Klonopin Withdrawal Issues Lead to Warning Mandate from the FDA

Widespread prescribing of anti-anxiety benzodiazepines such as Klonopin have prompted the FDA to issue heightened warnings regarding Klonopin withdrawal. 

Table of Contents

What is Klonopin?

Clonazepam, also known by the brand name Klonopin, is a commonly prescribed sedative. Specifically, clonazepam is a type of anti-anxiety medication belonging to the benzodiazepine family. It is classified as a Schedule IV narcotic by the Controlled Substance Act due to its widespread use in medical settings and its moderate to low potential for abuse. It is important to note that as a benzodiazepine, clonazepam or Klonopin should not be taken in combination with alcohol, as the mix slows breathing and can be fatal. Those who abuse the substance may suffer from Klonopin withdrawal symptoms.

The most popular street names for Klonopin are “K” and “K-Pin.” However, people may refer to clonazepam using the terms “tranks” (tranquilizers), “benzos” (benzodiazepines), and “downers” (nickname for central nervous system depressants). 

What does Klonopin Treat?

As a sedative, Klonopin is approved to treat panic disorders, anxiety, and certain types of seizure disorders. However, an off-label prescription is standard and often used to treat sleep issues and alcohol withdrawal.

Other common benzodiazepines that target anxiety symptoms include alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and more. 

Klonopin vs. Xanax

While both belong to the same class of anti-anxiety benzodiazepine drugs, there are several key differences between Klonopin vs. Xanax.

Both drugs impact the central nervous system, acting as a sedative that depresses excitatory activity. Similarly, both prescription benzodiazepines treat panic disorder.

Klonopin vs. Xanax differs mainly in what they are used to treat. While both drugs treat panic disorder, only Klonopin treats seizures. Additionally, off-label uses for Xanax target IBS, essential tremor, agoraphobia, depression, ringing in ears, and premenstrual syndrome.

Like Xanax, off-label uses for Klonopin include treating essential tremors, ringing in the ears, and depression. In addition, however, Klonopin’s off-label uses also feature multiple sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, vertigo, West syndrome, and restless leg syndrome. 

FDA Regulations and Warning on Benzodiazepine Use

Because Klonopin is a benzodiazepine, all prescriptions come with a Black Box FDA Warning. Black box warnings serve to alert doctors and patients of the drug’s potential dangers. 

Boxed Warning

The FDA warning cautions the use of other opioids while taking Klonopin. When combined, benzodiazepines and opioids – both powerful depressants – can prompt a dangerous cascade of effects, including extreme drowsiness, depressed breathing, coma, and potentially death. 

The label also warns about the risk of dependence. Even when used as prescribed, it is relatively easy to develop physical dependence and tolerance on benzodiazepines. For this reason, withdrawal can be life-threatening if you stop taking the drug suddenly or without medical supervision. The warning also serves to inform the public that taking Klonopin can lead to potential misuse and addiction. 

FDA Requiring Updates to Box Warnings for Benzodiazepines

Rates of benzodiazepine abuse and addiction have skyrocketed over the past decades. In part, this epidemic of benzo overdoses has resulted from widespread prescriptions for benzodiazepines as “safer” alternatives to opioids, which is not the case. To address this matter, the FDA has mandated that all black box warnings for benzodiazepines be updated to accurately capture the high levels of risk associated with the drug and to urge caution in prescribing.1  

Klonopin Side Effects

Short Term Klonopin Side Effects

  • Dizziness, feeling lightheaded
  • Drowsiness, extreme fatigue
  • Decreased ability to focus
  • Loss of coordination or balance

If you find yourself experiencing short-term effects of Klonopin use, you will likely see them subside over your first two weeks. If symptoms persist, consider talking with your doctor. 

Long Term Klonopin Side Effects

  • Drowsiness, extreme fatigue
  • Mental confusion, “brain fog”
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Episodic memory loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of balance, vertigo
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Aggression, hostility
  • Depression
  • Sleeping issues
  • A lowered immune system that leads to a higher risk of getting sick
  • Short-term or extended withdrawal symptoms (can include seizures)
  • Increased risk of poly-drug abuse
  • Increased risk of overdose and hospitalization

Klonopin Overdose

Abusing Klonopin can trigger an overdose, especially when taken outside a prescription or with other substances. The CDC reports that over 90% of fatal benzodiazepine overdoses involve opioids,2 and those numbers are rising. Knowing the signs of a Klonopin overdose is essential so you can seek medical services as quickly as possible.

