Medically Reviewed

Klonopin Addiction: Short- and Long-Term Effects of Klonopin Use

Klonopin, and brand name for clonazepam, is a benzodiazepine that medical practitioners prescribe for the short-term treatment of panic disorder and certain types of seizure disorders.1 Klonopin is a fast-acting sedative that produces a relaxed, drowsy effect by calming an otherwise overexcited central nervous system (CNS).2

When taken as directed, Klonopin is generally safe but there are risks associated with its use and misuse.2 Klonopin is a Schedule IV controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This means it has a known potential for misuse and dependence.2,3

Misuse of clonazepam may include taking a higher dose than was prescribed; taking it in a manner other than was prescribed; taking it for its euphoric effects, or to “get high”; or taking it with other substances, such as opioids or alcohol.4

Clonazepam, like many prescription medications, produces side effects on its own; misuse increases the risk of adverse side effects and increases the risk of overdose.5

Keep reading to understand the side effects associated with clonazepam; the risks associated with long-term use and misuse, including overdose; use during pregnancy; and treatment options if you or a loved one misuse clonazepam.

Clonazepam Side Effects

Clonazepam can be beneficial, but there are both short- and long-term adverse effects associated with its use.1 Some common side effects of clonazepam include:6

  • Drowsiness.
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Impaired coordination and balance.
  • Dizziness.

When individuals engage in polysubstance use and combine their clonazepam use with opioids, alcohol, or other CNS depressants, there is a risk of serious, even fatal effects, including overdose, which can result in severe sedation and respiratory depression.6

Long-Term Effects of Clonazepam Use

As previously mentioned, clonazepam—and benzodiazepines, in general—are intended for short-term use. In fact, the drug’s effectiveness beyond 9 weeks of use is unknown.6 Long-term clonazepam use may result in certain adverse health effects, including impairments in learning and memory and even dementia, however, this information is based primarily on a small number of studies with patients who use therapeutic doses.1

We do know, however, that regular clonazepam use can lead an individual to develop a tolerance to it, meaning the individual needs larger doses to achieve the desired effect.2 Additionally, an individual, who takes clonazepam regularly for extended periods may develop physiological dependence, wherein their body becomes so used to having the drug present that when they abruptly discontinue use or significantly reduce their dose, withdrawal symptoms surface.2

Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. Individuals who take higher doses over a longer period are at risk of experiencing more severe withdrawal symptoms.1

Clonazepam withdrawal may include:1

  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Tremors.
  • Headache.
  • Depression.
  • Sweating.
  • Confusion.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Seizures.

Clonazepam Overdose

While individuals can overdose from clonazepam alone, it’s rare. Clonazepam overdose typically presents as oversedation with symptoms that may include:6

  • Mild to moderate drowsiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Impaired reflexes.

Oversedation is typically not life threatening and can often be reversed with flumazenil, a prescription drug.6

However, mixing drugs (polysubstance use)—specifically combining clonazepam with opioids, alcohol, and other CNS depressants—can lead to life-threatening respiratory depression, slowed or stopped breathing, and can be fatal.6

Between 2019 and 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that over 90% of all benzodiazepine-involved overdose deaths also involved prescription or illicitly manufactured opioids, based on data collected from 23 states.8

Clonazepam Use During Pregnancy

Studies indicate that the use of clonazepam during pregnancy may cause temporary withdrawal symptoms in some newborns—which may include trouble breathing, poor circulation, and low muscle tone—especially when the baby is exposed to clonazepam at the end of the pregnancy.9

Two studies suggest that babies exposed to clonazepam during pregnancy might be more likely to be born preterm or with low birth weight. However, this information is based on only two studies, and it is not known if the pregnant women took the medication as directed. It also isn’t known whether the results of the studies may be more related to the underlying health condition for which they took Klonopin, such as anxiety. There is even greater uncertainty surrounding long-term effects (if any) on children who were exposed to clonazepam in the womb.9

It is important to talk to your doctor about clonazepam use—and other drug use—during pregnancy to understand the risks to both the fetus and you should you stop the medication.

Treatment for Clonazepam Misuse and Addiction

If you or someone you care about is misusing clonazepam, help is available. Treatment can occur in a variety of settings and should include services unique to you, your substance use history, and overall needs and treatment goals.

Clonazepam addiction treatment may begin with medically managed detoxification. As previously mentioned, clonazepam withdrawal can be incredibly unpleasant and even dangerous, therefore; you should not suddenly stop or cut back your clonazepam use on your own. Instead, you should seek the advice and supervision of a medical professional, who can keep you safe and as comfortable as possible while your body rids itself of clonazepam and other toxins.10

Detox, alone, is typically not sufficient treatment to support long-term abstinence. It is often the first step in a more comprehensive treatment plan which includes:10

  • Behavioral interventions to help you change your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors surrounding your substance use.
  • Continued assessment so that treatment can be modified to meet your changing needs.
  • A variety of services to address your physical, mental, and emotional health.
  • Coping skills training to help you identify triggers, manage stressors, and prevent relapse.
  • Substance use education.
  • Services such occupational training and housing help.
  • Aftercare or long-term, follow-up services such as mutual-help groups or sober living environments to help you avoid relapse.

Recovery is a lifelong process, and your journey can start right now. Call American Addiction Centers and let one of our compassionate Admissions Navigators listen to your story, answer your questions, and review treatment options with you.

Last Updated on Dec 28, 2022
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