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Clonazolam Addiction: Understand the Signs and Symptoms

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs whose primary medical use is to treat anxiety and seizures. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), these drugs are easily abused and fairly addictive.

Most benzodiazepines are Schedule IV substances, which means they are legally available only by prescription but have accepted medical use.

Taken as prescribed, many benzodiazepines can genuinely help to relieve anxiety and various other symptoms. However, RxList notes that doctors should monitor patients who have been prescribed benzodiazepines carefully if they have a history of drug abuse or addiction.

Clonazolam is a benzodiazepine derivative. However, clonazolam has no currently accepted medical use, although legitimate research is being performed on its potential uses. It is also poorly regulated.

Researchers Bjoern Moosmann, Leslie A King, and Volker Auwärter describe it in their article “Designer Benzodiazepines: A New Challenge” as a “designer benzodiazepine” and not without reason.

Clonazolam and drugs like it are, unfortunately, ripe for recreational abuse. Clonazolam was not originally designed for abuse, but it has all the traits of an easily abused drug.

Is Clonazolam Safe?

Clonazolam is understudied, but benzodiazepines, in general, are not. Benzodiazepines are controlled substances for a reason. Their abuse is not safe, and they are never recommended for anything but prescribed use. 

Clonazolam is a potent designer benzodiazepine that should be controlled, even if it is not in a given area. The law has been slowly catching up with it in places like Belgium, Finland, and Sweden.

It is more dangerous than its more tightly controlled counterparts. Therefore, it should be avoided unless proven to have an approved medical use, and even then, it should only be used as prescribed.

Effects of Clonazolam

The difficulties with designer benzodiazepines are twofold. They are highly addictive and (at least in the case of clonazolam) poorly controlled.

Even in the United States, it is not always clear if clonazolam and other designer benzodiazepines fall under the Controlled Substances Analogue Enforcement Act. This lack of solid regulation, both in the U.S. and abroad, makes the drug fairly available and cheap. 

Clonazolam is a sedative. Signs of its abuse include drowsiness and a lack of awareness. According to the DEA, it can even lead one to enter a hypnotic state. It can also cause amnesia, and it can be used as a date rape drug. 

This sedation and amnesiac effect makes the drug especially prone to being abused by those who wish to suppress their current feelings, such as those who are depressed or anxious. It can lead to a feeling of excitement and happiness, a dangerous draw to people who have trouble achieving such a state naturally.

What Leads to Addiction to the Drug?

This drug’s effects are potent even in small doses.  Many abusers “self-prescribe” designer benzodiazepines for anxiety issues or as a downer for recreational stimulant abuse. As with much of self-prescription, this type of abuse often spirals into addiction. 

Self-prescription is frequently a justification for drug abuse and a failure to seek true medical intervention because of embarrassment, fear of reprisal, or denial of a real problem. This type of behavior opens the person up to addiction, especially because it encourages a belief that one does not need the aid of medical professionals for medical and mental health problems.

Dangers of Abuse

Clonazolam is understudied, but one specific danger is its potency. Even at a dose of 0.5 mg, the drug can cause strong sedation and amnesia. Higher doses can lead to extreme drowsiness and coma.

Most effects associated with benzodiazepines should be watched for when it comes to clonazolam abuse. 

Benzodiazepine abuse is dangerous, even putting the drugs’ addictive nature aside. Among benzodiazepines’ more dangerous side effects, the DEA notes they can cause:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Weak or rapid heartbeat
  • Coma, leading to possible death

This class of drugs is also associated with irritability and even hostility in abusers. If anyone is experiencing these symptoms, they should contact emergency services. Their life may be in serious danger.

These drugs should never be taken with opioids as doing so increases the risk of coma or death.

Who Abuses These Drugs?

While anyone can abuse benzodiazepines, they are especially prone to abuse by young people and those who deal with anxiety or depression. These groups are also not mutually exclusive. Many young people struggle with anxiety. 

Generally, benzodiazepines are considered more prone to physical dependence than addiction, but they certainly can be addictive, especially to those with a history of addiction. Designer benzodiazepines should be treated with even more care. They are poorly studied and tend to be quite potent.

