person holding white round pills
round white pills

Klonopin is a powerful prescription medication used for anxiety, panic attacks, and seizures. It is a highly addictive benzodiazepine similar to Xanax, Ativan, and Valium. The drug is FDA-approved for panic and seizure disorders and is known for its long-acting, relaxant effects. It can also work for muscle spasms, sleep disorders, movement disorders, and vertigo. Unfortunately, many people abuse their prescription or get Klonopin without a prescription. This abuse can lead to an addiction.

What Is Klonopin?

Klonopin is a benzodiazepine that comes in pill form of varying dosages. The drug calms brain chemicals by boosting the effect of GABA (Gaba Amino Butyric Acid) in your brain and body. GABA is a neurotransmitter responsible for sending messages between cells. This leads to a calming effect.

The pharmaceutical industry developed benzodiazepines, “benzos,” to address patients with clinically significant anxiety. This is different from the general stress we all experience as part of daily life. They intended it to treat acute symptoms, such as helping people manage seizures or panic attacks. Sometimes, doctors prescribe benzodiazepines to ease anxiety and withdrawal symptoms from addictive substances.

These drugs cause you to develop a rapid tolerance, where you require more and more to achieve the same effects. For this reason, benzodiazepines are best for short-term needs. They are also used in combination with behavioral approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. As you become more adept at dealing with underlying anxiety and distress, your need for Klonopin should phase out.

Klonopin can bring a sense of relaxation and a euphoric high when you first start using it. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration1 classifies Klonopin as a Schedule IV drug. It has a moderate potential for abuse and physical dependence — even when used as a doctor prescribes.

Using a benzodiazepine for more than a month2 will cause a degree of tolerance in most people. If you use it for a longer period, you can expect to have some level of physical dependence. Developing physical dependence from prescribed medicinal use of the drug does not qualify a person as an “addict,” per se. However, you will still deal with the side effects and withdrawal symptoms of physical dependency. This is an issue, and you and your doctor must weigh the costs and benefits of prescribing such a drug to treat a chronic condition.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration3, 20.4 million people abuse benzodiazepines. Some people seek prescriptions for Klonopin to sell it or abuse it themselves. In addition, over 70% of people4,0,382.html who abuse prescription medications get them from friends and family members.

How Does Klonopin Work?

Klonopin is often called a sedative, tranquilizer, or anti-anxiety drug. It is a central nervous system depressant, which blocks special receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Klonopin increases the functioning of GABA, the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It revs up GABA production by suppressing the levels of other central nervous system neurons, resulting in less stress, anxiety, and alertness. It also produces pleasurable feelings of euphoria, a sense of well-being, and increased sociability. To maintain these feelings, a person might begin to use Klonopin more than prescribed or get it without a prescription.

The effects of Klonopin last relatively long compared to other sedatives and benzodiazepines. The half-life of Klonopin ranges from 18 to 39 hours, and people often experience the peak effects one to four hours afterward. Therefore, initially, they can achieve effects with very small doses.

Klonopin Abuse

Many people think Klonopin is safer than illegal street drugs because they can get it through a medical professional. This might be true if limited to clinically significant cases and also for short-term use. But if you take Klonopin incorrectly, the results can be dangerous. Once you become addicted to the drug, your brain can no longer produce feelings of calmness and well-being without it. For people taking Klonopin for anxiety, discontinuing a high dosage will cause more anxiety than they had before. People addicted to Klonopin often struggle to quit and can’t function normally without it.

Klonopin addiction begins when you build a tolerance to the drug. This means you need larger amounts to achieve the same effects that small doses once gave. A tolerance causes many people to start taking more than prescribed just to function normally.

Any use of Klonopin without a prescription is considered abuse. At high amounts, the drug causes a short, euphoric high followed by a lethargic, intoxicated stupor or sleepiness. Some people swallow tablets or let them dissolve on the tongue. Others crush pills into a fine powder, like cocaine, and snort them to get faster and more intense effects.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration5, benzo abuse tends to accompany abuse of other drugs. These drugs might include alcohol, narcotic pain medications, or other benzodiazepines.

