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Clonazepam Addiction: Signs, Effects, and Treatment

Clonazepam, commonly known by its brand name Klonopin, is in the class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Clonazepam is used to treat panic disorder and seizures.1 When used as prescribed, clonazepam can be a useful medication; however, it does have the potential for misuse, physical dependence, and addiction.1, 2

This article will give an overview of what clonazepam is, the effects of clonazepam use and misuse, and information about treatment for clonazepam addiction.

What is Clonazepam?

Clonazepam is a type of benzodiazepine used to treat seizures and panic attacks.1, 2 Like other benzodiazepines, it helps to calm down an over-excited nervous system, leading to its anticonvulsant and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects.1

People can take clonazepam orally as immediate-release tablets or dissolvable tablets in various doses.1 Klonopin is a brand-name formulation of clonazepam that can be prescribed in several doses as an immediate-release oral tablet.2

As a Schedule IV controlled substance, clonazepam has the potential for misuse and dependence.2 In addition to alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam is one of the two most misused benzodiazepines encountered on the illicit market.3

What is Clonazepam Used For?

Klonopin is FDA approved for the treatment of panic disorder and seizure disorders.1 It’s sometimes used off-label for the treatment of mania, restless leg syndrome, and insomnia.1

Clonazepam is prescribed for at-home use to minimize or avoid seizures in children and adults with epilepsy or to help people manage panic disorders.1 In the hospital, it can be used at higher doses to stop difficult-to-abort seizures, control manic episodes, or calm highly agitated patients.1

How Does Clonazepam Work?

Clonazepam, like other benzodiazepines including Xanax and Ativan, is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which works to inhibit, or calm excitation within the brain by interacting with and facilitating the action of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) at its receptors.1, 2

Side Effects of Clonazepam

Clonazepam can be an effective medication when used as prescribed by a doctor; however, it can still have unwanted side effects.1

Relatively common side effects can include:1, 2

  • Sedation.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Lethargy.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Abnormal coordination.
  • Impaired balance.
  • Motor impairment.
  • Difficulty speaking.

Less common side effects may include:1, 2

  • Memory loss.
  • Personality changes.
  • Behavioral disturbances.
  • Paradoxical disinhibition.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidality.

Is Clonazepam Addictive?

Clonazepam does have the potential for misuse and addiction.2 The misuse of benzodiazepines like clonazepam often involves the use of higher-than-prescribed doses and/or polysubstance use. Using other substances with clonazepam can further increase the likelihood of adverse effects, overdose, and death.2 However, most people who therapeutically use benzodiazepines like clonazepam do not develop an addiction.6

 Nearly 13 million people were prescribed benzodiazepines in 2021, but most people who misused benzodiazepines like clonazepam received them from friends or family rather than receiving their own prescription.5, 6

Signs of Clonazepam Addiction

Medical professionals may diagnose problematic benzodiazepine use and addiction as a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder.7 The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) outlines several potential signs, symptoms, and behavioral changes as diagnostic criteria for a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder involving drugs like clonazepam.  Some examples include:7

  • Repeated efforts to stop using clonazepam are unsuccessful.
  • Spending increasing amounts of time obtaining, using, and recovering from clonazepam use.
  • Having clonazepam cravings.
  • Having interpersonal or social problems, or difficulty fulfilling responsibilities due to your clonazepam use.
  • Repeatedly using clonazepam in physically dangerous situations (such as driving a car).
  • Clonazepam withdrawal symptoms are experienced when the use of the drug slows or stops.

Clonazepam Withdrawal Symptoms

When people develop a physical dependence on clonazepam, it can put them at risk for withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug.2, 6 People experiencing benzodiazepine withdrawal may have symptoms similar to alcohol or barbiturates.2 Clonazepam withdrawal symptoms can include:1, 2, 7

  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability.
  • Sweating.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Tremors.
  • Seizures.

A relatively more severe withdrawal syndrome may develop in people who have taken clonazepam in higher doses over a long period of time.1, 2

Clonazepam Overdose

If you think that someone has overdosed on clonazepam or another substance, call 9-1-1 and get help immediately.

Though it is possible to overdose on benzodiazepines, the majority of overdose-related deaths occur when benzos are combined with other drugs.8 Combining clonazepam with alcohol, opioids, or other benzodiazepines can increase a person’s risk of overdose significantly.2, 12

More than 90% of deaths that involved benzodiazepines from 2019 to 2020, also involved opioids.8

Signs of clonazepam or Klonopin overdose can include:2, 12

  • Somnolence.
  • Confusion.
  • Coma.
  • Diminished reflexes.

Combining benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam, with other drugs makes it more difficult for a person to predict the effects it will have on their body.9 As seen with benzodiazepines and opioids, polysubstance use can put a person at risk for unintended and extremely dangerous consequences.9, 12

Treatment for Clonazepam Addiction

If you find yourself or a loved one struggling with a clonazepam addiction or misuse, help is available. Treatment programs often begin with detoxification to help you safely and comfortably manage withdrawal.10

Because of the risks of severe withdrawal and the potential for withdrawal complications such as seizures, abruptly quitting a drug like clonazepam after a period of continuous use can be dangerous. Close medical supervision and pharmacological management may be needed to keep a person as safe and comfortable during clonazepam withdrawal as possible.10

After detox, a person may continue treatment in either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, depending on recommendations from their treatment team. Treatment interventions can include behavioral therapy, relapse prevention skills training, and treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders. Participation in mutual support groups can also help to augment more formal treatment interventions to promote long-term recovery.11 It’s important that a person’s treatment plan be individualized to meet a person’s unique needs.11

Get Help for Clonazepam Misuse

If you or your loved one is struggling with clonazepam addiction or misuse, contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) at to speak with our caring admissions team. AAC offers treatment for co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders at locations across the United States. We’re here to help you find the right treatment, check your insurance coverage, and assist you in beginning a new path.