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The Dangers Of Mixing Klonopin With Alcohol

Joseph Sitarik, DO

Medically reviewed by

Joseph Sitarik, DO

March 26, 2019

Klonopin (clonazepam) and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants that slow brain activity and promote relaxation in the body. When Klonopin and alcohol are used together, the sedation that a person experiences can be severe. Mixing these two substances is not recommended and may be deadly.

Mixing Klonopin with alcohol is dangerous because both substances affect the same area of the brain. This causes the effects of one to build on the effects of the other. Combining alcohol and Klonopin also makes it difficult for someone to know when they’ve taken too much. Both of these factors significantly raise the risk of overdose.

Possible signs of a Klonopin and alcohol overdose are:

  • confusion
  • excessive sedation
  • severely depressed breathing
  • loss of consciousness
  • bluish skin and fingernails
  • coma
  • death

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If someone stops breathing because of an overdose on Klonopin and alcohol, they may experience hypoxia. This is a condition in which the body and brain do not get enough oxygen, which is especially dangerous to brain cells. Even if the person is revived within minutes, they may suffer brain damage due to hypoxia.

Other dangers of mixing Klonopin with alcohol may be:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • memory problems or blackout
  • dangerous behavior such as driving while intoxicated
  • loss of coordination that could lead to a fall or injury

Klonopin is deemed to be relatively safe and effective when taken as prescribed. When someone mixes it with alcohol, they increase the chance of negative side effects and complications from both substances.

Klonopin Extreme Sedation symptoms

Long-Term Effects Of Mixing Klonopin And Alcohol

Klonopin (clonazepam) and alcohol are both metabolized by the liver. Long-term alcohol use is well-known to cause liver damage and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). Mixing Klonopin and alcohol puts additional strain on the liver, which can cause it to deteriorate faster and metabolize drugs and alcohol slower. Women are especially susceptible to liver damage from alcohol.

Even people who take Klonopin in accordance with prescription guidelines should be careful about drinking alcohol with it, especially in large amounts.

Long-term use of benzodiazepine drugs like Klonopin has been linked to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Klonopin can also cause irreversible memory problems if it is abused. Combining it with alcohol can lead to short-term memory loss (amnesia) as well.

Klonopin Liver Damage

Effects Of Klonopin And Alcohol On The Brain

Klonopin (clonazepam) is prescribed as a short-term treatment for seizures and panic disorders. It can reduce symptoms of anxiety such as nervousness and muscle tension. Alcohol has a similar effect, though it does not last as long.

Both of these substances target the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, which slows communication in the brain. Over time, abusing these substances can stunt the brain’s ability to manage its own activity, which can cause a reverse effect.

For example, an individual who drinks excessive amounts of alcohol to relieve anxiety may experience increased anxiety with alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, this leads many people to drink more in the hopes of relieving this negative effect, though this actually worsens it.

The same phenomenon can happen with Klonopin abuse. Also, if someone is dependent on Klonopin and stops taking it, they will likely experience “rebound anxiety” or a recurrence of the symptoms like seizures and panic attacks that Klonopin was used to treat.

list of effects of klonopin on the brain

Klonopin And Alcohol Abuse

Nearly 500,000 adults in the United States abuse sedatives like Klonopin (clonazepam). These drugs are primarily misused by individuals over the age of 25. Benzodiazepines have been involved in an increasing amount of overdose deaths in the last few years. Most of these deaths occurred because benzodiazepines were mixed with other substances, like alcohol or opioids.

Klonopin and alcohol are both abused because of their sedative properties and the sense of euphoria that they produce in some people. The human body develops a tolerance to both substances when they are used frequently, which causes many people to increase their consumption.

The more someone abuses drugs and alcohol, especially in combination, the more likely they are to develop dependence or addiction. This is because the body and brain change when substances are abused, and individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol are likely to do so in high amounts, which also increases this risk.

Detoxing From Alcohol And Klonopin

If someone becomes dependent on both alcohol and Klonopin, they may need the help of a medically assisted detox program. Withdrawing from two substances can be more difficult than withdrawing from one, and withdrawal from benzodiazepines or alcohol alone can be life-threatening.

A medical detox program ensures a person’s safety during withdrawal by keeping them nourished, hydrated, and stabilized. Benzodiazepines are often tapered (dosage is slowly reduced) to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

In fact, long-acting benzodiazepines like Klonopin (clonazepam) and Valium (diazepam) are sometimes used to treat alcohol withdrawals. Since these drugs produce similar effects to alcohol, taking them can reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Once an individual has detoxed from alcohol, they can taper off Klonopin, which eases the withdrawal process.

Treatment For Polysubstance Abuse Of Klonopin And Alcohol

After detox, an individual struggling with polysubstance abuse of Klonopin and alcohol can benefit from an addiction treatment program. These programs are most effective in an inpatient setting, which provides a therapeutic community of individuals striving toward the same goal of recovery.

Inpatient drug rehab programs use a combination of research-based therapies that work to improve mental and physical health. Addiction affects a person’s whole life, and addressing all the areas that have been damaged by substance abuse is vital to preventing relapse.

Dual diagnosis treatment may also be available for individuals who suffer from anxiety and panic disorders. These co-occurring mental issues are often the cause of substance abuse that leads to addiction. Dealing with the root of the problem and all the surrounding issues is the best way to ensure a lasting recovery.

To learn more about the dangers of mixing Klonopin with alcohol and explore treatment options, contact one of our specialists today.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Harmful Interactions: mixing alcohol with medicines

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Overdose Death Rates

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States

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