If you seek medical treatment for panic attacks or seizures, your doctor may recommend a Klonopin prescription to relax your nerves. Before agreeing to that prescription, and especially if you or others in your family have had drug-abuse issues, make sure that you (and your doctor) understand possible risks. Klonopin, like the more publicized opiate drugs, can itself become a major medical problem if used carelessly.
Klonopin (generic name clonazepam) has calming effects on brain activity and was originally created as an epilepsy-treatment drug. Now, it’s also prescribed for short-term treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. Effects are longer-lasting than with many other sedatives: but this advantage can become a disadvantage if a user fails to wait the recommended time between doses, causing the drug to accumulate in the system and increasing the risk of side effects.
Taking too much is dangerous for another reason: Klonopin belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs, which are classified as sedative-hypnotics and typically prescribed for short-term or intermittent treatment of anxiety-related disorders. Noted for taking effect quickly, “benzos” unfortunately can also build up quick user tolerance (reduced effects from the same level dose), which frequently leads to a patient’s taking larger and larger doses—which frequently leads to addiction.
Moreover, Klonopin is among the most addictive benzodiazepines. Patients have been diagnosed with addiction after taking the drug strictly according to prescription for just a few weeks.
Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction
A person who has been taking Klonopin or another benzodiazepine, especially for longer than a few months, may have become addicted if he or she shows several of the following symptoms:
- Frequent fatigue
- Difficulty focusing on tasks or exercising sound judgment (everyday functioning may be affected)
- Blurry vision
- Mood swings
- Seeking higher doses to duplicate the original effect
- Sensing that one is taking too much, yet feeling helpless to stop or cut down—or repeatedly trying and failing to stop
- Finding the original prescription “not enough,” and seeking alternate sources for additional pills
- Anxiety, depression, or suicidal impulses, especially after a missed dose
- Muscle tremors or panic-attack symptoms after a missed dose
- Finding that life increasingly centers on the drug, while former hobbies, goals, and relationships no longer seem important
Even worse, many people (and even some medical prescriptions) combine benzos with opiates, alcohol, or other sedatives—in which case the “double relaxation” effect may shut down major body functions, with lethal results. (Someone who takes too large a dose of pure benzos may exhibit poor coordination and slurred speech, but life-threatening effects are rare; nonetheless, always seek medical help when any medication causes obvious impairment to physical or mental functioning.)
How to Prevent Benzodiazepine Addiction
- Request that your initial prescription be limited to a month’s supply without refills. Make an appointment to return and discuss progress (and alternative treatments if the original problem has not been resolved) after four weeks.
- Try to avoid taking any new doses of the medication until your body has time to use up the last dose (with Klonopin, this can take as long as 40 hours). Ask your doctor for specific recommendations on dose size and frequency before the prescription is written.
- Don’t expect to resolve your problems simply by taking the medication. Consider medication a tool for clearing your mind to work more effectively on mastering nondrug anxiety-reduction techniques.
- If your prescription is for an anxiety disorder, get psychological/psychiatric treatment for the underlying issues.
- Stick to the instructions, and be doubly cautious if your prescription says, “take as needed.” Stay aware throughout for any symptoms of dependence developing.
- If the effects seem to be diminishing (as is common when a benzodiazepine is taken regularly for more than four months), talk to your doctor before upping the dose on your own.
- If you think you’re already developing an addiction to Klonopin or any other benzodiazepine, contact your prescribing doctor and an addiction specialist. Never just stop taking any benzodiazepine without medical advice: withdrawal effects can include grand mal seizures and other extremely dangerous symptoms.
And never share your pills with anyone else: not only because prescriptions are formulated for individual needs, but also because (especially if the other party initiated the request) you might be abetting someone else’s Klonopin addiction.
Help for Klonopin Addiction
At Lakeside–Milam, we treat addiction to Klonopin and other benzodiazepines through managed withdrawal, counseling, education, and continuing care to ensure long-term positive sobriety. Recovery for the whole person—physical, mental, and spiritual—is our top priority.