Klonopin is a prescription benzodiazepine used primarily in the treatment of anxiety, panic disorder, and seizures. It is prescribed more than 20 million times each year, per the National Institutes of Health. Often referred to as tranks or k-pin, this drug is one of the most popularly abused benzodiazepines on the market. In 2011 alone, 6.1 million people admitted to past-month abuse of psychotherapeutic drugs like Klonopin, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Most who end up abusing this drug started out taking it as prescribed by a doctor. Many aren’t even aware that the way they use Klonopin isn’t healthy. In fact, most people who misuse prescription drugs don’t see anything wrong with what they’re doing.
Initially, Klonopin is effective for most who use it with a medical purpose, like to treat anxiety. However, after a few weeks or more of taking the drug, it stops working so well. More of it is needed for it to be as effective as it once was. Generally, once people realize this and up the dose, they find relief from their symptoms again. This behavior is slowly reinforced as they keep raising the dose each time Klonopin isn’t working as well as they would like. Thus, while people may start out with a controlled dose, they can quickly end up taking several times that amount in just a month or two. When this has happened, it means tolerance has taken hold.
From there, addiction develops rapidly. Dartmouth College reports the results of one study in which 15 percent of people who were prescribed a benzodiazepine for the treatment of a psychiatric problem ended up hooked on it while just 6 percent of those without any such prescription did.
What Does It Do?
Most who abuse Klonopin are looking for the typical high that most benzodiazepines deliver. Often, people who suffer from mental illnesses will abuse Klonopin because of its potential to inflict memory loss and cause a numb emotional state. For instance, those who are battling depression may abuse a benzo like Klonopin in an attempt to forget about their troubles, much the same way that people abuse alcohol.
In fact, Klonopin and alcohol inflict very similar effects on those who abuse them. Loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, weight fluctuations, dizzy spells, blurry vision, and headaches are common complaints. Often, people abuse both of these substances together, since alcohol intensifies the effects of Klonopin. Still, by itself this drug can cause a lot of damage.
About 10 percent of people who use benzos will end up addicted to the drugs.
Psychology Today reports brain damage is a troubling side effect that many who abuse benzos are encountering.
For those who used Klonopin as a treatment for mental illness or people who battle other unrelated psychiatric disorders, abusing Klonopin can seriously hinder their ability to get better. In fact, it can make the already present symptoms of their disorder worse. Many who abuse Klonopin set out with a prescription in hand to treat their mental health issues, never expecting to end up dependent on the drug. However, as tolerance to it develops and a subsequent increase in dosage seemingly relieves psychiatric symptoms once again, individuals become conditioned to continually upping their dose.
In some instances, long-term abuse of Klonopin can actually cause mental illnesses to develop. In fact, the drug typically shouldn’t be used even as prescribed for more than two weeks due to the high potential for dependency. Unfortunately, many who are prescribed these drugs go back for refill after refill, and some doctors don’t balk at this. The Journal of Psychopharmacology reported on a study of people suffering from panic disorder who were treated with either alprazolam – another popular benzodiazepine – or Klonopin, and 78 percent of them were found to still be taking the treatment drugs a year and a half later.
Health Effects of Klonopin Abuse
- In excess quantities, Klonopin can cause extreme apathy, violent mood swings, intense agitation and irritability, derealization, depression, depersonalization, states of hypomanic behavior, problems controlling impulses, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, chronic insomnia, and many other psychosomatic symptoms. The hallucinations that Klonopin abuse can inflict can be so severe that individuals think they see and have conversations with people who aren’t really there. They may also hear voices telling them to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. In the moment, they do not realize that these events are abnormal. Likewise, the commands the voices give them are often violent or self-harming in nature. In 2011, 29.3 percent of all drug-related suicide attempts had benzodiazepines to blame, and roughly 9.5 percent were attributed to Klonopin, per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. For those who manage to escape suicide attempts and extreme hallucinations, other uncomfortable symptoms still play a strong role in Klonopin addiction.
- Klonopin has been shown to cause both palpitations of the heart and tachycardia. In some cases, individuals who abuse Klonopin end up developing problems with the functioning of their larynx, esophagus, and/or pharynx. Thus, they may have trouble speaking, breathing, and even swallowing. Upper respiratory infections are common in people who abuse Klonopin, too, as are nosebleeds. Sometimes, urinary difficulties result from Klonopin abuse, and this can lead to recurrent infections of the urinary tract that back up into the bladder and kidneys. If left untreated, infections of the kidneys can be life-threatening. Although it isn’t as common to see liver damage in a person who has abused Klonopin, there have been such cases. These instances are often compounded by prescription opioid painkiller or alcohol abuse, but they can occur in its absence, too. Likewise, individuals who abuse both Klonopin and painkillers face many additional risks. Among treatment admissions, 5,032 people entered treatment in 2000 citing abuse of both benzodiazepines and narcotic pain relievers; by 2010, that number was 33,701, SAMHSA notes.
