One of the most popular classes of prescription medications used illicitly is benzodiazepines. Commonly called “benzos,” these drugs include klonopin. Klonopin (also known as clonazepam) is routinely prescribed as an anti-anxiety medication for individuals suffering from panic attacks, seizures, or an anxiety disorder.
In the popular imaginations of many Americans, people who use illegal substances are down-and-out types, abusing crack cocaine, heroin, or meth. However, prescription medications are among the fastest growing types of abused drugs. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health , approximately one-third of first-time drug users in 2009 experimented with prescription medications. The rapid growth in prescription drug use has profound effects on physical health, psychological well-being, and societal burden.
Klonopin and other benzodiazepines act directly upon the brain to reduce central nervous system activity. Klonopin passes into the brain, shutting down the activity of cells that regulate the release of a brain chemical called dopamine. As a result, the drug lowers brain activity and leads to feelings of pleasure or reward. This is what makes illicit klonopin use so dangerous. The brain areas targeted by klonopin are implicated in abuse of other drugs such as heroin or cocaine. After using klonopin, the brain becomes rewired to crave the drug to receive that rush of pleasurable feelings.
Becoming addicted to klonopin is not a personal failing, nor should it become a source of shame. The drug is routinely prescribed by physicians despite its addictive properties. Those who abuse klonopin often begin by using the medication for doctor-approved purposes, such as alleviating anxiety. Genetic predisposition, individual metabolism, and other personal differences can increase the risk of a klonopin user becoming addicted to the drug.
Klonopin Addiction Statistics
Although being addicted to klonopin can feel very isolating, you are not alone. An estimated 7 million Americans use prescription medications illicitly, with 400,000 of these individuals abusing sedatives such as klonopin. As klonopin and other prescription medications are more widely prescribed, rates of prescription drug abuse are expected to rise further.
Klonopin addiction can affect anyone. In fact, a White House study found that approximately 70% of people who abused prescription medications got them from a friend or relative. A small fraction (5%) obtained prescription meds from a drug dealer or an Internet site. With anxiety disorders being the most common mental health problem, access to klonopin is relatively wide.
One of the hallmark symptoms of prescription drug addiction is difficulty controlling use of the substance. With klonopin abuse, individuals often experience constant, powerful cravings for the drug. Other symptoms of addiction include:
- Tolerance to klonopin, meaning that it takes more of the drug to get the same effect as prior use
- Withdrawal symptoms. Individuals addicted to klonopin often experience unpleasant side effects when they stop taking the drug.
- Extensive time and energy spent obtaining the drug, using klonopin, or recovering from its effects
- Difficulty performing duties at work, home, or elsewhere because of drug use. This might include missing work, skipping a child’s birthday party or other family obligations, or quitting a recreational softball team because of substance use.
You do not have to have all of the above symptoms to be suffering from addiction to klonopin. Some individuals exhibit strong tolerance and withdrawal effects, while others have a profile of missed obligations and interpersonal problems.
Psychological, Social, & Physical Effects
Klonopin does more than induce anti-anxiety effects. Repeated use of the drug can seriously affect physical health, emotional well-being, psychological state, and interpersonal relationships. For example, individuals struggling with klonopin abuse frequently exhibit the following physical problems:
- Muscle weakness
- Slurred speech
- Nausea, vomiting, or stomach problems
- Slowed breathing and a decrease in blood pressure
- Dizziness or fainting
- Lack of coordination
- Sensitivity to lights or sound
Because klonopin acts upon the brain to alter neural circuitry, use of the substance often leads to unwanted psychological changes , including:
- Memory problems, such as difficulty remembering recent events
- Depression, including loss of interest in everyday activities, chronic sadness, changes in appetite, altered sleeping patterns, and suicidal thoughts or intent
- Emotional blunting, referring to a difficulty experiencing emotions or responding appropriately to joyful or sad life events
- Changes in personality, including increased Irritability, impulsivity, hostility, or aggression. For some individuals, this may result in attacks of extreme anger, violent episodes, or impulsive behaviors such as stealing.
Klonopin addiction affects more than the individual using the drug. For many people, relationships with friends or family members become strained. Recognizing that you have a problem with prescription drug abuse can be incredibly isolating and shaming. As a result, some individuals addicted to klonopin withdraw from family obligations or stop socializing with friends.
Because klonopin brings such a host of physical and psychological effects, getting treatment from experienced professionals is key. There are many factors that impact the recovery process, but getting the highest quality treatment available will give you an excellent start. The best treatment facilities practice evidence-based medicine, meaning that they use approaches with strong research evidence to support their effectiveness. Evidence-based treatment for klonopin addiction typically includes a medically supervised detoxification period, individual psychotherapy to address the root causes of addiction, therapeutic practices such as yoga or acupuncture, and involvement of family members for additional support.
If you think you might be addicted to klonopin, you are not alone. Thousands of people have walked in your shoes and successfully undergone treatment. In fact, recognizing that you have a problem can be the most challenging part of the treatment process for many. To get the help you deserve, call Cliffside Malibu for 24-hour access to benzodiazepine addiction specialists. Our professionals will treat you with dignity, maintain your privacy, and help to create an individualized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs. Call today for a consultation or for more information.