person holding pink round medication pill
white yellow and teal medication pill

When people think of substance use or misuse, they often imagine people using illicit substances bought from sources on the street or obtained in the back of a dark bar. In reality, however, there are some substances that can be abused that come right from your doctor’s office—and one class of drugs that is often used improperly is benzodiazepines or benzos. Benzos are a type of drug prescribed for anxiety or panic disorders. They are also prescribed for epilepsy, and many doctors believe strongly in their efficacy for the medical conditions they are used to treat.There are several types of benzos that doctors or healthcare providers regularly prescribe to their patients, but two of the most popular are Klonopin and Xanax. Both drugs are easy to get and work on some of the same conditions, and sometimes, doctors believe that one can be replaced with the other.

In reality, however, there are some important differences between Klonopin and Xanax, and these differences make each better suited for some conditions vs others.One thing that both drugs have in common, however, is that they are commonly misused—that is, many people use too much of them, or many people use them when they’re unnecessary, creating either a psychological or physiological dependence on the drug.If you want to know more about the risks of benzo dependence, it can help to start by learning the differences between Klonopin and Xanax. By understanding the uses of the two drugs, when each is appropriate and how each is more likely to be abused, you can spot potential misuse in yourself or a loved one or gauge whether it’s time to seek help from a medical or substance abuse professional if you feel that your usage of one of these medications might be getting out of hand.

What Is Klonopin?

One of the most popular benzodiazepines is Klonopin. This drug is both an anxiolytic (a drug that helps to reduce anxiety) and an anticonvulsant (an anti-seizure medication). Klonopin is actually a brand name—the generic name of the drug is clonazepam. Klonopin works because it increases GABA activity inside the brain. When GABA is created in the brain, it stops someone’s nervous system from getting abnormally excited or stimulated. By calming nervous system activity, a person feels calmer when they take the medication.

The Main Uses of Klonopin

Klonopin is a drug that has multiple uses. The primary uses of Klonopin include:

  • Treating panic disorder (stopping panic attacks as they happen).
  • Controlling seizures (in people with some types of epilepsy).
  • Mitigating seizures in children up to 10 years old or up to 66 pounds.

Side Effects of Taking Klonopin

Even if you are taking Klonopin as prescribed, and it helps to treat your anxiety or epilepsy, you may experience some side effects from the medication. Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Impaired motor skills and inability to operate heavy machinery.
  • Suicidal ideation (mostly when used to treat epilepsy).
  • Lethargy and fatigue.
  • Slurred speech/difficulty talking.
  • Bad interactions with alcohol or other drugs, which can cause respiratory depression and lead to the risk of overdose or death.
  • Confusion.
  • Cognitive impairment.
  • Memory loss.
  • Depression.
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Cardiac palpitations.
  • Being particularly klutzy or uncoordinated.

If you experience any of these side effects when taking the drug as prescribed, discuss them with your doctor, because they should be able to tweak the dose to make sure that the drug is helping you in the way you need—but not affecting you more strongly.

What Is Klonopin Addiction?

Even though Klonopin has multiple medical uses and is regularly prescribed by doctors, it also has a reputation for being a medication that is regularly abused. In fact, it is considered a Schedule IV controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) because it has a high likelihood of illicit use, misuse and, ultimately, dependence. The DEA deals with over 10,000 cases of illicit Klonopin use across the country annually.Klonopin is a drug that can cause dependence in users, and people can become addicted to it whether they’re taking it as prescribed or illicitly. When people are on Klonopin for a long time, their body becomes physiological dependent on Klonopin to function. While this is not a sign of addiction, it can lead to patterns of compulsive use — using more than you need or at times you don’t need it, which can lead to addiction.Klonopin addiction can also happen when people choose to take the drugs recreationally or to take more than is prescribed to them.

How to Spot Signs of Klonopin Addiction

Here are some ways to spot Klonopin addiction in people who take it:

  • Taking it more frequently than prescribed
  • Taking a larger dose than prescribed
  • Taking it recreationally
  • Experiencing withdrawal when you do not take it
  • Running out of Klonopin prescription early
  • Compulsive use of the drug, even when it is not necessarily needed

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is a benzodiazepine that differs from Klonopin. It is the brand name of the generic drug alprazolam. Xanax is only used as a medication for anxiety, and since its invention in the 1980s, has become one of the most popular medical treatments for people who experience severe anxiety. Like Klonopin, Xanax boosts GABA production in the brain, which helps calm down an overexcited nervous system. One of the best benefits of Xanax is that it works quickly. Individuals who take it feel its full effects within two hours, which is why many people appreciate its ability to take away their anxiety quickly.

The Main Uses of Xanax

Xanax is an anxiolytic. It is used for treating:

  • Panic disorder.
  • Severe anxiety.
  • Fear or panic in phobic situations (e.g. on an airplane flight when someone has a fear of flying)

The Side Effects of Xanax

Xanax is known for calming people when they feel panicked or anxious. It also other side effects including:

  • Light-headedness.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Lethargy.
  • Memory loss.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Feelings of depression.
  • Muscle fatigue or weakness.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Lowered libido.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Risk of overdose or death.

What Is Xanax Addiction?