Some signs that a person might be abusing Klonopin include:

  • Taking the drug without a prescription
  • Using more than prescribed or combining it with other drugs
  • Seeking more prescriptions from many doctors
  • Spending significant amounts of time to get the drug
  • Using in situations where it isn’t safe, such as at work or while driving
  • Using Klonopin to deal with small stressors versus panic attacks
  • Using Klonopin despite adverse effects and consequences
  • Showing an inability to stop or cut down using
  • Developing a significant tolerance
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Neglecting important activities and responsibilities
  • Having issues with attention, memory, and problem-solving
  • Experiencing moodiness
  • Having withdrawal symptoms

Klonopin Dependence vs. Addiction

People can form a physical dependence and a psychological addiction to Klonopin.

Physical dependence happens when the brain and body become adapted to the substance. When this happens, it can be dangerous to stop using the drug suddenly because it shocks the system. Klonopin can cause physical dependence after using it daily for only two weeks. Therefore, many people who get their prescription from a doctor will experience withdrawal symptoms even if they skip a single dose. This is a physical dependency, and doctors should always work with patients to taper down their dosage when it’s time.

Addiction is when both a physical dependency and a psychological dependency are present. A person struggling with addiction will keep taking Klonopin even when it causes harm to their lives.

You might also develop a Klonopin addiction from a misused prescription. Using more than prescribed or at different frequencies than prescribed is dangerous. It can cause a slippery slope into addiction. In other cases, someone may get Klonopin from other means, like borrowing from friends or family. This is also a slippery slope, as the person may start by taking the drug for a legitimate reason — such as a panic attack. But it is never safe to take medication that wasn’t prescribed specifically for you and your needs.

If you have a Klonopin prescription, pay attention to changes in your mood, sleep, and other behavior. You should never take it in anything but the recommended dosage and never longer than prescribed.

Effects of Klonopin Abuse

Klonopin alters the electrical activity between the cells of the brain. This helps treat anxiety but, over time, it can include many adverse side effects. When you abuse Klonopin, take more than prescribed, or use it for a prolonged period, you might show symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Impaired judgment
  • Confusion
  • Impaired cognition
  • Numbness
  • Fainting
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Hallucinations
  • Weak or shallow breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache

These are the known side effects. Abusing Klonopin over a long period can also affect your behavior. These side effects can include:

  • Paranoia
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Vivid nightmares
  • Obsessive thinking
  • Nervousness
  • Flat affect, or the inability to show emotion
  • Unprovoked excitability
  • Unexplained mood swings
  • Anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of loss or sorrow
  • Pain and inflammation
  • Laryngitis
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever
  • Numbness and tingling in the limbs
  • Stiff muscles and joints
  • Trembling
  • Urinary issues

Klonopin abuse can cause other serious side effects. This happens when it’s taken in excessive doses or mixed with other substances, such as opioids and alcohol. These side effects might include:

Anterograde amnesia: This is the inability to create new memories, a known side effect of benzodiazepines. People might forget parts of their day after taking Klonopin, which can cause a lot of alarm and worry.

Sleepiness and sleep-related activities: Many people report experiencing extreme sleepiness throughout the day. The medication might leave them extremely tired and unable to keep up with daily life. Or, it might cause insomnia that prevents them from sleeping, making it difficult to feel awake during daylight hours. Klonopin is also known to cause sleep-related activities, such as sleep driving, sleep eating, and more. This can be both frightening and dangerous.

Depersonalization: This can make individuals feel as though they aren’t connected to their bodies.

Memory loss: Klonopin use can cause short-term and long-term memory loss. This can happen even after a user fully quits taking the drug.

Cardiovascular issues: Klonopin can cause high blood pressure and increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Liver and kidney problems: Liver and kidney problems can lead to permanent damage or even complete organ failure.

Hypoxia: Hypoxia, or decreased oxygen flow, can cause serious organ and brain damage.

Abuse of Klonopin, or any substance, can lead to a host of personal problems too. It can include something like stress in personal relationships. It can also manifest in decreased productivity at work, loss of self-esteem, and serious financial issues. Other issues include problems with focusing attention, using rational thinking skills, or controlling emotions.

