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Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms and Detoxification

Klonopin is a prescription drug with a high potential for abuse and dependence.1,2 Those who have developed some degree of dependence are likely to go through withdrawal when discontinuing the drug.

Withdrawal refers to a set of symptoms that can develop when a person stops using or abruptly lowers the dose. Klonopin withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, shaking, and muscle aches and pains.2

Some people develop more serious symptoms, like seizures and delirium tremens.3,4 Because of these risks, Klonopin withdrawal can be dangerous if not properly treated. Detox and addiction treatment programs can help Klonopin users safely withdraw from the drug and minimize the chances of developing severe symptoms or complications.

About Klonopin

Klonopin, which is the brand name for clonazepam, belongs to a family of drugs known as benzodiazepines.1 This medication acts similarly to other benzodiazepines like Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), and Ativan (lorazepam). Klonopin is commonly prescribed to treat seizures and panic disorder. It works by increasing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that can slow abnormal electrical activity in the brain and is responsible for Klonopin’s calming effects.2,3

While Klonopin can be an effective and safe treatment for anxiety and seizure disorders if taken as prescribed, all benzodiazepines have a known potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction.2,3 Dependence may occur among regular prescription users, but those who abuse the drug (take more than prescribed or use it recreationally) may hasten the development of dependence and may also become addicted. Those addicted to Klonopin may find themselves unable to stop using despite being aware of the negative consequences that continued use brings.

Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms

Klonopin withdrawal symptoms can range in severity, with some people experiencing severe withdrawal reactions that require immediate emergency intervention.2,4

The severity of withdrawal may depend upon the length of use, the average dose being used, how abruptly the drug is discontinued, and personal factors, such as a person’s age and health. In order to minimize the risk of life-threatening symptoms like seizures, physicians usually recommend that people getting off benzodiazepines gradually lower their dose over an extended period of time, rather than stopping abruptly, in order to help their minds and bodies adjust to not having the drug.

Klonopin withdrawal symptoms may include:2,4,5

  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Sensory hypersensitivity.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Nightmares.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Headaches.
  • Muscle cramps, pain, and stiffness.
  • Sweating.
  • Nausea.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Tremors.
  • Seizures.
  • Delirium tremens.

People undergoing Klonopin withdrawal may experience rebound anxiety or seizures, since the drug is no longer available to inhibit abnormal excitatory activity in the brain.3,5

How Long Will It Last?

Klonopin withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 2 to 7 days of the last dose and can last for 2 to 8 weeks.6 While symptoms may resolve within 1 to 2 months, some people experience prolonged or protracted withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, depressed mood, and insomnia.4,7 Protracted symptoms may fluctuate over time but typically resolve within a few months of complete abstinence.7

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines like Klonopin is considered dangerous because severe symptoms may develop quickly; in some cases, seizures may come on without being preceded by other symptoms of withdrawal.4,8 Klonopin-dependent individuals are advised to undergo a managed withdrawal, or detox with medical supervision,8 where a physician can monitor their health, perform a gradual taper if necessary, and manage symptoms.

Withdrawing from Klonopin: Treatment Methods and Options for Help

There are several options available to help you safely and comfortably get through withdrawal.  The first step in getting help is speaking with a doctor or other treatment professional who can assess your risk for developing dangerous withdrawal symptoms and discuss treatment options. It is important to disclose any other drugs or alcohol that you are using, since this may impact your withdrawal, as well as the treatment approach.3

There are several different types of detox programs that can help you through the Klonopin withdrawal process:

  • Inpatient hospitals can provide intensive medical treatment 24 hours a day for the duration of your stay. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals will closely monitor your symptoms and gradually taper you off of the drug. They may also prescribe other medications to alleviate certain withdrawal symptoms.
  • Similar to inpatient hospitals, many stand-alone detox facilities provide 24-hour monitoring in a treatment facility. Some detox centers, called "social detox programs," do not provide medical treatment and only offer therapy sessions and support groups. Given the risks of Klonopin withdrawal, it is safest to detox in a facility that offers professional medical care.8
  • Some inpatient rehab programs will offer medical detox, as well as therapy and recovery meetings, to help you address addiction.
  • Outpatient detox. Unlike inpatient or residential programs, outpatient facilities allow you to come and go from the facility several times per week. Not everyone will be a good candidate for outpatient detox efforts. Given the risk of sudden onset of severe medical events, you may feel safer in an inpatient environment during at least the first few days of withdrawal. 

