What is Clonazepam (Klonopin) Used For?
Clonazepam or Klonopin is a prescribed medication in the benzodiazepine class, which the FDA describes as a long-acting, high potency benzodiazepine with anti-convulsive and anxiolytic, sedative properties.7,8 Clonazepam is FDA approved to treat seizure and panic disorders in adults and children.1
A number of off-label uses have also developed,13,14 examples of which are included below.
- Panic Disorder (a psychiatric mental disorder characterized by unfounded terror episodes that can occur frequently and unexpectedly).
- Seizure Disorders (any of a number of epilepsy conditions characterized by seizures)
- Agoraphobia (an anxiety disorder characterized by something in the environment that triggers fear, where a person feels unsafe and unable to escape such as in a mall, subway, outside the home, etc. )
- Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (a type of epilepsy characterized by repeating seizures)
- Absence Seizures (a type of epilepsy, also called petit mal seizures: short-lived seizures that cause a temporary blank-out, or staring into space for a few seconds)
- Anxiety Disorders (a group of mental disorders characterized by episodes of stress, worry, and fretting, social anxiety disorder, etc.)
- OCD (a psychiatric condition where a person feels compelled to repeat actions or words or patterns to avoid the anxiety that presents if these actions are not performed).
- PTSD ( post-traumatic stress disorder, after an event characterized by terror, the threat of death, or similar, where these past events can be triggered in the present by certain environmental reminders, recreating the sense of terror or shock, etc., from the past experience.).
- Mania (a psychiatric condition characterized by a flight of ideas, illusions, feelings of superhuman ability, euphoria, power, etc.)
- Restless legs
- Tardive Dyskinesia
- Insomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder
Clonazepam (Klonopin) Alternative Names and Slang
According to the DEA, street names for benzodiazepines include “downers,” “nerve pills,” “tranks,” and “benzos.” Klonopin is one of the top five benzodiazepines available on the street. Other names for Klonopin according to the Dept. of Consumer Protection include “KPins,” “Pins,” “K-cuts,” or “super Valium” when sold on the street.15,16
The drug has become somewhat popularized not only as a fast-acting sedative drug, but also for its near-immediate euphoric effects, and is considered high risk for abuse and addiction. The broad medical consensus now advises that benzodiazepines should only be taken for short-term use because of their addictive properties. Recommendations from the Ashton research materials are to prescribe only 1-7 days’ worth or at maximum, 2-4 weeks’ worth.17
The British Journal of Pharmacology concurs and also advises that benzodiazepines should not be a first-line treatment choice, but where they are prescribed, they should only be used short-term.18
Many people have become inadvertently addicted to benzodiazepines such as Klonopin, and may even resort to obtaining them off the street in a desperate attempt to prevent the drug’s horrific withdrawals.15,16
Clonazepam Side Effects
The side effects of Klonopin can be quite severe and can discount any perceived benefits of the drug. It should only be used short-term for anxiety, as the side effects can become more formidable over time.
Common side effects of clonazepam (Klonopin)21-23 can include:
- Respiratory depression, respiratory arrest
- Increased anxiety
- Flu-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, fever, diarrhea, etc.
- Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Increased risk of pneumonia in older adults and other age groups
- Insomnia, disturbed sleep, strange dreams
- Difficulty speaking, slurred speech
- Slowed or difficult breathing
- Unsteady or slow movements
- Motor movement disorders, akathisia, restlessness, pacing, marching, rocking, etc.
- Sedation, tiredness, drowsiness
- Vision becomes blurred, double vision, cyclic eyelid movement, difficulty focusing
- Dry mouth
- Excessive salivation
- Reduced appetite
- Sore gums
- Loss of orientation
- Memory loss
- Cognitive impairment
- Becomes disoriented
When Benzodiazepines are mixed with other CNS depressants such as opioids, alcohol, or others, the synergistic effects can become much more severe and can be fatal. The FDA has placed a black box warning on benzodiazepines to alert consumers of these medications.1
Discontinuing Clonazepam (Klonopin) Safely
Klonopin belongs to the benzodiazepine class of drugs. Clonazepam withdrawal should never be abrupt, or “cold turkey.” When this drug, like other similar medications, is withdrawn too abruptly, the withdrawal symptoms can become extremely harsh and intolerable. The result of coming off too fast is that some symptoms will linger far longer than necessary (as in protracted withdrawal) and can lead to relapse because of their intensity.
Recommended is to do a gentle taper from the drug under medical supervision. Benzodiazepines can cause seizures and even death from suddenly stopping, especially if the person has acclimated to using this medication over a long duration.1,17-19
When the time comes to begin the detox or tapering process, an inpatient treatment setting that can provide close and careful medical monitoring is recommended.