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Long-Term Effects Of Klonopin (Clonazepam) Abuse

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

April 4, 2019

Klonopin (clonazepam) is a benzodiazepine drug that is prescribed for seizures and panic disorders. It is recommended for short-term use in small doses. However, some individuals abuse Klonopin by taking much more than prescribed or obtaining it without a prescription. This can have immediate dangerous consequences as well as negative long-term effects on the body and mind.

The initial dose of Klonopin (clonazepam) prescribed for seizures is 1.5 mg per day, broken into three doses. For panic disorders, it is only 0.25 mg twice daily. The drug labels warns that adults should not take more than 20 mg per day. The problem is, people who abuse Klonopin do not follow prescription guidelines, and the longer they abuse it, the more likely they are to exceed the daily limit.

Klonopin is a long-acting benzodiazepine, which means it has a long half-life (the time it takes for half of the drug to leave the body). If someone takes more Klonopin before their body has processed the previous dose, the drug builds up in their system. When benzodiazepines are taken in excess, they are stored in body fat until needed. This further increases the risk of toxicity that may cause an overdose, and can also have damaging long-term effects.

Long-term effects of Klonopin (clonazepam) abuse may include:

  • sedation
  • loss of coordination
  • gastrointestinal distress
  • reproductive issues
  • psychological effects
  • seizures and panic attacks
  • damage to the nose (if snorted)
  • damage to the veins (if injected)

Sedation

Klonopin is a central nervous system depressant, so it slows down the function of the body and brain. This helps people relax, preventing seizures and panic attacks. With prolonged abuse, though, an individual may be in a state of excessive sedation.

Loss Of Coordination

Benzodiazepines like Klonopin can impair brain function. This may result in decreased coordination or loss of control over one’s own body, called ataxia. Symptoms of ataxia are similar to those of alcohol intoxication: slurred speech, stumbling, and lack of balance.

Gastrointestinal Distress

Klonopin can disturb the gastrointestinal (GI) system, causing constipation or diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach). This can prompt changes in appetite, which may lead to weight loss or gain.

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Reproductive Issues

In some people, Klonopin abuse can lead to reproductive issues. For women, this may be worsened menstrual cramps, breast pain, or colpitis (inflammation of the vagina). In men, Klonopin may cause impotence or delayed ejaculation.

Psychological Effects

Many benzodiazepines are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Besides this, Klonopin abuse may cause confusion, memory loss, hallucinations, worsened depression, mood changes, and suicidal thoughts. Individuals who abuse this drug may continue to experience memory problems and cognitive impairment even after they have stopped taking it.

Seizures And Panic Attacks

While Klonopin is effective at preventing seizures in individuals with a seizure disorder, it can actually cause seizures in those without the disorder. When Klonopin is abused for a prolonged period of time, it can begin to have the opposite of its intended effect. Klonopin abuse has been linked to increased anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia—all things that it is meant to alleviate.

Damage To The Nose (If Snorted)

If someone abuses Klonopin tablets by crushing and snorting them (called “insufflation”), they risk painful—and possibly permanent—consequences. Snorting Klonopin can destroy nasal tissue, causing nosebleeds, holes in the cartilage, and an inability to smell.

Damage To The Veins (If Injected)

Taking Klonopin by injection is harmful to the veins for a few reasons. First, the inactive ingredients (“fillers”) are not meant to enter the bloodstream and can be dangerous.

0Second, injection may lead to bacterial skin infections from an unclean needle or injection site, even if needles are not shared. Third, sharing needles can spread diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C, which can stay with a person for life.

Klonopin Dependence And Addiction

The long-term effects of Klonopin (clonazepam) abuse include physical dependence and mental addiction. The body can develop a tolerance to benzodiazepines like Klonopin in just a couple of weeks. This causes some individuals—especially those who are already abusing the drug—to increase their doses or take Klonopin more frequency.

The more often someone takes the drug, the more likely the body is to rely on Klonopin to operate normally. When physical dependence develops, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms occur if the person stops taking the drug. This prompts many people to continue taking it and is why many doctors taper patients off Klonopin slowly.

Addiction often occurs along with physical dependence. In order to reduce stress levels and promote calm in the body, Klonopin changes the way the brain functions. Over time, the brain begins to depend on Klonopin to regulate activity. This causes cravings that are nearly impossible to resist.

When addiction develops, the individual no longer has control over their drug use, which can lead to devastating consequences. Mental addiction is even more difficult to overcome if the body is dependent as well.

Treatment For Klonopin (Clonazepam) Addiction

Most people are unable heal from addiction without help. The best drug rehab centers offer programs that are tailored to an individual’s unique needs so no one is alone in recovery. There is no single treatment for addiction, but rather a combination of therapies has been found to be most effective.

Treatment for Klonopin (clonazepam) addiction often includes individual and group counseling, behavioral therapy, support groups, recreation, and stress management techniques. This may take place in an outpatient setting, where recovering individuals live at home during treatment. However, many individuals benefit from inpatient treatment, which allows them to live in a therapeutic community and focus completely on recovery.

Center for Substance Abuse Research—Benzodiazepines - http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/benzos.asp

U.S. National Library of Medicine: DailyMed—LABEL: KLONOPIN - clonazepam tablet - https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=542f22e8-dad2-47a8-93b6-30936715d73b

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