The longer you abuse Klonopin, the more likely it is that your reactions become the opposite of what the drug should do. In the case of Klonopin, the symptoms might turn into those a person taking a stimulant would experience. These might include agitation, anxiety, irritability, poor sleep, and panic attacks.

Using Klonopin chronically can lead to a tolerance. This happens because the usual doses are no longer effective, and the body needs more and more of the substance. As a result, a person ends up taking higher doses of the drug over time, increasing the risk of overdose.

Klonopin Overdose

Taking too much Klonopin can cause an overdose. In the event of an overdose, the person must get to a hospital as quickly as possible because they can die without medical care. People often take Klonopin with alcohol to enhance the effects of both, easily leading to respiratory failure.

Many people take extremely high doses of Klonopin to get the hallucinatory effects it can produce. But this puts them at a dangerous risk of overdose. As the drug slows down the central nervous system, a person’s cardiac and respiratory functioning slow down and can cause coma or death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention6 found that benzodiazepines caused 17% of deaths from overdose between 1999 and 2006. Mixing drugs increase the risk of overdose by raising the potency of the drugs. But even benzos alone have a high risk of overdose.

Signs of a Klonopin overdose might include:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Unsteady walking
  • Slurred or disordered speech
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Memory and cognitive impairment

Treating Klonopin Abuse and Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders7, or DSM-5, refers to benzodiazepine addiction as a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder. The criteria used in the DSM-5 for assessing the severity of a sedative addiction include:

  • Recurring use despite dangerous consequences
  • Negative impact of substance use on a person’s employment, school, or home life
  • Continued use despite social or interpersonal problems
  • Cravings to use again
  • Increased amount of sedatives used or developing a tolerance
  • Unable to successfully quit using

Klonopin addiction is common and can happen to anyone. Many people who use Klonopin do so with health-based intentions and quickly find themselves in the cycle of addiction. Treatment for this type of substance use disorder calls for different approaches depending on factors. Some factors might include the amount and length of use, the individual’s personal history, co-occurring disorders, and issues with any other substance use.

Recovery From Klonopin Abuse

Recovery from Klonopin addiction is possible. Plus, the long-term health effects of Klonopin abuse can often be reversed with proper medical attention.

The first step in addressing a Klonopin addiction is to ask for help. Windward Way Recovery can help make sure that you have a safe, medically supervised detox from any substances you are trying to quit. If you have a physical dependence on Klonopin, it is critical to exercise extreme caution when stopping your use of the drug. Klonopin withdrawal can be severe and devastating — and sometimes even fatal. It requires a doctor’s guidance. However, with the right care, you can safely quit Klonopin and begin the recovery journey.

A medically supervised detox program offers round-the-clock care while your body flushes out the toxins. Medications can help to ease withdrawal symptoms and make you more comfortable. And after you have recovered and your withdrawal symptoms have passed, the next phase of recovery can begin. In this stage, you begin to address the psychological addiction. Engaging in substance use disorder treatment and aftercare helps to maintain sobriety.


Aftercare refers to the ongoing support you need to sustain a sober lifestyle. An aftercare program might include some of the following elements:

Long-term addiction therapy: Therapy is a helpful asset for anyone struggling with a substance use disorder. Many therapeutic approaches help with addiction, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and acceptance-commitment therapy. Aftercare might also include group and individual therapy.

12-step groups: Professionals strongly advise you to take part in peer support groups. Many use the 12-step model, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Medications: Sometimes, medication is integral to your aftercare. Here, you’ll engage in continued use and monitoring of your symptoms.

Treatment of co-occurring conditions: Many people have co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety or depression. If so, your team will decide how to monitor those from now on.

Extra counseling and therapy: Some people might also need family or marriage counseling.

Exercise: You should engage in exercise and other treatment-related activities that promote a healthy lifestyle.

Windward Way Recovery Can Help

Klonopin addiction is best treated in an inpatient treatment center like Windward Way Recovery. Contact us today to speak to a member of our treatment team and learn more about our individualized treatment programs. We are here to give you the help and support you deserve in overcoming your addiction.

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