Can Clonazepam Cause Depression?
Clonazepam is an anticonvulsant medication used to prevent and minimize seizures. It is also a benzodiazepine, a tranquilizer, used to treat panic attacks. Clonazepam is consumed as an oral tablet or as a dissolving tablet with the common brand name, Klonopin.
Although this drug has medical benefits, the drug has a black box warning. A black box warning is an extreme alert from the Food and Drug Administration to doctors and patients that the drug has the potential to cause danger. In this article we discuss the different warnings and risks of Clonazepam use, focusing specifically on its emotional control potentially leading to depression.
The Dangers of Clonazepam Use
First off, when Clonazepam consumption is mixed with opioid drugs like hydrocodone, codeine, and tramadol, symptoms such as intense drowsiness, decreased respiratory function, coma, and death occur. Therefore, if a patient is prescribed opioids while on Clonazepam, the doctor will monitor the patient closely. Thus, taking opioids not prescribed by a medical doctor along with Clonazepam without cautious monitoring can result in an increased risk of dangerous effects.
Secondly, since Clonazepam is a central nervous system depressant it slows the patient’s response time, which can interfere with a human’s brain activity, judgment, and thinking. Alcohol consumption or other depressant drug use in combination with Clonazepam dangerously slows brain activity making it extremely dangerous to drive or use machinery which requires alertness. Until the user knows how Clonazepam impacts their individual functioning, he or she should avoid these tasks.
Additionally, Clonazepam can increase and intensify the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior, which are classified as thoughts or actions of harming oneself.
The Link Between Clonazepam and Depression
So how does Clonazepam cause depression? The link between depression and Clonazepam use can be understood through the mechanisms in the brain after the substance is consumed.
Once inside the body, Clonazepam increases the overall function of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical in the brain that produces relaxation. Thus, the presence of the drug makes a user feel even more relaxed than is usually naturally possible. Since Clonazepam functions in the brain, it has greater potential to ignite mental and emotional side effects especially in someone with an undiagnosed mental illness or history of depression.
A paper describing the research, led by Penn State scientists, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry expands on the connection between GABA and depressive symptoms. Professor of biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology at Penn State and the leader of the research team, Bernhard Lüscher explained that “GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain — it acts as the “brakes” of neural activity — and its dysfunction is implicated in a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders”. Lüscher’s research concluded that “increasing evidence suggests that dysfunction of GABA is also a major culprit in major depressive disorder, the most common and costly brain disorder and a principal cause of suicide, the primary cause of death among young people.”
More specifically, some of the emotional side effects of Clonazepam include the following:
- Sleep disturbances
- Problems with thinking or memory
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Trouble concentrating
- Changes in behavior
- Mood swings
Whether a patient is prescribed Clonazepam or has become addicted on their own, the diagnosis of any underlying mental health illness is critical in preventing dangerous emotional shifts and depressive symptoms.
Clonazepam use also comes with warnings of withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms include seizures, mental instability, mood changes, shaking, stomach cramps, and muscle stiffness. To help prevent withdrawal, patients are encouraged to talk with their doctor before stopping altogether and the doctor will lower the patient’s dose slowly to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Although Clonazepam relieves suffering from seizures and panic attacks, this medication can also lead to an addiction problem. As such, taking Clonazepam exactly as prescribed will lower the risk of addiction.
Whether someone has developed an addiction to Clonazepam via recreational or medical use, quitting the drug should be done with medical supervision. Boardwalk Recovery is committed to helping people live purposeful and enjoyable lives without being dependent on drugs like Clonazepam.
If you are concerned over a loved one who may be suffering from addiction and other mental illnesses, Boardwalk Recovery Center specializes in the treatment of co-occurring disorders and can help. Contact us today for more information and what steps you can take to help your loved one improve their quality of life.