Inpatient and residential programs—whether they are in hospitals, rehabs, or stand-alone detox facilities—provide the most intensive monitoring and medical care and are therefore the safest option.

Beyond Detox: Addiction Treatment

While detox is an important and necessary step to withdraw from Klonopin, it does not address all the factors that contribute to and perpetuate a person's addiction. Many people transition from detox to an addiction treatment program to continue working on their recovery. During treatment, addiction professionals will help you work on areas of your life that may be triggering continued substance use, such as a stressful living situation, difficulties with school or work, a traumatic upbringing, ineffective coping skills, and/or mental health issues.

Similar to detox programs, addiction treatment programs are available at different levels of care:

  • Inpatient and residential programs provide intensive therapy sessions focused on helping you better understand your addiction and learn new ways of coping. These programs also provide housing for the length of your stay and have support staff available 24 hours a day.
  • Outpatient programs offer a specific number of therapy sessions each week. The frequency of therapy sessions will vary based on the program and your needs. Partial hospitalization programs usually offer 20 or more hours of treatment per week, which may be broken up into 4 or 5 days.10 Intensive outpatient programs typically offer between 6 and 9 hours of treatment per week.10

Family therapy and group counseling for addictions are also typically provided in both inpatient and outpatient programs:

  • Family therapy will help you to resolve conflicts that may be causing ongoing stress and serving as relapse triggers.
  • Group counseling provides a safe and supportive environment for sharing concerns, practicing stress management techniques, and engaging in role-playing scenarios.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective therapy for treating addiction to benzodiazepines like Klonopin.8 CBT can help you change negative thinking patterns and develop tools to manage your thoughts and feelings so that you are less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, like drug use.

Some people who are addicted to Klonopin may suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions.6 People with mental health issues who are withdrawing from Klonopin may benefit from dual diagnosis treatment, which is provided by psychiatric hospitals and residential or outpatient treatment facilities. These programs provide therapy sessions and groups that are focused on coping with both addiction and mental health issues. A dual diagnosis program can help you manage your mental health symptoms at the same time as you address your recovery from substance abuse. Leaving mental health issues unaddressed may lead to a relapse, as you may reach for substances to cope with lingering symptoms.

Toward the end of treatment, your therapists and counselors should help you create an aftercare plan, which is a detailed plan for how you will maintain your recovery when treatment is over. For some people, this may involve finding stable housing at a sober living facility, attending therapy each week, and reaching out to other sober people.

Self-help groups can also be a part of an aftercare plan for people who are overcoming benzodiazepine dependence. These include 12-step groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, and non-12-step groups, like SMART Recovery. While group counseling sessions are facilitated by treatment professionals, community-based support groups are conducted by other volunteers in recovery. Self-help groups can help you develop a sober support network and learn tools to maintain your sobriety.