Signs of a Klonopin overdose can include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slow reflexes
  • Drowsiness, feeling sedated
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Coma (growing unresponsive)
  • Weak or rapid pulse
  • Difficulty breathing 

Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms

Klonopin withdrawal

Klonopin Half-Life

Klonopin has a relatively long elimination half-life, meaning it takes a while to fully clear the substance from the body. The Klonopin half-life is roughly thirty to forty hours, meaning it takes about a day or two for about 50% of the Klonopin to leave your system. In total, it takes the body from six to nine days to clear all the Klonopin from the system. 

Other variables that can impact the Klonopin half-life include age, liver function, dosage, frequency of use, length of use, and abuse of other drugs. 

Klonopin High

The effects of the Klonopin high often become noticeable within one to four hours after taking the drug. It’s important to note that while the Klonopin high may only last four hours, the length of time Klonopin remains in the body is much longer. As the high fades, many people may re-up on Klonopin, leading to dangerously high levels in the body.

Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms

Those who abuse this substance may experience several Klonopin withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. Common signs of withdrawal include:

  • Irritability, agitation, and confusion
  • Depression
  • Anxiety, potentially with panic attacks
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia, nightmares)
  • Strange changes in sensations (things touch, taste, or feel different)
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Dizziness, Headaches, and Ringing in ears
  • Appetite and weight loss
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Muscle pain and spasms
  • Increased sweating
  • Insomnia and sleeping issues
  • Hyperventilation
  • Sensitivity to light, blurred vision, other visual disturbances
  • Grand mal seizures
  • Delirium
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Distorted body image
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Protracted withdrawal symptoms (may last over a year)

Going through Klonopin withdrawal can feel scary and isolating, but you do not have to go through it alone. Having an experienced care provider beside you to guide you through detox into recovery can help. If you are looking for support, reach out to us at Brooks Healing Center. 

The Dangers of Benzodiazepine Abuse

While true addiction to benzodiazepine sedatives is thankfully rare, research has concluded that 12.5% of U.S. adults have used benzodiazepines in the past, totaling roughly 30.5 million people. The percentage of people who misuse benzodiazepines drops to 2.1% and falls to 0.2% for those who meet the criteria for addiction.4

However, many dangers still accompany benzodiazepine misuse beyond addiction and overdose.  

Tolerance

Our bodies adjust relatively quickly to the addition of benzodiazepines, making it relatively easy to build a tolerance. As tolerance builds (which can occur within weeks), many people feel they need more of the drug to elicit the same level of relief as experienced with their originally prescribed dose.  

Withdrawal

While not usually life-threatening, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be daunting and often benefits from medical supervision to guide the detox process. 

Benzo Withdrawal Timeline

Most people begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms within the first twenty-four hours of stopping benzodiazepine use. Withdrawal often occurs in three distinct stages (early, acute, and prolonged), although not everyone experiences all stages.

Early withdrawal symptoms set in within the first day and last for about a week before acute withdrawal often steps in. Acute withdrawal can last for two weeks up to several months, depending on the frequency, duration, and intensity of the abuse. Roughly 10% of people who have abused benzodiazepines experience “prolonged withdrawal,” where symptoms are felt years after stopping all drug use.

Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety, potentially panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Problems sleeping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty maintaining focus and mental fog
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Issues with vision
  • Hallucinations
  • Appetite loss
  • Changes in sensory perception
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling numbness or electric shocks in extremities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures 

Benzodiazepine Overdose

While rare, the incidence of benzodiazepine overdose increases when used in combination with other substances like opioids or alcohol.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lips and fingertips are tinged blue
  • Intense dizziness
  • Extreme confusion
  • Physical weakness
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Loss of coordination
  • Tremors
  • Coma

While death from benzodiazepine overdose is thankfully rare, the odds increase when benzos are combined with other substances. If you or someone you know is experiencing an overdose, it is critical to get in touch with emergency medical services. 

Klonopin Withdrawal Treatment

If you are looking to safely decrease Klonopin use, there are several treatments available. 

