Klonopin is a brand-name prescription medication that includes the active ingredient clonazepam. This drug is in a category of medications called benzodiazepines, which are often used for their ability to slow down the central nervous system. Klonopin is used to treat several types of anxiety disorders, including panic disorders. The drug can also treat certain types of disorders that cause seizures. 

As a depressant, Klonopin can relax muscles and ease muscle spasticity. Klonopin is also a central nervous system depressant like barbiturates, sedative-hypnotics, and even alcohol. These substances work with a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in various but similar ways. GABA is a neurotransmitter closely tied to sleep, relaxation, and feelings of calm. 

Klonopin is sold in tablet form and taken one to three times per day. When taken as prescribed, it can be a valuable treatment for anxiety. It’s often used for short-term therapeutic use because long-term use may lead to dependence or addiction. However, many doctors prescribe it for long periods to help manage ongoing anxiety-related issues. Klonopin may also be used recreationally to achieve a high that’s similar to other depressants like alcohol. Though Klonopin is misused less often than other more prevalent benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax), if they are misused, they can lead to substance use disorders, addiction, and overdose. 

As with any drug, Klonopin comes with risks and benefits. When it comes to treating anxiety, do these benefits outweigh the risks? Is Klonopin a safe and effective medication for threatening anxiety disorders? Learn more about Klonopin and its usefulness in treating anxiety. 

How Does Klonopin Help Anxiety?

klonopin for anxiety

Klonopin works with GABA, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that manages your rest, relaxation, and sleep response. Under normal circumstances, GABA can bind to its receptors to facilitate a feeling of calm and ease anxieties. In some people, this natural process isn’t enough to calm them down when they’re feeling anxious or panicked. 

Anxiety disorders are complex, and there may be many biochemical and psychological factors behind them. However, increasing the efficiency of GABA with the help of a benzodiazepine like Klonopin may be able to correct chemical imbalances that contribute to anxiety. In other cases, anxiety needs to be treated with other approaches, such as psychotherapy or a combination of therapies.

How Effective Is Klonopin? 

Klonopin is one of many benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety. Many of the drugs in this class have proven to be effective in treating a range of anxiety disorders. But how effective is Klonopin, and how does it compare to others in its class? 

A 2016 study looked at the efficacy of clonazepam as compared to other benzodiazepines in treating anxiety disorders. The study specifically looked at patients that were also taking one other antidepressant, which is a class of drug that may also be used to treat anxiety and depression. The study found that clonazepam was equally effective in treating various types of anxiety disorders, and it was associated with fewer side effects than other benzodiazepines. 

A study in 1997 looked at the efficacy of clonazepam at different doses between 0.5 mg, 1.0 mg, 2.0 mg, 3 mg, and 4 mg. They found that the drug was effective starting at 1.0 mg and that the 1.0 mg dose and each higher dose were equally effective in reducing the number of panic attacks. However, higher doses were associated with more uncomfortable side effects.

One study found that clonazepam was effective in treating patients with social phobia, also called social anxiety. The study compared the medication’s efficacy with cognitive-behavioral group therapy and found that patients responded to both. 

Of course, there is no one medication that will be effective in every case. People are unique and have different needs in treatment. Plus, anxiety disorders, and mental health in general, is complex. Effective treatment often needs to be tailored to a person’s individual needs. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may need to work with your doctor or therapist to find a treatment that works for you. In some cases, a combination of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy is necessary.

How Long Does It Take to Work?

Klonopin generally starts working within an hour after you take it, though it may start to take effect within 15 to 30 minutes. It begins to work at similar speeds to the popular benzodiazepine Xanax (alprazolam). It may reach peak effectiveness between one to four hours.

When it comes to the length of time it remains effective, Klonopin may be considered an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine. It has a half-life between 18 and 39 hours, which means that it takes that long to be reduced to half of its original concentration in your blood. 

Generally, a drug’s half-life is used to measure how long a drug can remain effective in your body. Klonopin doesn’t last as long as benzodiazepines with active metabolites like Valium or Librium. Active metabolites are active chemicals produced when a drug is being broken down, which can extend its length of time it’s effective. However, Klonopin is effectively longer than short-acting benzos like triazolam (Halcion).

What Side Effects Can Klonopin Cause?

Klonopin may be a useful medication, but like any prescription drug, it can come with some side effects. Common side effects often include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of balance
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Slurred speech

You’re more likely to experience these side effects if you’re sensitive to depressant drugs or take the drug in high doses. 

When you start taking a new prescription medication, it’s important to pay attention to its effects. Let your doctor know if you experience uncomfortable side effects or don’t see your anxiety symptoms improve. Your doctor may be able to adjust the dose or change your medication to avoid these side effects. 

You may be more likely to experience more serious side effects if you misuse the drug or use it for recreational purposes. High doses, frequent doses, or mixing the drug with other substances can lead to an overdose. Clonazepam overdose symptoms may cause:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy sedation
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slowed breathing

Slowed breathing is also called respiratory depression, and it’s one of the most dangerous consequences of misusing depressants. 

Benzodiazepines are generally safer during overdose than other depressants like barbiturates, but high doses can cause fatal complications. Encountering life-threatening respiratory depression may be more likely if you mix Klonopin with other benzos, barbiturates, sleep aids, alcohol, or opioids. 

These substances can combine to create more intense depressing symptoms like loss of consciousness or respiratory depression. If you or someone you know starts to show signs of a benzodiazepine overdose, call a doctor or emergency services immediately. 

Dependence and Withdrawal

Some of the most concerning side effects have to do with tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal. Benzodiazepines can lead to chemical dependence after a few weeks of consistent use. Chemical dependency is caused by your brain’s adaptation of a chemical you introduce consistently. Benzodiazepines have shown to cause this adaptation fairly quickly, some causing it within two weeks. Drugs like Klonopin manipulate GABA to create relaxing and sedating effects. 

As your brain gets used to this, it may try to counteract some of these effects to achieve balanced brain chemistry. To do this, your brain may adjust some of its own chemicals to release fewer inhibitory chemicals and more excitatory chemicals. When you stop taking Klonopin, your brain chemistry will be thrown out of balance suddenly, causing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. 

Klonopin’s withdrawal can cause you to experience uncomfortable and ever-dangerous symptoms. Your experience on withdrawal will depend on the length of time you used the drug, your average dose, and the size of your last dose. Benzodiazepines are known to cause rebounding, which means some of the symptoms the drug is designed to remedy will return during withdrawal. 

This could mean a return of anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. Other common benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can include

  • Sleep problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Tremor
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

In less common cases, benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause tonic-clonic seizures, which can be dangerous. 

However, Klonopin may cause less severe withdrawal symptoms than other, similar drugs. Because Klonopin is long-acting, its effects wear off slowly. Instead of a jarring plunge into chemical imbalance, the drug eases you back to normal. You still may feel withdrawal symptoms, but they are more tolerable than other benzos. You should still talk to a doctor before quitting cold turkey. Still, tapering with Klonopin may be milder than other similar drugs. 

When you’re first starting to take the drug, you should ask your doctor about dependence and how you can avoid it. You may be given a dosing schedule with breaks designed to help you avoid developing tolerance and dependence.

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