Many who abuse this drug suffer from seizures,which can cause serious side effects of their own, including brain damage. Tremors, sleep apnea, lowered inhibitions, impaired judgment, and irrational behavior are all often part of the equation with Klonopin abuse. Neurologically, the drug carries just as much potential for harm as it does to fix anything. Newer research points toward an alarming outcome of even regular use of drugs like Klonopin – that they may cause the development and onset of dementia. With regular use, people aged 65 and older who take benzodiazepines for 15 years or longer were found to have a 50 percent increased risk of developing the condition, which is marked by memory loss and behavioral side effects, Mercola reports.
- Twitching and pain in the muscles, limbs, and joints are all common side effects of abusing Klonopin. There is also a risk of contracting infectious diseases among a certain portion of the population that abuses Klonopin by injection. True, the drug only comes in tablet form, but it is possible to crush and then dissolve those tablets into a water-soluble solution and prepare it for injection. Injecting drugs is a preferable method for many because it results in a faster high, and some claim it’s also more intense. Injecting converted substances in this way can be deadly. Often, infections develop in the skin, as well. The injection of crushed Klonopin may be more common among individuals who crush and inject prescription painkillers or use heroin. Regardless, all these practices open the door to the risk of contracting diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C. The National Medical Association accounts for 3.2 million Americans having chronic hepatitis C infection.
The signs of an addiction to Klonopin are pretty clear. Tolerance is just the beginning, and it isn’t indicative of addiction on its own. Rather, individuals will also exhibit other warning signs, such as:
- Using Klonopin anytime they start to feel symptoms of withdrawal, like nausea or paranoid thoughts
- Avoiding friends, family, and social events that used to be important to them in favor of getting high instead
- Persistent use of Klonopin even when it’s clear the drug has impacted life in a negative way
- Preoccupation with using that has seemingly taken over life
- Failed attempts at scaling back on how much or how often they use
Klonopin abuse can seriously impact behavioral patterns in most people. They may become irritable, defensive, or turn away from those who care about them most. Friends and family are often the first to take note of these changes. Physically, people may appear sloppy and unclean.
When addiction has been confirmed, the next step in the process is seeking treatment. The options can be overwhelming, especially for the person who needs help and needs it fast. There are 11,492 treatment facilities in America, per SAMHSA – a large enough number that practically anyone can find treatment near home now.
The number of facilities catering to individuals who are addicted to Klonopin continues to grow. This likely has to do with the increasing demand for such services as this drug and others in its class continue to gain popularity. In 2002, just 6,929 people entered treatment all year for the abuse of benzodiazepines, but by 2012, 17,019 people required the same services, per SAMHSA.
The first step toward recovering from an addiction to Klonopin is going through withdrawal, and this is often the step that scares people away from rehab. This experience doesn’t have to be traumatic or painful though. Medical detox programs allow individuals to go through withdrawal in a safe manner while also maintaining a certain level of comfort. Over-the-counter pain relievers, massage therapy, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and other pain relief techniques can be used to mitigate any symptoms of discomfort that may arise during the medical detox process.
Overall, withdrawal from Klonopin usually doesn’t take more than a few weeks to complete. When detoxing from this drug, it is generally advised that clients be placed on a structured weaning schedule. This tapers their dose over time to slowly wean them off Klonopin until they are free from the drug. The standard tapering schedule is to reduce the dose by large-3 medium-6 small-12 columns for every two weeks of the intended detox period. For example, someone who has been abusing Klonopin in 6 mg doses would start out at, or slightly below, that dose. After two weeks, it would be reduced to 4.5 mg, then 3 mg, then 1.5 mg, and finally the client would be fully detoxed by the end of the schedule.
Thus, it’s important that individuals entering treatment be upfront about what dose they have been using so treatment professionals know how to plan the detox process and make them as comfortable as possible. The length of this dosing schedule will depend on how much Klonopin the client has been abusing, the severity of the addiction, and any co-occurring physical or mental health issues.
In addition to treating the symptoms of withdrawal, clients who suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders need treatment for those issues, too. Sometimes, individuals need to be weaned off Klonopin and put on another medication. This is generally the case for individuals who suffer from organic psychiatric illnesses, like panic disorder – a condition that affects 6 million Americans every year, per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Other co-occurring mental health issues should also be addressed in therapy. Managing all conditions in a combined format gives the client the best possible shot at a full recovery.
While relapse is often a part of recovery, it is frequently a direct result of someone not being treated effectively. A 28-day stint in rehab isn’t going to be sufficient for most people. NIDA states that rehabilitation plans that are 90 days in length or longer produce the best treatment outcomes. During this seemingly lengthy period of time, clients learn how to harness control over their impulses and cope with uncomfortable emotions. Time in therapy helps to discover and address the root causes that led to Klonopin abuse in the first place. In some instances, clients may need intensive therapy to deal with traumas they have endured that have contributed to their attempts at self-medication with Klonopin.
No two clients are the same, so no two treatment plans should be identical. A quality rehab facility is aware of this and implements detailed medical detox and therapy plans based on individual needs.