Detox

The first step in any withdrawal program is detox. Many care providers opt to detox through a process called “tapering,” where your Klonopin dose is gradually lessened, rather than going “cold turkey.” Tapering is often used for more severe benzodiazepine addictions and can help offset uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. 

Therapies

The most effective types of therapy for Klonopin dependence are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) but may also include group sessions alongside 1:1 sessions. The primary purpose of therapy is to develop strong strategies to cope with cravings and the events that triggered abuse in the past.

By understanding our thoughts, habits, and triggers, we strengthen our ability to prevent future misuse. Other techniques can include motivational interviewing, contingency management, and family therapy. 

Inpatient and Outpatient Care

Inpatient treatment often provides the best setting for those just coming off a Klonopin overdose or who feel they require a more supportive environment to reduce their dependence. Inpatient programs offer an immersive experience with immediate access to all the resources to help you on your path to recovery. 

Outpatient programs may be more attractive to individuals with less severe dependence and who feel their home environment will support and reinforce their recovery alongside therapy. Additionally, outpatient programs may provide more realistic alternatives for people who are unable to take time off work or are unable to leave home for long stretches. 

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Gina Bowman

Executive Assistant

Gina Bowman is the Executive Assistant at Brooks Healing Center. She was born in Florida but resides in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with her husband, Tyler Bowman, and two daughters Charlotte and Isabella.

Gina is a friendly, loyal, and dedicated individual. She has a heart for helping others and understands the effects of addiction and the toll it can take on families. She is the one that helps make things happen behind the scenes and brings fun ideas to Brooks Healing Center as well as keeping things organized. 

Colleen Bradford, MBA, BA-MHR

Executive Director, Human Resources Director

Colleen Believes servitude towards others provides a solid foundation for personal and professional growth. She is a calm problem solver who juggles multiple situations simultaneously and works confidently and efficiently in even the most challenging, fast-paced environments. She is highly regarded for her consistent ability to apply sound judgment, emotional intelligence, and etiquette to sensitive, confidential, and unpredictable situations. She is an organized, professional, resourceful, and seasoned healthcare professional with diverse skills for boosting organizational productivity and quality of care initiatives.

Colleen has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business administration with a minor in health care administration from Trevecca Nazarene University. She has been married for 32 years to Doyle Bradford, and they have two sons, Thomas and Allen Bradford, along with two grandchildren, Ben and Faith Bradford. She is excited to have this unique opportunity to serve her community. She is a phenomenal cookie baker and mother figure to those at the Brooks Healing Center. We are honored to have her be a part of our vision. 

Frank Throneberry

Co-Founder and COO

Frank is a lifelong 7th generation native of Middle Tennessee. Frank cares for his local community and keeping Tennessee healthy, knowing that people all over the USA seek out his home state’s friendly and outdoor atmosphere. He is a hardworking and energetic person that is no stranger to going out of his way to help others.

Frank started his recovery from alcohol and substance abuse over seven years ago. He is continually working on a recovery program and became passionate about sharing his story, helping others, and supporting others to find freedom from their addiction. He also formerly owned and managed ‘recovery community’ homes where he walked with and encouraged many individuals in their journey. Frank’s servant attitude is what helps him listen, understand, and put others’ needs first.

Outside of his career, Frank cherishes his time with his wife, Maribeth, and his three children: Jackson, Piper, and Charlie. They enjoy the great outdoors on their family farm in Shelbyville, TN, and boating and fishing with family on Tim’s Ford Lake. He is a dedicated husband and father. 

James “Tyler” Bowman

Founder and CEO

Tyler is the heart of the Brooks Healing Center. His vision is to guide others to find their own recovery and to thrive in life. Tyler was fortunate to have lived through his addiction and now finds fulfillment in serving others. Tyler has worked in the substance abuse field for over five years and felt convicted to build a place where individuals are loved until they can learn to love themselves.  

Tyler has the love and support of his family as he continues to provide care to those who have lost themselves along the way. Tyler is the father of two daughters, Charlotte, his oldest, and Isabella, his youngest. Tyler’s wife, Gina, supports the Brooks Healing Center’s vision, and she shares his passion for helping others as well.  

Tyler has a story to tell and is willing to share his experiences, good or bad, with anyone. Brooks Healing Center is the way he gives back for all he took when he was using. For the past seven years, Tyler has gone beyond to share his recovery and is thriving in life.