Clonazolam is a relatively new drug that has the potential to cause problems with dependence and addiction. Here’s what you need to know about clonazolam and where you can go for help if you or a loved one uses this substance and is ready to seek treatment.
What is clonazolam?
Clonazolam is a type of triazolobenzodiazepine, a benzodiazepine that has been fused with a triazole ring (a triazole is a compound made of two carbon atoms and three nitrogen atoms).
According to a 2020 study published in Forensic Science International, this benzodiazepine derivative and research chemical is a psychoactive substance with no medicinal use. The study also mentions that clonazolam is currently being misused by people experimenting with new psychoactive drugs.
Clonazolam is reported to be extremely potent and associated with greater health risks than other designer benzodiazepines. It can cause strong sedation and amnesia when used at doses of as little as 0.5 mg.
Clonazolam is illegal in the United States and is a Schedule I drug in the states of Virginia and Minnesota. According to a report from the University of Washington, designer benzodiazepines like clonazolam usually come in pills that resemble the appearance of Xanax.
What is clonazolam used for?
Clonazolam is a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that are usually prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia. These drugs slow down central nervous system processes, including respiration and heart rate, to make you feel more relaxed. They do this by interacting with certain brain chemicals—particularly gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)—which play a role in feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear.
Clonazolam has no approved medical or medicinal uses in the United States. It should not be used to treat anxiety or insomnia like other benzodiazepines. Do not use or accept this drug if it is offered to you by a friend or family member, as it could have serious consequences and effects on your health.
What are the effects of clonazolam?
The effects of clonazolam are similar to those produced by other benzodiazepines. Its effects include muscle relaxation, reduced anxiety, fatigue, sleepiness, and euphoria.
Because it has a high potency level, high doses of this drug could be significantly toxic and put you at an increased risk for an overdose. A clonazolam dose of any level could be potentially fatal, as there is no dose of this drug that is considered safe.
In the aforementioned study published in Forensic Science International, researchers observed the effects of clonazolam in a person who had zero tolerance for benzodiazepines, as they had not been using these drugs. They learned that the person experienced decreased muscle tone, deep tendon flexes, and long-term coma after using clonazolam.
Is it possible to overdose on clonazolam?
Anyone who uses clonazolam is at risk for an overdose. This drug is not safe to use at any dosage level, and higher doses greater than 0.5 mg may cause fatality.
A clonazolam overdose will cause the same signs and symptoms as an overdose caused by any other benzodiazepine. Drugs in this class can slow your heart rate and act as respiratory depressants that can also stop your breathing. Signs and symptoms of a clonazolam overdose include:
• Impaired mental status
• Delayed reaction time
• Slow reflexes
• Slow or stopped breathing
• Loss of consciousness
Contact emergency medical services right away if you or someone else has taken clonazolam, as the risk for an overdose is high. Emergency room doctors can perform treatments that will potentially save your life or that of your loved one after using clonazolam.
Is clonazolam an addictive substance?
Like all other benzodiazepines, clonazolam is habit-forming and can lead to physical dependence and psychological addiction when used regularly.
People who use clonazolam regularly can develop a tolerance to the drug, which means they will eventually need higher amounts to feel its effects. Over time, a person who keeps using clonazolam can become physically dependent on it and experience withdrawal symptoms when quitting abruptly.
Physical dependence is not the same as addiction. Addiction is characterized by a set of compulsive behaviors that are difficult to control, such as using clonazolam in risky situations or using the drug when knowing it is causing other serious health problems. It is entirely possible to become addicted to clonazolam, especially after long-term use.
What are clonazolam withdrawal symptoms?
Clonazolam withdrawal symptoms are the same as benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. You will likely experience these symptoms when you suddenly stop using clonazolam after becoming physically dependent on it.
According to a 2015 study published in Australian Prescriber, anyone who uses benzodiazepines for longer than three to four weeks is likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when suddenly discontinuing use. However, this timeline may be shortened with clonazolam use, given how this drug is much more potent than other benzodiazepines.
Clonazolam withdrawal symptoms include:
• Heart palpitations
• Metallic taste in the mouth
• Muscle pain and stiffness
• Shooting pain in the neck and spine
• Poor memory and concentration
• Heightened sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and taste
• Rebound insomnia
• Panic attacks
• Vision problems, including blurred vision
• Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
• Grand mal seizures
These withdrawal symptoms can begin anywhere from one to seven days after the last dose of clonazolam and last for two to eight weeks or longer. Factors that can affect the length of clonazolam withdrawal include the amount that was being used, the frequency of clonazolam use, and whether it was being used with other substances like alcohol or opioids. Other factors that can affect the clonazolam withdrawal timeline include metabolism, physical activity level, and nutrition.
How can clonazolam dependence and addiction be treated?
Medical detox, counseling, and behavioral therapy are the most effective treatments for clonazolam dependence and addiction. All these treatments are available at many drug and alcohol rehab centers that specialize in benzodiazepine use disorder.
Medical detox helps you recover from physical dependency on clonazolam. This treatment helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and its potential complications—including seizures, coma, and death. Medical detox is always the first stage of treatment for benzodiazepine use disorder.
Counseling and behavioral therapy can help you recover from clonazolam addiction. These therapies are offered as part of a drug rehab program that lasts a minimum of 30 days in a residential or outpatient setting. Common therapies offered in drug and alcohol rehab programs include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, relapse prevention training, and family therapy. Dual diagnosis therapy is also available for those with a co-occurring mental health disorder like bipolar disorder, depression, or PTSD.
A quality addiction treatment center will customize your rehab program by choosing only the therapies that can address your unique situation as it relates to clonazolam addiction. For example, if you started using clonazolam to cope with stress and depression, your treatment plan may include stress management training and dual diagnosis therapy—the latter of which can help you manage and cope with depression using healthier methods.
What happens during clonazolam detox?
The purpose of drug detox is to minimize your withdrawal symptoms and the risk of complications while making you feel as comfortable as possible. Everyone responds differently to detox, which is why going through clonazolam withdrawal at a drug rehab center is critical to experiencing a full, healthy recovery.
Before you begin a detox, a team of doctors and therapists will evaluate your overall health and substance use disorder to determine the best treatment method for you. In most cases, benzodiazepine detox is performed using a tapering method. This means that your doctors will replace the dose of clonazolam you were using with an equivalent dose of another, safer benzodiazepine called diazepam. Then, your doses of diazepam will be reduced gradually over time to prevent your withdrawal symptoms from being too severe or overwhelming.
Your recovery progress will be closely monitored for the duration of detox and modified as needed to ensure you stay comfortable. For example, if you are still experiencing mild dizziness a week after having your diazepam dosage reduced, your doctors may hold off on reducing your dosage any further until your dizziness has resolved. You can start receiving counseling and behavioral therapy for addiction when your detox treatment has ended or when your symptoms have become more manageable.
Where to find treatment for clonazolam misuse
Clonazolam is a relatively new designer drug, therefore, many addiction treatment centers may not have the experience needed to effectively treat your dependence and addiction to this substance.
If you or a loved one needs clonazolam addiction treatment, contact The Recovery Team at (800) 817-1247. The Recovery Team offers medical detox and a wide array of therapies and rehab programs that can help you or your loved one experience a full, safe recovery from clonazolam dependence and addiction. We welcome patients from all walks of life, including veterans, first responders, and business professionals who want to maintain their careers and anonymity while receiving addiction treatment.