Klonopin Information at a Glance
Medication Name, Costs Class of Medicine
  • Generic Name: Clonazepam1
  • Brand Name: Klonopin1
  • Used to Treat Addiction? No. However, clonazepam is sometimes used to manage withdrawal from shorter-acting benzodiazepines and other sedative-hypnotic drugs.8
  • Function or Use at Low Dose: To treat panic disorder2
  • Function or Use at High Dose: To control epileptic seizures2
  • Chemical Makeup: Clonazepam C15H10ClN3O32
  • Duration of Action: Long4
Form, Intake and Dosage Interactions and Complications
  • Drug Forms: Tablet, Disintegrating wafer1
  • Administration Routes: Oral1
  • Dosage: May vary depending upon diagnosis and age2
  • Overdose: Symptoms can include drowsiness, confusion, weakened reflexes, and coma2
  • Alcohol Interaction: Taking Klonopin with alcohol is not recommended.1
  • Prescription Medications: Tell your doctor if you are taking other prescription medications.1
  • Contraindications: Liver disease, acute narrow-angle glaucoma, history of sensitivity to benzodiazepines2
Effects and Adverse Reactions Substance Abuse
  • Cardiovascular: Heart palpitations2
  • Gastrointestinal: Weight gain or loss, increased appetite, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, gastritis, dry mouth, sore gums, coated tongue2
  • Urinary: Painful or difficult urination, urinary retention, involuntary urination2
  • Other: Muscle weakness and pain, dehydration, fever, swelling of the lymph nodes, anemia, enlargement of the liver, lowered white blood cell or platelet count2
  • Risk of Substance Abuse: Yes4
  • Signs of Abuse: Misusing the drug by taking more than prescribed or taking it without a prescription
Physiological Problem Signs and Symptoms Dependence and Addiction Issues
  • Withdrawal Syndrome Onset: Within 2-7 days of the last dose6
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, shakiness, tremors, heart palpitations, dizziness, anxiety, tension, difficulty concentrating, panic attacks, depression, confusion, insomnia, sweating, muscle pain, stiffness, and cramping, increased heart rate and blood pressure, hallucinations, seizures2,4,5
  • Tolerance: Over time, you may need more of the drug to continue to feel the same effects3
  • Cross-dependence: Cross-dependence may develop with alcohol, barbiturates, and other sedative-hypnotic medications.4
  • Physical Dependence: Your body may experience withdrawal symptoms upon cutting back or quitting3,4,6
  • Psychological Dependence: You may become dependent on Klonopin to manage anxiety and may experience rebound anxiety when the drug is stopped4
Legal Schedules and Ratings
  • Controlled Substances Act Rating: Schedule IV2

Questions and Answers (FAQ)

What Are Popular Slang or Street Names for Klonopin?

Benzodiazepines like Klonopin are also known by the following street names:9

  • Benzos.
  • Downers.
  • Tranks.
  • Candy.
  • Sleeping pills.

Are There any Home Remedies for Getting Clean Safely? 

There are serious dangers to seeking home remedies as a natural alternative for Klonopin withdrawal. Trying to relieve yourself of the pains of withdrawal on your own can pose serious medical risks.4,8 The safest way to detox from Klonopin is under the care of a doctor, who can help you gradually taper off of the drug and give you the relief that you need.

How Long Does It Take to Detox from Klonopin?

It can take 3-5 weeks to detox from Klonopin while on a taper.7 Your doctor may slowly reduce your dose each week during this time. In general, slowly tapering off of the drug ensures a safer and less painful withdrawal than an abrupt cessation of the substance.6 During your taper, your symptoms may come and go or vary in intensity. Even when your taper is over, you may continue to experience some protracted withdrawal symptoms for several months. With continued abstinence, these symptoms should abate over time.

Klonopin withdrawal can be a risky and painful process, but you do not have to go through it on your own. There are many detox options and programs available in your local area. It is never too late to seek help.

References

  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Clonazepam.
  2. Genentech, Inc. (2017). Klonopin tablets (clonazepam).
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Misuse of prescription drugs.
  4. Longo, L. P., & Johnson, B. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines- Side effects, abuse risk and alternatives. American Family Physician61(7), 2121-2128.
  5. Petursson, H. (1994). The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Addiction, 89(11), 1455-1459.
  6. Dolan, K. (2010). Clinical guidelines for withdrawal management and treatment of drug dependence in closed settings. Addiction, 105(7), 1318.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Substance abuse treatment advisory: Protracted withdrawal.
  8. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Commonly abused drugs.
  10. Mee-Lee, D. (Ed.). (2013). The ASAM criteria: Treatment for addictive, substance-related, and co-occurring conditions. Carson City, NV: The Change Companies.
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