Klonopin Addiction: Risks & FAQs

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

April 4, 2023

Table of Contents

Klonopin (clonazepam) is a prescription benzodiazepine mainly prescribed to treat symptoms of anxiety associated with panic attacks. Klonopin addiction, while uncommon, can occur in some cases of long-term use particularly for individuals with a history of addictive tendencies.

A long-acting benzo, Klonopin remains in the system for longer than many drugs in the benzodiazepine family. Any long-term use of Klonopin may lead to tolerance and physical dependence developing, but is Klonopin addictive?

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This guide examines some of the most common Klonopin abuse side effects to determine whether you can get addicted to this prescription benzo.

What Does Klonopin Do to You?

Klonopin is a branded formulation of clonazepam, but why do people take Klonopin?

As a CNS depressant, Klonopin slows brain activity and promotes feelings of relaxation. The medication was first developed to manage the seizures associated with epilepsy. Researchers established that clonazepam had powerful and fast-acting calming effects, making the medication suitable for the treatment of the symptoms of panic attacks.

Klonopin is also indicated to ease the symptoms of anxiety and alleviate withdrawal symptoms during alcohol detox. Some physicians may prescribe Klonopin to treat short-term insomnia.

Clonazepam can be effective for the short-term treatment of these conditions, but can Klonopin be addictive?

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Klonopin Addiction

Klonopin is a potent long-acting benzodiazepine. Like all benzos, Klonopin is a Schedule IV controlled substance.

It is considered safe and effective to use Klonopin short-term for therapeutic use when prescribed by a physician. Klonopin is habit-forming, though, and any Klonopin long-term use carries the risk for developing clonazepam addiction. Those with a history of addiction are at heightened risk.

Beyond this, research shows that Klonopin abuse often co-occurs with the abuse of other addictive substances. This is a phenomenon known as polysubstance abuse. Klonopin may be abused to reduce the unwanted side effects of stimulant use like insomnia. Alternatively, Klonopin may be abused in combination with alcohol or opioids to intensify its euphoric effects. Any polysubstance abuse increases the chance of adverse outcomes, including life-threatening overdose.

If you use Klonopin long-term, you are likely to develop a physical dependence on the drug. When Klonopin dependence occurs, you will require the benzo to function normally, experiencing withdrawal symptoms in its absence. Klonopin dependency is not the same as Klonopin addiction, although dependence will potentially escalate the compulsive consumption of Klonopin, an integral feature of benzo addiction. Klonopin recreational use also increases the risk of addiction developing.

Is Klonopin Addictive?

Clonazepam may be a Schedule IV substance, but the Klonopin addiction risk is relatively high, especially in the event of Klonopin long-term use.

With sustained use of Klonopin, your body begins to adjust as Klonopin triggers the increased production in the brain of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). As tolerance to Klonopin builds, its pleasurable and medical benefits diminish. Tolerance leads many people to take more Klonopin or more frequent doses of the benzo to deliver the initial effects.

The body will not function sub-optimally without Klonopin with severe withdrawal symptoms presenting if blood concentration of the drug falls below a certain level. This stage often signifies the onset of Klonopin addiction. The person using benzos may start to think and behave differently, directing more energy and focus to acquiring and using Klonopin.

Your risk profile for Klonopin addiction is informed by factors that include:

  • Duration of Klonopin use
  • Frequency of doses
  • Typical dosage of Klonopin used
  • History of substance abuse
  • Family history of addiction
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders

Higher levels of tolerance and physical dependence are typically associated with an increased risk of addiction (substance use disorder). It is possible for Klonopin dependence to develop even when the benzodiazepine is used as prescribed.

How Addictive is Klonopin?

All benzos carry the risk of tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction, although Klonopin is one of the most addictive drugs in this class due to its rapid onset of action and lengthy elimination half-life. Klonopin penetrates the bloodstream, making its way to the brain within one hour. The medication has a half-life of 18 to 40 hours, remaining in the system for up to three days.

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Klonopin Abuse

Using Klonopin without a prescription or using more of the medication than prescribed is considered Klonopin abuse. These are the most common signs of Klonopin abuse:

  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggressive or violent behaviors

The signs of Klonopin abuse are likely to intensify as the use of the medication increases in line with the formation of tolerance and physical dependence.

Using Klonopin in combination with alcohol or opioids increases the likelihood of severe and life-threatening complications.

Dangers of Klonopin Abuse

In addition to the adverse outcomes outlined above, Klonopin abuse may result in severe and potentially dangerous physical effects, such as:

  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Depression of the CNS (central nervous system)
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures

Any form of Klonopin abuse is also liable to trigger the development of tolerance, physical dependency, and addiction.