Addiction and Dependence 

Suddenly stopping benzodiazepines can lead to serious problems, including seizures that do not stop and hallucinations. Taken as prescribed (which clonazolam never is), these drugs can still cause physical dependence for this reason. 

Essentially, while not necessarily always addictive, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking a benzodiazepine. It might even be dangerous to stop completely, requiring you to slowly reduce your dosage. This tapered dose reduction should be supervised by a physician.

Whether your use was legitimate or not, always talk to a medical professional about the best way to stop taking a benzodiazepine.

Benzodiazepines can also be addictive if abused, especially potent ones like the poorly understood clonazolam. Sedatives can be psychologically addictive, with a person who is addicted to chasing the feeling of excitement and happiness they can bring them. 

This combination of dependence and addiction can be a dangerous pairing, especially with a high potency benzodiazepine that can be acquired relatively cheaply. It makes the drug difficult to stop, as its effects become incredibly addictive, and withdrawal can cause serious physical and psychological symptoms.

Admitting to a Problem

The first step to dealing with any addiction or dependence issue is to admit there is a problem. Recovery from sedative abuse is possible, even from potent sedatives like clonazolam.

MedlinePlus notes, among several other important steps, that you should try and avoid triggers on your road to recovery. Triggers are things you associate with drug use. They could include places, emotions, and even people who tended to encourage you to do drugs. Cutting toxic people out of your life can be difficult, but it is often necessary. 

Treatment for Designer Benzodiazepine Abuse

It is important to enroll in a treatment program. These programs can teach you skills to avoid drug use and help you identify the reasons you abuse drugs. 

As you participate in both individual and group therapy, you’ll begin to form a valuable network of people who support your recovery.

Treatment will usually be more intense in the beginning stages. As you gain a stronger foothold in recovery, it may scale off a bit with fewer therapy sessions per week. 

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Designer sedatives like clonazolam can seem like an easy out to your problems, but they tend to make things much worse. Breaking your addiction to them can dramatically improve your quality of life.

Self-prescription does not solve problems; it adds to them. You may gain what feels like legitimate relief, but drugs wear on your body, mind, and life. That wear can lead to further personal or financial problems, which tend to then encourage more drug use. It is a cycle that won’t be broken with more drugs.

Facing drug abuse can make it easier to tackle the problems that lead to it. Past trauma, unhappiness, or anything else that led you to abuse drugs can be addressed in comprehensive addiction treatment.

Sources

(June 2015). Designer Benzodiazepines: A New Challenge. World Psychiatry. Retrieved February 2019 from from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471986/

(July 2015). Drug Trends. U.S Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Retrieved February 2019 from from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/mtgs/pharm_awareness/conf_2015/july_2015/rannazzissi.pdf

Long-term Adjunctive Benzodiazepines May Not Improve Outcomes in Bipolar Disorder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Retrieved February 2019 from from https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/psychiatry-psychology/news/long-term-adjunctive-benzodiazepines-may-not-improve-outcomes-in-bipolar-disorder/mac-20430376

(April 2017). Several Countries Place Benzodiazepine Derivatives Under National Control. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Retrieved February 2019 from from https://www.unodc.org/LSS/Announcement/Details/065118d5-b238-48d8-9d7f-b95fb5d11411

(June 2017). The Challenge of Synthetic Drugs in East and South-East Asia. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Retrieved February 2019 from from https://www.unodc.org/documents/scientific/Trends_and_Patterns_of_ATS_and_NPS_2017.pdf

(2017). Drugs of Abuse (2017 Edition). U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Retrieved February 2019 from from https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/sites/getsmartaboutdrugs.com/files/publications/DoA_2017Ed_Updated_6.16.17.pdf#page=59

(December 2017). Klonopin. RxList. Retrieved February 2019 from from https://www.rxlist.com/klonopin-drug.htm#description

(December 2018). Ativan. RxList. Retrieved February 2019 from from https://www.rxlist.com/ativan-drug.htm#description

Prescription Drug Abuse. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Retrieved February 2019 from from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20376813?p=1

(May 2018). Substance Use – Prescription Drugs. MedlinePlus. Retrieved February 2019 from from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000798.htm

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