Some medications turn out to be effective for more than one condition. Take, for example, clonazepam (also known by the brand name Klonopin). It is extremely useful as an anticonvulsant medication—including as a way to treat epilepsy. But it can also be effective for limiting or eliminating panic attacks. That is all to the good, right?
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Dangers of Misuse
One drug with two ways it can be helpful. But there are some dangers associated with clonazepam, too, especially if a user strays from their doctor and pharmacist’s instructions for how to use the drug safely.
Let’s take a closer look at clonazepam to see how it works and why it can be problematic.
Clonazepam Is a Benzodiazepine
The class of drugs known as benzodiazepines (often referred to as benzos) work by calming and slowing the rate of activity in your brain. A person who is suffering a panic attack might describe the sensation that their thoughts are racing. A benzo like clonazepam takes your brain’s foot off the gas so that you can calm down. This same process of slowing brain activity can be an effective way to address seizure disorders as well.
Though there can be some side effects early on (for some people, for example, taking the drug can lead to an increase in the number of seizures they experience until the dosage is properly adjusted), by and large, clonazepam is safe to take.
Safe, that is, as long as the user sticks to the dosage instructions and does not take more than they should at one time, take it more frequently than prescribed, or continue to take it after the initial prescription has run out. That might sound easy enough, but a person who finally finds some relief from a panic or seizure disorder may be tempted to keep taking the drug and to take more than they should in an effort to retain or strengthen that feeling of calm.
Misusing clonazepam can lead to a range of problems. But even using it correctly can lead to some issues if your doctor decides you should stop taking the drug. Ending your connection to clonazepam can be a challenge due to the rigors of withdrawal.
The Best Tactic Is to Taper
As you take clonazepam over time, your body and brain become used to having the drug in your system. If you try to stop taking the drug too quickly, you may experience a range of unpleasant side effects known as withdrawal symptoms.
Those symptoms might include:
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Stomach cramps
- Cramps in the muscles
- Mood changes
- Mental processing issues
To reduce your risk of encountering these symptoms, your doctor will likely suggest a tapering plan, taking smaller and smaller doses of clonazepam over a period of time so that your body and brain have time to adjust to the changes.
The likelihood of withdrawal symptoms increases if you have been taking the drug for a long time and/or at high doses. That situation can arise in two ways. The first is that your doctor has felt that continued use and/or higher doses have been the best way to successfully control a seizure or panic disorder.
The other is that you have found an ongoing—and perhaps illegal—source of the drug and kept taking it in higher doses and for longer than your doctor intended. This misuse is often followed by difficult withdrawal symptoms when a person attempts to stop taking the clonazepam.
What to Do About Withdrawal
If you find yourself experiencing withdrawal symptoms related to clonazepam, you may find it very difficult to stop taking the drug—especially if you have been taking it illegally and without the oversight of a physician.
In those circumstances you might feel as though your options are severely limited. You might feel embarrassed to admit you are struggling. You might worry that friends, family, coworkers, or others may hear about your struggles and judge you harshly. These concerns might lead you to try to muddle through withdrawal on your own in the hope of maintaining privacy.
But an attempt to go it alone is frequently both challenging and dangerous. Some possible withdrawal symptoms, like seizures, can be life-threatening. For the sake of safety and to increase the likelihood of success, your best option for kicking an addiction to clonazepam may be getting help from a fully accredited residential treatment facility—a facility like Bel Aire Recovery Center.
We Are Committed to Helping—Not to Judging
We only have one job at Bel Aire Recovery Center: to help you put drug use behind you so that you can get on the road to recovery. We are not here to judge you or embarrass you or to remind you of mistakes you have made. Instead, we are here to listen to you and to develop a personalized, compassionate, evidence-based treatment plan. That plan will include medically supervised detoxification followed by a rehab program that includes both individual and group therapy designed to give you access to resources and strategies that can help you maintain your sobriety after treatment.
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, we understand—and we can help.