Klonopin is a tranquilizer normally used to treat seizures. Clonazepam, sold under the brand name Klonopin, belongs to a family of drugs known as benzodiazepines. How does this prescription medication work, and what can happen if you mix Klonopin and alcohol?
What Is Clonazepam?
Clonazepam is a type of benzodiazepine prescribed for a number of disorders. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants. Examples of CNS depressants include tranquilizers, sedatives, and hypnotics. They work by reducing overactivity in the brain by targeting GABA receptors. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter and helps regulate excitability.
Klonopin usually comes in pill form and is taken orally. It takes around an hour to start acting and the effects can last up to twelve hours. It is classed as a Schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This means it is considered by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to have a low potential for abuse.
What Is Klonopin Prescribed For?
As with most CNS depressants, Klonopin is prescribed to treat a number of ailments, including mental health disorders and seizures. It is frequently prescribed as an anti-anxiety medication, helping with disorders such as social phobia, agoraphobia, and others.
Klonopin is often used to help treat panic disorders. Studies have shown that it is useful in reducing the number of panic attacks people have while taking it. Some increase in symptoms is reported when the course ended, but most people did not return to their original baseline.
Clonazepam can also be used to help reduce seizures and help moderate symptoms of epilepsy. It is recommended for acute seizures, but not for long-term treatment. This is as a result of the tendency for people to develop a tolerance to the anticonvulsant effects over time.
Other uses include:
- restless leg syndrome
- rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder
- acute mania
What Are the Potential Side Effects?
Klonopin is safe to use as a prescription medication, although it can have some side effects. It is common for people taking to feel drowsy or placid. Taking Klonopin can also lead to a reduction in motor function. This can manifest as slow reaction speeds or a general sense of slowness.
Clonazepam has a calming effect on the central nervous system. For most people this is helpful, but sometimes it results in negative behavioral health conditions. These include confusion, irritability, a lack of motivation, and a loss of sexual desire.
In rare cases, people have reported short-term memory problems and anterograde amnesia. This is the temporary inability to form new memories. These side effects are much less common when Klonopin is taken in small doses.
Tolerance to benzos can develop relatively quickly, even at higher doses. Withdrawal may occur just when finishing a prescribed course, but higher doses can also lead to more intense symptoms.
Many people going through benzo withdrawal experience disturbance to their sleep such as insomnia. It is also common for people to experience anxiety and feelings of panic when they stop taking Klonopin, even if these were the very conditions they were being treated for. These are called rebound symptoms.
Other symptoms of clonazepam withdrawal are:
- heart palpitations
- memory problems
Klonopin Addiction and Dependence
Many benzodiazepines (benzos) are prescribed only for short periods of time, from two to four weeks, in order to help avoid developing physical dependence. Dependence occurs when people experience withdrawal symptoms after stopping using the drug.
There is a growing trend in the U.S. for people to form addictions based on two substances. This is often a mix of alcohol and benzodiazepines. People who are already suffering from substance abuse or alcohol abuse issues are not normally recommended benzodiazepines. This is down to the higher risk of overdose that comes with mixing substances.
Klonopin addiction can lead to people spending an increasing amount of time and money acquiring the substance. Dependence on the drug also causes people to take greater doses or mix it with alcohol in order to achieve the same effects.
Alcohol addiction is one of the most prevalent substance addiction problems in the U.S. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly fifteen million people over the age of twelve were suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2019. The same figures show that less than ten percent of those people received any treatment for it in the last year.
Abusing alcohol can cause all sorts of health problems, such as liver damage, heart-related problems, and other brain and nervous system issues. An alcohol overdose is also a very serious medical condition. The NIAAA reports that people who drink double the binge drinking threshold are up to seventy times more likely to have alcohol-related emergency room visits than those who do not binge drink. Those whose alcohol consumption was three times the binge drinking threshold were more than ninety times more likely to need that kind of hospital treatment.
Although it is not inherently dangerous to drink alcohol, too much can be harmful to the body. It usually occurs when a toxic amount has been consumed over a short period of time. Some of the signs of alcohol poisoning are:
- slurred speech
- blurry vision
- breathing difficulties
Alcohol poisoning is a dangerous medical condition and immediate medical attention should be sought for those suspected of suffering from it.
Klonopin and Alcohol
Mixing Klonopin and alcohol can result in serious outcomes. Current alcohol addiction problems are one of the contraindications of the drug. A contraindication is a medical condition that prohibits someone from taking a certain medication, due to the risk of harm.
Despite this, many people mix Klonopin and alcohol, either intentionally or by accident. This is made worse by the fact that clonazepam is sometimes prescribed to help treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The chances of addiction are also increased when using these two substances together.
Many people with addiction issues have addictions to two drugs or more. Mixing alcohol with Klonopin can greatly increase the effects of the substance. This may make the high stronger, but the other, undesired, side effects are also increased.
The Dangers of Mixing Klonopin with Alcohol
Clonazepam is one of the drugs prescribed as part of alcohol addiction treatment. It can reduce some of the effects of withdrawal. It is important that alcohol and Klonopin are not taken together, and treatment programs can help clients transition safely.
Drinking alcohol while taking Klonopin can increase the central nervous system-depressing effects. One of the dangers of mixing clonazepam and alcohol is that both substances can cause depressed breathing. This slowed breathing can put someone in very serious danger of not having enough oxygen to maintain important bodily functions. This may result in brain or organ damage.
Someone who has been binge drinking while using Klonopin may black out or lose consciousness. This would make it even harder for other people to tell if they had stopped breathing, especially in an environment where substance abuse is occurring. Mixing alcohol and Klonopin can also result in a drastic loss in coordination, which in turn may lead to injury.
The Risk of Overdose When Mixing Klonopin and Alcohol
While a Klonopin overdose is not so likely when taken safely, taking alcohol and Klonopin together can increase the likelihood, especially when mixed with other substances like opiates.
Drinking alcohol to excess while also abusing Klonopin can lead to an overdose. This is usually down to respiratory depression, which starves the brain of oxygen. If not treated immediately, this can result in a high risk of coma, or even death. These extreme outcomes are becoming more common as substance abuse disorders can include multiple different drugs.
Mixing alcohol and Klonopin can also result in alcohol poisoning, as the drug can increase the intoxicating effects of alcohol. Alcohol poisoning can lead to seizures, difficulty breathing, and even brain damage.
Fortunately, it is possible to be treated for Klonopin and alcohol addiction. One of the first stages in the treatment process is to undergo a detox from both Klonopin and alcohol. Cornerstone's treatment centers operate 24/7 to help clients go through this safely and at the right pace. A medical professional from our team will help create a substance addiction treatment program tailored to your individual needs.
Our medical professionals are able to help clients avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms as they remove both alcohol and Klonopin from their lives. There may also be other drug abuse issues involved that also require addiction treatment. With decades of experience, we are able to design new solutions for each situation.
We also offer multiple therapeutic approaches, such as individual therapy, support groups, and activity therapies. This can help tackle the reasons why someone may abuse alcohol and Klonopin. By taking a holistic approach to addiction treatment, our treatment programs give you a better chance at lasting recovery. The treatment process also extends beyond detox with Cornerstone's continued recovery and aftercare plans.
The harms that come from mixing Klonopin with alcohol don't have to last forever. Speaking to licensed medical professionals can be the first step on a journey to healthier living.