Klonopin Side Effects, Use, and Risks

Last updated: 04/20/2022
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Klonopin (clonazepam) is a benzodiazepine prescribed to treat panic disorder and seizures. As with most prescription medications, Klonopin may produce a myriad of side effects, ranging from mild to severe, with the risk increasing greatly if you misuse this medication to get high. It’s important to talk to your doctor about any Klonopin side effects you may experience so they can potentially adjust your dose or switch you to a different medication. It is a relatively safe medication to take in the short-term but long-term risks may include tolerance and physiological dependence. If you engage in chronic Klonopin misuse, you will likely develop tolerance and dependence much more rapidly, and you run the risk of developing a Klonopin addiction as well.1

What is Klonopin & How is it Used?

Klonopin, which belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, controls and prevents seizures. It is also used to treat panic attacks. As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, it works by calming your brain and nerves.1,2,3,4

Klonopin is available as an oral tablet form. It is important to keep the tablet in its pouch until you are ready to take it. You can open the pouch and peel back the foil layer using dry hands when handling or touching the medication. When you place the dose into your mouth, it will dissolve quickly. While you do not need to take Klonopin with water, you can swallow it with water, but your saliva is enough.5,6

Your doctor will provide the dosage and instructions on how often to take it. When you pick up the prescription from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will usually review the instructions with you as well.1,2,3,4,5,6

The dosage is typically based on your age, medical condition, diagnosis, and treatment response.1,5,6

You should read the medication guide that your pharmacist provides you before taking Klonopin. It is a good practice to do each time you get a refill. If you have any questions about Klonopin, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist.1,2,3,4

Misusing Klonopin

Some people may misuse Klonopin for its euphoric and relaxing effects. Misuse refers to taking Klonopin in any way other than prescribed and directed by a doctor. Klonopin misuse includes:

  • Taking higher doses than directed
  • Taking more frequent doses than directed
  • Taking someone else’s prescription
  • Mixing Klonopin with other psychoactive substances like alcohol or opioids
  • Taking Klonopin in a way not directed, such as crushing and snorting it or dissolving it in liquid and injecting it

Klonopin misuse is dangerous and can cause overdose, especially in people who have built a high tolerance to this benzodiazepine drug. It can also lead to an addiction, which involves compulsively using Klonopin regardless of negative consequences caused by use.

Klonopin Side Effects

You should take Klonopin as directed by doctor. Even if taken as prescribed, Klonopin can produce common side effects that include:1,2,3,4,5,6

  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling tired or lethargic
  • Depression or low mood
  • Dizziness
  • Memory problems
  • Problems with balance or coordination

Severe Side Effects

Other Klonopin side effects that are more severe include:1,4,5,6

  • Mood swings
  • Unusual changes in behavior
  • New or worsening seizures
  • Extreme changes in mood or behavior
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or suicide
  • Shallow or weak breathing
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Pounding heart or fluttering in your chest

You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these severe side effects of Klonopin use. If the common effects are bothersome and interfere with your quality of life and recovery, you should talk to your primary prescriber. The primary prescriber could be a primary care physician (PCP) or psychiatrist.1,4

Although every person is different and those taking Klonopin medically can experience severe side effects, the risk of dangerous and potentially life-threatening effects increases greatly when someone misuses Klonopin.

Risks of Klonopin Use

Klonopin is intended to be a short-term treatment for panic disorder or seizures, and long-term medical use and misuse can both have harmful risks to a person’s health. For example, one study found that long-term benzodiazepine use can cause:7

  • Car crashes: Driving on Klonopin is about the same as driving with a blood alcohol level between .05% and .08%.
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Increased reaction time
  • Ataxia, or impaired coordination
  • Anterograde amnesia, memory loss after taking Klonopin
  • Increased risk of falls and hip fracture in older people

Again, Klonopin misuse increases the risks of long-term use, as does mixing Klonopin with other substances like opioids and alcohol.

Risks of Taking Klonopin with Alcohol

If Klonopin is prescribed to you and you have a history of alcohol dependency, it is vital to note that mixing the two will enhance their depressant effects, such as slowed breathing. It may also make it hard to quit using either of the two.1,2,4

The dangers of mixing Klonopin and alcohol would put you at an increased risk of:5,6

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Passing out
  • Slowing the heart rate
  • Slowing the breath rate
  • Death

Risks of Taking Klonopin with Opioids

Opioids are also CNS depressants. As such, when Klonopin and opioids are taken simultaneously, the risk of experiencing severe symptoms and overdose increases significantly.5,6

If you misuse Klonopin and mix it with opioids, you are at risk of experiencing heavy sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and potentially death.5,6

It is important to notify your prescribing physician if you are taking opioids as a prescription and/or if you are taking them recreationally. This will allow the physician to decide on dosage or if Klonopin is appropriate for you. The physician may find an alternative medication for you that isn’t addictive and won’t cause dangerous side effects.

Overdose Risk & Signs

If you take your Klonopin prescription as directed by your doctor, your risk of overdose is extremely low. However, misusing Klonopin by taking larger doses than advised or by mixing it with CNS depressants can lead to a potentially fatal overdose.

Signs and symptoms of a Klonopin overdose include:1,4,5,6

  • Loss of coordination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Clammy skin
  • Weak, rapid heartbeat
  • Challenged breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Bluish skin or fingernails

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these dangerous Klonopin side effects, seek medical attention right away.

Klonopin Withdrawal, Dependence, & Addiction

The chronic medical use of Klonopin can lead to physiological dependence, even if you have taken Klonopin as directed and stayed away from misusing it. Dependence means that withdrawal symptoms will occur when you suddenly quit taking it. This is a normal physiological adaptation, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have become addicted to it. However, you will have to talk to your doctor about tapering off of Klonopin once you want to stop taking it in order to prevent the onset of distressing withdrwal symptoms.

Misusing Klonopin significantly speeds up the development of dependence and can make withdrawal symptoms much more severe. Klonopin withdrawal can be potentially fatal and symptoms may include:1,2,4,5,6

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Klonopin withdrawal can be so distressing that many people will return to Klonopin use in order to alleviate these symptoms—thus creating a cycle of Klonopin misuse, withdrawal, and continued misuse, which can ultimately result in a Klonopin addiction.

Klonopin addiction is a severe risk of misuse and can cause a host of negative effects on your mental and physical health, as well as relationships, finances, job, and beyond. However, treatment is available for those who have developed an addiction to Klonopin or any other substances. Call our helpline at (800) 662-HELP (4357) to speak to a compassionate treatment support specialist about finding a rehab that’s right for you or a loved one.

Resources

  1. Brett, J., & Murnion, B. (2015). Management of Benzodiazepine Misuse and Dependence. Australian Prescriber, 38(5), 152-155.
  2. Food and Drug Administration. (2013). Klonopin Tablets (clonazepam).
  3. Hajira B. & Kahwaji, C. I. (2021, December 29). Clonazepam. StatPearls.
  4. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2020). Benzodiazepines Fact Sheet.
  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Clonazepam.
  6. Food and Drug Administration. (2017). Klonopin Medication Guide.
  7. Johnson, B. and Streltzer, J. (2013). Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use. American Family Physician 88(4):224-225.

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