Risk of Klonopin Addiction and Dependency

Some of the major risks of Klonopin addiction and dependency include:

  • Tolerance: Over time, the body may develop a tolerance to Klonopin, which means that you need to take increasingly higher doses to achieve the same effect. This can increase the risk of overdose and other negative side effects associated with clonazepam.
  • Physical dependence: With regular use, the body can become dependent on Klonopin to function normally. This means that if you suddenly stop taking the drug, you may experience Klonopin withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and seizures.
  • Addiction: Klonopin can be addictive, especially for people who have a history of substance abuse or addiction. Addiction can trigger an array of negative effects, from impaired judgment and decreased social functioning to financial problems and issues at home, work, or school.
  • Mental health problems: Long-term use of Klonopin can also increase the risk of mental health conditions like major depressive disorder or suicidal ideation.
  • Impaired cognitive function: Klonopin can impair cognitive function and lead to memory loss, decreased attention span, and difficulty with concentration.
  • Interactions with other addictive substances: Klonopin can interact with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids, and increase the risk of overdose or other negative side effects.

Long Term Use of Klonopin

It is inadvisable to use Klonopin long-term for the following reasons:

  • Tolerance: Over time, the body may become less responsive to Klonopin, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect. This can increase the risk of overdose and other adverse outcomes.
  • Physical dependence: With prolonged use, the body can become dependent on Klonopin to function normally. This means that if you abruptly stop taking the drug, you will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is one of the diagnostic criteria for addiction.
  • Cognitive impairments: Klonopin can trigger cognitive impairment, including memory loss, decreased attention span, and difficulty with concentration and focus.
  • Mood changes: Long-term use of Klonopin can also cause mood changes, including depression and suicidal ideation.
  • Impaired coordination: Klonopin can impair coordination and increase the risk of falls and other accidents.
  • Respiratory depression: Klonopin can bring about respiratory depression, a potentially life-threatening condition in which breathing becomes shallow and slow, sometimes stopping completely.
  • Increased risk of dementia: Some research suggests that long-term use of Klonopin may increase the risk of developing dementia later in life.

Klonopin Addiction Symptoms

Klonopin addiction is diagnosed depending on the number of symptoms that present from those listed in DSM-5-TR, the latest revised edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These are the DSM diagnostic criteria for Klonopin addiction:

  1. Tolerance forming so that you require more Klonopin to deliver the initial effects.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms presenting in the absence of Klonopin.
  3. Taking more Klonopin than intended or using the substance for longer than planned.
  4. Experiencing cravings for Klonopin.
  5. Spending lots of time obtaining and using Klonopin.
  6. Trying and failing to moderate or discontinue the use of Klonopin.
  7. Spending less time on hobbies and interests due to Klonopin use.
  8. Abusing Klonopin in potentially dangerous situations.
  9. Ongoing abuse of Klonopin even though benzos are triggering problems in your interpersonal relationships.
  10. Continuing use of Klonopin even though it is causing or worsening a health condition, whether physical or mental.
  11. Failing to meet personal or professional obligations due to Klonopin abuse.

Klonopin addiction is diagnosed as mild (2 to 3), moderate (4 to 5), or severe (6 or more), depending on the number of symptoms that present. While there is no cure for Klonopin addiction, benzo addiction responds favorably to a supervised medical detox with a tapered reduction in dosage followed by inpatient or outpatient therapy.

Klonopin FAQs

Why do people take Klonopin?

People take Klonopin to treat anxiety and panic disorders. The medication induces a calming effect that can reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Klonopin is also abused for its euphoric and sedating effects.

Is Klonopin dangerous?

Klonopin can be dangerous if not taken as directed by a physician, especially when taken in combination with other drugs or alcohol. Polysubstance abuse may cause extreme sedation, respiratory depression, and death.

Can Klonopin be addictive?

Yes, Klonopin can be addictive, especially when taken for extended periods or at high doses. The sudden discontinuation of the substance can trigger the presentation of withdrawal symptoms that include anxiety, insomnia, and seizures.

Is Klonopin an opioid?

No, Klonopin is not an opioid. It is a benzodiazepine medication that works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger in the brain called GABA.

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Get Help with Klonopin Addiction Recovery at Renaissance Recovery

If you are addicted to a benzo like Klonopin, we can help you combat addiction and initiate your recovery at Renaissance in Orange County.

We offer a variety of intensive outpatient treatment programs for addictions, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders.

All treatment programs at Renaissance Recovery Center provide personalized addiction treatment that combines science-based and holistic treatments that may include:

  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Experiential adventure therapy
  • Aftercare

When you are ready to move beyond benzo addiction, we can help you from detox to discharge and beyond at Renaissance Recovery Center in Huntington Beach. Call admissions today at 866.330.9449.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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