What is Clonazepam?

What is Clonazepam?

This anti-epileptic or anticonvulsant drug helps to control or prevents seizures. In addition to this, it also treats panic attacks. It is also generically known as Klonopin. It belongs to a drug class called benzodiazepines, which calms the nerves and the brain.

What Does Clonazepam Treat?

This drug is used to control some forms of epilepsy. These forms include myoclonic seizures, partial seizures, generalized tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal epilepsy), and absence seizures (petit mal epilepsy).

Normally, for the brain to function properly, the nerve cell communications within the brain needs to be regulated. In the event of a seizure or a fit, the nerve cell electrical signals become rapid and abnormal. Clonazepam acts on the brain receptors called GABA receptors, which causes them to release neurotransmitters in the brain known as GABA.

These neurotransmitters help to balance the nerve communications within the brain. Therefore, when the drug triggers the increased and natural release of GABA, the electrical nerve activity automatically balances leading to prevention or control of seizures or fits. People who suffer from severe and frequent seizure occurrences are the main consumers of this drug.

Advice on Using Clonazepam

  • This drug causes drowsiness, impaired alertness, and muscle weakness, thus driving, drinking, or operating machines should not take place once you start taking this prescription.
  • Follow the instructions provided to you by the medical practitioner before you begin using this drug.
  • It is advisable that expectant and breastfeeding mothers should not take this drug unless the doctor thinks it is necessary.
  • Inform your medic if you are allergic to any drug within the benzodiazepines class of drugs.
  • Take the medication orally and follow the prescription to the latter.
  • Take clonazepam at a specific time to prevent you from forgetting about the consumption of this medication.
  • Refrain from suddenly ending the use of this medication as the side effects might get worse
  • Its common withdrawal symptoms include confusion, difficulty with speech, restlessness, vivid dreams, double vision, muscle cramps, stomach cramps, mood swings, shaking, and seizures. These side effects normally occur on persons who have been exposed to this drug for a long period or take high doses of the drug. Inform your doctor once you start experiencing any of the above side effects.
  • There is a slight chance that the user might get addicted to the drug, especially if they have a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Inform your doctor if you have a history of getting seizures. This is because clonazepam will worsen the seizures, thus the doctor will need to alter your prescription.
  • Inform your doctor if you have a history with any f the following diseases and conditions: asthma, narcotic medication, psychosis, mental illness, depression, bronchitis, glaucoma, liver or kidney disease, porphyria, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
  • Avoid the following drugs when you are taking clonazepam: tricyclic antidepressants, strong opioid painkillers, sleeping pills, sedating antihistamines, MAOI antidepressants, barbiturates, antipsychotics, and other benzodiazepines.

Withdrawal Effects

Clonazepam, like other benzodiazepines, can cause withdrawal effects if stopped suddenly after prolonged use. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks – Increased anxiety and occurrence of panic attacks are very common when stopping clonazepam, especially if it was being used to treat anxiety or panic disorders originally.
  • Insomnia – Many people experience rebound insomnia when stopping clonazepam. Difficulty sleeping and frequent waking can begin within 1-3 days after the last dose.
  • Tremors – Hand tremors are a hallmark symptom of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Tremors usually start within 3-5 days after the last dose.
  • Muscle spasms – Muscle twitches and spasms can occur as part of withdrawal, likely due to the changes in GABA activity in the brain. Spasms are often seen in the face, arms, legs and torso.
  • Seizures – Seizures may occur in patients who were taking clonazepam regularly for seizure control. This is why slowly tapering is important rather than abruptly stopping.
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts – Increased depression, mood swings and in some cases thoughts of suicide have been reported during clonazepam withdrawal. Close monitoring is important if depression is a concern.
  • Cognitive deficits – Problems with memory, attention and concentration are common during withdrawal. This may persist for weeks or months after stopping clonazepam.
  • Nausea, vomiting, sweating – Autonomic instability can lead to nausea, vomiting, excessive sweating and gastrointestinal upset. Staying hydrated is important during withdrawal.
  • Headaches and dizziness – Rebound headaches and dizziness are frequently reported adverse effects of clonazepam withdrawal. These should gradually resolve over days to weeks.

Withdrawing from clonazepam is best done through a slow taper under medical supervision. Abruptly stopping after heavy or prolonged use can lead to very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal effects.

Clonazepam and Drug Driving

In March 2015, the UK government introduced drug driving legislation which made it illegal to drive a vehicle if you are unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs. The legislation placed limits in place for eight prescription drugs and nine illicit drugs. The limits for illegal drugs are set very low so even trace amounts can be detected in order to prosecute offenders. Legal drugs are defined as being ‘prescription or over-the-counter medicines’ and have limits in place.

Clonazepam is one of the eight prescription drugs that is subject to this legislation. The limits you cannot exceed while driving on Clonazepam is 50µg/L.

Clonazepam Drug Test

If you are worried that you may be “over the limit” and not fit to drive a vehicle because you are currently taking Clonazepam, you may want to take a home drug test. Clonazepam  belongs to a drug class called benzodiazepines and can be detected using a benzodiazepines drug test.  Zoom Testing can currently supply a urine drug test for benzodiazepines as well as a saliva drug test that will check for benzodiazepines and 9 other drugs at the same time.

Picture Credit: Anthony Cunningham for Zoom Testing

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

This post was originally published in January 2017 and has been updated since.

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