A Guide to Clonazepam
Clonazepam is a drug in the class of medications known as benzodiazepines. Like other drugs in the class, it is a central nervous system depressant (CNS) that slows body processes and may be prescribed to treat anxiety, panic attacks or seizures. It is sometimes prescribed to treat nerve pain, but a 2012 literature review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found no studies of sufficient quality to recommend that use. Clonazepam is marketed under the brand name Klonopin
Clonazepam is available in a tablet, disintegrating tablet and solution. The website Drugs.com states that for seizure disorders, a half-milligram tablet three times a day is a common dosing schedule for adults and children over the age of ten. For panic disorder, a quarter-milligram pill may be taken twice a day. Doctors may adjust dosages if necessary. Medline Plus notes that the dosage is not generally increased any more often than once every three days.
Clonazepam’s Effect on Neurotransmitter
Benzodiazepines like clonazepam work by affecting GABA. GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human body and regulates muscle tone and reduces neuronal excitability. GABA receptor cells contain sites that bind GABA and also sites that can bind other molecules such as benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepine drugs affect GABA by making receptor cells more efficient.
Although benzodiazepines like clonazepam can be very effective, drug tolerance can develop quickly. Tolerance occurs because the human body is always attempting to maintain balance or homeostasis. When it senses that GABA is out of balance, it adapts by decreasing GABA inhibition and by increasing the excitability of the system that regulates glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter
As the body begins to adapt, larger or more frequent doses of the drug are needed to achieve results once achieved from a smaller level. This is known as drug tolerance. Tolerance to some of clonazepam’s effects can develop within days of beginning the medication. Tolerance to other effects can occur within weeks
As the body continues to adapt, it eventually develops dependence on the drug. When dependence occurs, the body has adapted to the point that it views the presence of the drug as normal and in some respects is only in balance when it is in the system. When the drug is not in the body, the ways in which the body pushes back against the drug’s effects are unopposed, and withdrawal symptoms occur.
Discontinuing the Use of Clonazepa
When therapy with clonazepam and other benzodiazepine drugs is discontinued, patients may experience recurrence, rebound or withdrawal. Recurrence is the re-appearance of the symptoms that the patient was being treated for. Rebound is the appearance of the original symptoms at a more intense level. Withdrawal is the appearance of new symptoms that the patient did not experience before treatment.
There are a wide range of potential clonazepam withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are generally opposite in nature from a drug’s primary effects and since benzodiazepines are CNS depressants, withdrawal symptoms tend to be stimulatory in nature. They include anxiety, insomnia, tremors, seizures and psychosis. Depression and effects on the gastrointestinal, neurologic and musculoskeletal systems are also not uncommon.
Clonazepam and other benzodiazepines are frequently abused. Most drugs of abuse cause spikes in body levels of dopamine, the body’s primary feel-good neurotransmitter. A 2012 article published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that until recently, the mechanism by which benzodiazepines exerted this effect was unclear. Recent research, however, has demonstrated that the drugs weaken the influence of certain cells in the brain that generally help prevent excessive dopamine levels. The weakening of these cells allows dopamine levels to surge
Clonazepam is a CNS depressant, and abuse can have serious consequences. Combining the drug with other substances that share that quality can be especially dangerous. A 2014 Drug Abuse Warning Network report notes that between 2005 and 2011, there were almost a million emergency room visits involving benzodiazepines. The risk of more serious outcomes (hospitalization or death instead of emergency room treatment and release) was found to be significant for patients of all ages who used benzodiazepines alone. Combining the drugs with alcohol or prescription opioid pain medication increased the risk by a further 24 to 55 percent.
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If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to clonazepam or any other substance, we can help you find treatment. Our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day, and our knowledgeable and compassionate consultants can help you find the program that is right for you. They can help you understand your options and can even check your insurance coverage for you at no cost or obligation. Addiction is a serious but treatable disease. Let us help you find your path to wellness.