Since the drug’s approval in 1982, Klonopin and the generic clonazepam have been prescribed for a variety of conditions, but only 2 got the FDA stamp of approval, namely panic disorders and certain seizure disorders.1
Many other “off-label” uses for Klonopin cover a broad range of conditions and may include migraine headache, acute anxiety, agoraphobia, insomnia, bipolar-related mania, restless leg syndrome, and also to dampen restlessness and involuntary spasms, ticks, rocking, and tremors caused by antipsychotic medications.9-11
Klonopin has extremely high addiction potential.4,9 Tolerance leading to Klonopin dependence can develop quickly.16 Weaning from Klonopin is typically nearly impossible to endure without precise and effective guidelines and assistance. A large number of persons may find themselves in a medication trap — unable to endure the side effects of the drug, and yet unable to withstand the side effects of getting off Klonopin. Alternative to Meds Center individually designs a Klonopin tapering treatment program that allows a person to slowly and gradually reduce dosage while significantly softening the harsh symptoms associated with Klonopin taper and withdrawal.
Common Symptoms from Improper Klonopin Tapering
According to the FDA label for Klonopin, it is essential to gradually wean down from Klonopin. The drug insert reports that the consequences of abruptly stopping can be severe, even life-threatening. According to the research of Petursson15 published in the Addiction Journal, improperly done Klonopin tapering and untreated benzodiazepine withdrawal can persist for lengthy periods of time and can induce the following:
- Grand mal seizures (abnormal electrical activity in the brain)
- Status epilepticus, seizures lasting more than 5 minutes (life-threatening event)
- Panic attacks
- Rebound insomnia, disturbed sleep
- Rebound anxiety
- Impaired cognitive function
- Loss of muscle control or coordination, unsteady gait
- Muscular pain and stiffness
- Perception changes
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Heart palpitations
- Hand tremors
- Dry-retching, nausea
- Weight loss
- Agitation, nervousness
- Irritability and increased tension
Background on the FDA Approval of Klonopin
Have you ever wondered how rigorously Klonopin was tested before the FDA approved the drug for sale?
The FDA label information on Klonopin1 refers to a meager two clinical trials that preceded FDA approval for this powerful drug. One trial was 6 weeks long and the other lasted 9 weeks. The outcomes of these trials are difficult to decipher as many of the statistical parameters are omitted, except that the label does mention that at the end of the trial there was no difference in outcomes compared to placebo, save in one subclass, which is noted below.* The trial parameters included a period of time in which Klonopin tapering was done after the trial ended, but surprisingly, beyond the brief mention of grand mal seizures to watch out for, little else is mentioned about difficulties the participants may have encountered during weaning from Klonopin. This seems a glaring omission that is further hampered by a paucity of information given in the FDA guidelines.1
*The one exception was reported in one subgroup whose dosage was limited to Klonopin 1mg daily. Comparing this small group to the placebo group, 56% of the placebo patients had no panic attacks at the end of the trial, and 76% of the Klonopin 1mg patients also had no panic attacks in the last week of the trial.
There were no differences in outcome for all other dosage levels, that is, for those participants given dosages higher than 1mg per day. Even more astounding is that even though the drug had not been put through any clinical trials at all for seizure disorders, the drug was also FDA approved for prescribing Klonopin to seizure patients. The descriptions for these two clinical trials are perhaps too fragmentary to readily explain or comprehend the popularity of this drug. Nonetheless, once a person has developed dependency or addiction, the most important next step is to find a safe and gentle, very gradual way to begin Klonopin tapering.
Research on Clonazepam Titration and Weaning
It seems as though medical practitioners are slowly becoming more aware of the addictive qualities and the side effects of benzodiazepines.2 More doctors are becoming familiar with what is sometimes referred to as America’s “other” prescription drug crisis, that of benzodiazepine addiction along with other negative consequences. These can include fatalities, birth defects in babies born to mothers taking benzo drugs, and the severity of benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.
