Long-Term Use of Klonopin and Risk of Severe Addiction
What Are Some Long Term Side Effects of Klonopin Use?
Long-term use and abuse of Klonopin have been linked to:
- Poly-drug abuse
- Poor concentration
- Muscle weakness
- Mental confusion
- Episodic memory loss
- Antisocial behavior
- Emotional blunting
- Birth defects in unborn babies
- Short-term withdrawal symptoms, including seizures
- Protracted withdrawal symptoms
To understand how Klonopin — also known as clonazepam — impacts someone after a prolonged period of use or abuse, it’s important to comprehend how it works. This benzodiazepine takes effect by altering the levels of chemical impulses in the brain that can inflict anxiety and distress when low.
Even though doctors wrote 26.9 million prescriptions for this drug in 2011, per the Drug Enforcement Administration, and some of these prescriptions are abused, others are abusing the drug by way of street dealers. Some may purposely seek prescriptions through several doctors just to sell it. Others buy, borrow, or steal pills from friends or family members. In fact, over 70 percent of those who abuse prescription medications get them from family members, according to Reuters.
What Happens to Abusers?
What starts out as typical use of Klonopin can quickly turn into full-blown addiction. Klonopin should not be relied on for prolonged periods of time, and it is safest when used for short durations of time – less than two weeks. If people have been using or abusing the drug for longer and exhibit some of the symptoms of addiction, they are probably dependent on it.
Tolerance to benzodiazepines occurs even for regular users who are prescribed the drug. For abusers, it can set in even sooner, particularly if they started using the drug in copious amounts or are using other substances at the same time. Other warning signs include bailing on loved ones to stay home and get high, spending abnormal amounts of time obsessing over drug use, and trying to cut back on use but not managing to do so. If people are fully aware of the detrimental impact their drug abuse has caused in their lives, but they keep using anyway, it’s time to ask for help.
Withdrawal can be difficult for many who have been habitually abusing Klonopin. For the majority who are dependent, once they start feeling nauseous or having headaches, they’ll reach for another dose to stave it off.
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Physical consequences of long-term use include:
- Weakened immune system
- Lowered sex drive
- Brain atrophy
The specific withdrawal symptoms experienced vary from person to person, but given that there are so many potential effects, it’s likely that most users encounter their fair share. Discomfort comes in the form of body aches and pains, as well as fluid in the ears that can develop into infection, a burning sensation when urinating and urinary tract infections, joint pain, tightness and pain in the chest, and more. Psychology Today states cerebral ventricular enlargement — which can cause further neurological impairment — has been noted as a side effect of long-term benzodiazepine use.
Over time, long-term users have less control over their weight, often due to the way benzodiazepines are metabolized and how they impact appetite. The fatigue that Klonopin causes also comes with disorientation that can make users clumsy and prone to falling. Warning labels caution users of Klonopin not to drive until they know how the drug affects them. In regard to substance abuse, how the drug affects a person is constantly changing, so even something as simple as driving to work or the grocery store isn’t safe when abusing Klonopin.
Psychological impacts of Klonopin abuse include:
- Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Milder forms of memory impairment
- Anxiety that no longer responds to the drug treatment
- Reduced inhibition
Long-term use of benzodiazepines like Klonopin has been linked to an increased likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
CBS News reports the increased risk is as high as 51 percent. Less intense forms of memory loss are very common, as well.
Over time, the brain will become tolerant to even higher — albeit unsafe — doses of the drug, and the anxiety it once effectively treated may return with a vengeance. Some long-term abusers of clonazepam end up suffering from prolonged, sometimes endless, bouts of depression. People may also be left with lowered inhibitions that cause them to act more impulsively and make irrational decisions.
Psychological issues stemming from using or abusing Klonopin may include mild anxiety and paranoid thoughts. Many people write these factors off as not being an issue and a lot of them find out otherwise the hard way. The depths of paranoia caused by this drug can lead to serious outcomes, such as attempts at suicide — some of which are successful. Of the 22,134 pharmaceutical drug-related overdose deaths the Journal of the American Medical Association reported on in 2010, 29.4 percent involved benzodiazepines and 17.1 percent were suicides.
Sometimes harm is due to irrational thoughts users believe to be true, like everyone is against them and judging their behavior.
People who are addicted to Klonopin may experience full-blown hallucinations and even have conversations with people who aren’t really there.
Abusing this drug may lead to feeling quite angry toward others without just cause, which can lead to abusive and destructive behavior.
Many started using Klonopin with a legitimate reason — to treat anxiety. As a result, they fear their anxious and paranoid symptoms will return if they stop using it; however, substance abuse can worsen pre-existing anxiety. This type of substance abuse can severely intensify the symptoms of mental health disorders and make them quite complicated to treat. Others may suffer from substance-induced psychotic disorders when abusing this type of drug.
All too often, people relapse due to an inability to cope with the ineffectively treated symptoms of a mental health disorder that they’re trying to escape. For this reason, a tandem approach must be used to ensure that the transition from Klonopin to another method of treatment for existing anxiety is managed correctly.
The Silver Lining
With the right support and a strong medical detox program on your side that includes therapy, family support structures like systemic family interventions, and group therapy, you can come back from Klonopin dependency. Help is available.