such an opioid
  • Lessen some of the side effects of the other abused substance, such as heroin, alcohol, or methadone; clonazepam is a popular drug for addicts on methadone maintenance
  • Deal with the other drugs' withdrawal symptoms, such as a hangover in alcoholics, or the effects of alcohol intoxication

NIDA writes that 80 percent of benzodiazepine abusers are also using another substance of choice, usually an opioid. Fifteen percent of heroin users and up to 90 percent of methadone users also take a benzodiazepine. These combinations can increase the risk of overdose and other serious consequences.

Risk of Overdose

Clonazepam abusers and addicts risk accidental overdosage when they use the drug in doses higher or more frequently than what physicians usually prescribe. Overdosage can lead to:

  • woman lying unconscious
    Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory and cardiac depression
  • Coma and death

These consequences are more likely to happen when clonazepam is combined with other addictive substances, such as alcohol and opioids, that also depress the central nervous system.

Usual Prescribed Doses

The Federal Drug Administration Medication Guide (page 17) notes the maximum recommended daily dose of clonazepam ranges from 4 milligrams for panic disorder to 20 milligrams for seizure disorders. People addicted to clonazepam, however, generally use much higher doses in their attempt to achieve their desired effects or overcome tolerance to the drug.

Treatment and Recovery From Clonazepam Addiction

If you feel you are addicted to clonazepam and want to stop using it, have an open, honest talk with your doctor. It's best to come off the benzo under your doctor's guidance or with medical supervision through an addiction treatment center. In this way, you will have the best plan, resources, and support you need to get off clonazepam safely and off other substances you are using with it.

Don't Stop Cold Turkey

Don't stop using clonazepam cold turkey. If you do, you can have severe withdrawal symptoms you will find hard to handle alone, including seizures and suicidal thoughts.

The better route to recovery is to taper the drug slowly over days to a few weeks depending on the level of your addiction. By weaning and detoxing from clonazepam, you can avoid many of the harsh withdrawal symptoms that send people back to the drug and to a continuing cycle of addiction.

Avoid Clonazepam Abuse and Addiction

To prevent clonazepam abuse and addiction, only take the drug if and as prescribed by a doctor. Stay on clonazepam for a short time only, unless your doctor has no alternative, non-addictive medicines. In, addition, avoid illegal sources of the drug. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about addiction to clonazepam.

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Clonazepam Addiction