Some physicians, however, still have a sort of blind unawareness when it comes to recognizing side effects. A doctor can diagnose a patient quite carelessly, lumping drug side effects together with original symptoms in a patient’s profile. Often, it is neither efficient nor accurate to label a patient who is experiencing Klonopin side effects or the reactions to Klonopin withdrawal as “a relapse case,” or to describe that patient as experiencing “latent emerging mental disorders or syndromes.” Those diagnostic practices can result in multiple prescriptions, potentially fueling further and unnecessary suffering for the patient.15
Yet this still happens too often and it is most unfortunate that it does. Because a patient taking Klonopin who is diagnosed as a “relapse” case, in other words, with increasing anxiety, panic attacks, sexual dysfunction, depression, hallucination, psychosis, disinhibition, self-injurious behavior, aggression, or other known side effects will often have their medication increased instead of decreased, and no attention given to safer alternative treatments.12-14 Sometimes this means being put on additional and even multiple additional medications, which also have their own significant sets of adverse reactions associated with them. Finding oneself in this tsunami of suffering would be one very good reason to consider Klonopin tapering, in tandem with reducing other medications in the correct sequence where required.
Done properly, Klonopin titration can be surprisingly easy to tolerate when it is supported by careful monitoring and a thorough array of supportive actions, using orthomolecular and other complementary and alternative therapies. These can include yoga, CBT, nutritional testing and correction of deficiencies and diet, and herbal medicines to treat anxiety such as valerian, chamomile, lavender, black cohosh, passionflower, and saffron, for example.5,18-21
How Safe is Klonopin According to Studies?
Although benzodiazepines are rarely mentioned in relation to TD (tardive dyskinesia), an agent that depletes GABA or injures receptors in the CNS can cause this condition. The longer a benzodiazepine is taken, the more GABA becomes “spent,” resulting in a deficiency. It is thought this is one reason that TD is linked to benzodiazepines such as Klonopin. Drug-induced tardive dyskinesia has been documented to present on abrupt discontinuation of benzodiazepines such as Klonopin.7
Drug manufacturers seem unaware of such reactions and injuries. However, one can easily access information on even cursory research on safety issues associated with Klonopin and other benzodiazepines.3 We have found at Alternative to Meds Center that rehabilitating neurochemistry is vital in Klonopin tapering.
Of note, the Washington State Dept. of Labor and Industry added Klonopin to their hazardous drug list, citing concerns over the high incidence of birth defects. In rabbits, studies showed Klonopin, administered at very low equivalent-to-human doses, caused consistent congenital birth defects such as deformed body parts, incomplete bone structure, open eyelids, breathing and feeding difficulties, and many others. In human studies, malformations of infants after exposure to Klonopin were calculated to occur 2- to 3-fold over placebo.8
According to research in Italy, weaning off Klonopin before pregnancy is recommended wherever possible.6 There are few studies on pregnancy and prescription drugs, because of safety and ethical reasons but the ones that are available show clearly there is such a risk. Research is enlightening the public and prescribers about the potential risks of birth defects or prenatal injury if the mother were to take Klonopin during her pregnancy.
Neonatal Klonopin withdrawal is a concern where the mother took Klonopin during pregnancy. Signs of neonatal Klonopin withdrawal include difficulty breathing, inconsolable crying, feeding difficulties, diarrhea, hypothermia, tremors, hyperreflexia (over-responsive reflexes, twitching or spastic movements), cyanosis (lack of oxygen which turns the skin blue and causes shortness of breath), and many other Klonopin withdrawal symptoms.16,17
The methods we use at Alternative to Meds Center provide the correct answers to how to accomplish Klonopin titration safely, gradually, and as comfortably as possible. This can be a relief to a woman who is planning a pregnancy, without the liability of birth defects or Klonopin withdrawal reactions for her child.
Beyond Tapering Klonopin … Finding and Correcting Root Causes for Unwanted Symptoms
Alternative to Meds Center has helped thousands of clients with benzodiazepine tapering and tapering from other medications and has developed a multi-faceted series of program steps that make it possible to reduce and even entirely eliminate medication without the torturous reactions normally associated with weaning off Klonopin and other drugs. But as importantly, we also seek to help our clients discover the root causes of their original symptoms, whether that was social anxiety, panic attacks, or insomnia. This is particularly important when these conditions had a mysterious beginning to them and the causative and contributive factors for them have neither been discovered nor resolved.
Why Consider Alternative to Meds for Recovery
The best way forward is a program that allows one to discover and correct the actual reasons for their original symptoms, like panic attacks or insomnia, etc., through a comprehensive holistic program in a comfortable and supportive inpatient setting. At Alternative to Meds Center, we use science-based, holistic protocols that include orthomolecular medicine, metabolic testing, removal of neurotoxins, neurotransmitter rehabilitation, organic diet, nutritional psychiatry, spiritual psychiatry, and many more, to treat and support your recovery.
Please contact us at the center for much more information about how we can help you or your loved one with an individually tailored holistic Klonopin tapering program that can truly help.