While Xanax helps many people deal with severe anxiety, it can also be abused and lead to addiction. Xanax is a rapid-onset drug, which is why it is so helpful for people who have panic disorders. However, it can also produce euphoric effects in people quickly, which may lead them to abuse or misuse the drug. Xanax addiction doesn’t occur when your body has become dependent on Xanax, although dependency can increase the risk of addiction because of the long period of use, but when you begin to use the drug more than your doctor has recommended or attempt to procure it illegally beyond your prescription. Getting off of the drug for people who are dependent requires a tapering process. Xanax addiction happens when people use the medication in ways that a physician has not instructed them to—like taking too much at once, taking it when it is not needed or taking it for pure recreation. Xanax addiction is serious and often requires medical supervision to recover from since the drug can be so difficult and dangerous to stop using.

How to Spot Signs of Xanax Addiction

If you are worried about Xanax addiction in you or a loved one, it can help to spot the clear signs that someone is addicted to the medication. Here are some of the clearest and most critical signs of a Xanax addiction:

  • Using Xanax more frequently than a doctor has recommended
  • Using Xanax for a longer time than recommended
  • Using Xanax recreationally
  • Taking Xanax pre-emptively to stave off withdrawal, or fearing the feeling of Xanax withdrawal
  • Getting multiple prescriptions for Xanax from different doctors
  • Running out of a Xanax prescription early (and doing this regularly)
  • Obtaining Xanax outside of your doctor
  • Showing signs of euphoric feelings after taking a dose of Xanax
  • Feeling anxiety about the effects of Xanax wearing off and taking more medication to stop this from happening
  • and more.

Getting over a Xanax addiction is dangerous since withdrawing can have some serious risks, including seizure and death. If you expect you may have a Xanax addiction (or a loved one may be struggling), it’s important to consult with a medical professional. A professional can gauge whether the addiction is simply dependence on the drug from taking it regularly as prescribed, or whether it’s being used inappropriately, causing both physical and psychological negative repercussions.

The Major Differences Between Klonopin and Xanax

Klonopin and Xanax are drugs that have both upsides and downsides. Understanding the drugs—what they are, what risks they come with and what dangers to look out for—can help you have a better understanding of your own usage or gauge whether a loved one’s usage might be problematic. Here are some important differences between Klonopin and Xanax that can help you know which drug is best for you, and which may come with the highest risk of abuse or addiction:

  • Onset: Klonopin is a drug that is relatively slow to work. While it is effective at mitigating anxiety, it takes several hours before its full effects are felt. Xanax can start working—powerfully—within minutes. For this reason, Xanax is often preferred by people who have debilitating panic attacks, since it can stop the anxiety and panic more rapidly.
  • Uses: Klonopin is used to manage anxiety and panic, as well as to control epilepsy and seizures in multiple types of patients. Xanax has only one use: to help control anxiety. Klonopin is prescribed by a wider range of doctors because it can manage a wider range of medical conditions. Xanax is usually prescribed by a provider who is managing someone’s mental health since its sole purpose is to help someone who is crippled by anxiety.
  • Risk of addiction: Both drugs come with a risk of misuse or addiction. However, experts believe Xanax is more likely to result in addiction in people who abuse it. There are several reasons for this. First, it works more quickly, so it is a more popular choice of drug who wants to feel the effect of a drug fast. Second, it is known to produce feelings of euphoria more than Klonopin is. For that reason, people choose Xanax for purely recreational purposes and non-medical purposes far more often than they choose to use Klonopin recreationally.
  • Half-life: While it takes longer to kick in and start working in people who take it, Klonopin has a much longer half-life than Xanax. This means that it is metabolized in the body slower than Xanax, and that it also lasts in the body far longer than Xanax does. Because of this, a dose of Klonopin can mitigate panic or anxiety in a person far longer than a dose of Xanax can, since Xanax is much quicker to wear off. Xanax also has an increased risk of addiction because it wears off more quickly, so people feel a more frequent need to take the drug, in case their symptoms of anxiety come roaring back as it exits their system.
  • Generic names: Both Xanax and Klonopin are generic drug names. While both are benzodiazepines, Xanax is the brand name of alprazolam, while Klonopin is the brand name of clonazepam.

Determining When to Seek Help With Klonopin or Xanax Dependence

Klonopin or Xanax can be incredibly helpful drugs for people who suffer from panic disorders or epilepsy. However, they are also medications that are easily and frequently misused. If you or a loved one are worried that you might be abusing Klonopin or Xanax, or you know that you’ve developed a dependence, one good step to take is to reach out to a substance abuse recovery center like Windward Way Recovery.At Windward Way Recovery, we can gauge whether you or your loved one are in need of treatment, as well as what kind of treatment you might need to heal from your Klonopin or Xanax recovery. Then, if we determine you could benefit from inpatient drug treatment, we can help you arrange a stay. Once you are here, we can medically supervise a Klonopin or Xanax taper and withdrawal, to ensure you stay as healthy and safe—as well as comfortable—as possible while you do it. Once you are safely done with your benzo withdrawal, we can help you get at the root of why you were using or how you became substance dependent, to help you heal aspects of your life you may have been medicating on your own.We can also equip anyone with tools to help them maintain sobriety once they leave the treatment center, so they can live a Klonopin or Xanax-free life. We teach tools to help people get through cravings, manage anxiety on their own healthfully, find the right support group to turn to in difficult times and more.To learn more about Windward Way Recovery and whether it is the right place for you or a loved one to recover, contact us today. We’d love to talk to you about any worries or struggles you might have about Klonopin or Xanax, and how we might be able to help.