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How Does Klonopin Work?

Klonopin, the brand name medication for clonazepam, is a sedative benzodiazepine that is used to prevent and treat seizures, anxiety, and panic disorders. Benzos, as they are commonly called, include other anti-anxiety medications such as Valium, Xanax, and Ativan. Benzos, when taken with other drugs, medications, or alcohol can be very dangerous. According to the NIH, more than 30% of opioid overdose deaths involve benzos.

Not as popular nor as infamous as other sedatives, Klonopin is a tablet that is taken orally. After ingestion, clonazepam begins affecting the person within an hour, and the effects last for up to 12 hours after use.

Clonazepam was approved by the FDA as an anti-anxiety medication in 1975 and has been a popular treatment for conditions including:

  • Petit mal seizures: also called absence seizures. These seizures last for only about 15 seconds, and the person loses consciousness briefly. However, they can be difficult to discern and can occur more than 50 times a day without being detected. Petit mal seizures are linked to childhood epilepsy, and the causes of absence seizures are unknown.
  • Akinetic seizures: Lasting for less than 15 seconds, akinetic (or atonic) seizures cause the person to lose complete muscle tone for a brief time. An injury is common if these seizures occur while someone is standing or doing anything active because they fall and lose motor function.
  • Myoclonus: a symptom of muscle twitches or jerkiness. Myoclonus is not a disease. These involuntary movements interrupt daily life and can affect how someone speaks, moves, walks, or eats. In extreme cases, this can be a symptom of a more severe, underlying medical condition.
  • Lennox-Gastaut syndrome: a rare, severe form of epilepsy, this syndrome usually presents itself in early childhood.

Klonopin is available only as a prescription and is intended to be used to provide immediate relief from panic attacks and seizures. Because it presents a high risk of drug tolerance and dependence, Klonopin is not intended for long-term management or daily use. It is prescribed for the management of occasional, severe episodes of anxiety and in the immediate event of seizures.

Klonopin and the Brain

Like other benzos, Klonopin works by enhancing the GABA-A receptors in the brain. GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, is the most common neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, and it aids in reducing the excitability of neurons, thus having a calming effect on the brain, and by extension the person. There are different GABA-A receptors which is why different benzos affect people differently. Because people’s brains are unique, Klonopin and other benzos can have different effects on different people, too.

Klonopin dosage should not exceed 1-4 mg for panic disorders. For seizure disorders, the maximum dose should not exceed 20 mg, according to research published on the National Institute of Health.

Side Effects and Risks

Klonopin is a potent benzodiazepine that affects the brain on a chemical level. It can have several mild to moderate side-effects such as:

  • Sedation (experienced by 50% of patients)
  • Dizziness (experienced by over 33% of patients)
  • Headaches
  • Lack of inhibition
  • Fatigue
  • Amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Changes in sex drive and sexual desire
  • Rashes
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of depression

Antiepileptic drugs like Klonopin have been associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts and ideations. Because of this, careful medical supervision, and a close relationship between doctor-patient is strongly recommended for patients with co-occurring disorders. Other serious side-effects include:

  • Respiratory depression (stopping breathing)
  • Fainting
  • Enlarged liver; liver damage
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Klonopin and Dependence

Like other benzos, Klonopin produces pleasurable sensations, and it does this well, maybe too well. Benzos can be extremely addictive, both physically and psychologically. If someone has become physically dependent on Klonopin, withdrawal symptoms include seizures, making it precarious for someone to quit cold-turkey.

Whether someone has developed an addiction to Klonopin via recreational or medical use, quitting the drug should be done with medical supervision. To achieve long-term recovery from Klonopin dependency, drug treatment centers help the patient learn new techniques and coping strategies to deal with anxiety and stress without the use of Klonopin. Boardwalk Recovery is committed to assisting people to live purposeful and enjoyable lives without being dependent on drugs, but we know medical doctors are the best resources for treating brain disorders.

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