Klonopin (clonazepam) is a benzodiazepine that is commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and or seizure control. There also number of other potential uses for Klonopin. Klonopin has a relatively long half-life (it remains in the system relatively long compared other benzodiazepines) and a long onset of action (the full effects are not immediately felt and the effects of the drug last longer than benzodiazepines like Xanax).
All benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants, meaning that they suppress the firing of the neurons in the brain and spinal cord, thus slowing the system down. While benzodiazepines like Klonopin have a number of important therapeutic uses, they are also strong candidates for abuse as their actions produce a mild euphoria, and chronic use can result in physical dependence.
According to numerous sources, benzodiazepines are commonly abused with other drugs. The most common drug of abuse that is used with benzodiazepines is alcohol. Alcohol is also a central nervous system depressant that inhibits the firing of neurons in the brain and spinal cord, and produces similar effects to benzodiazepines. Like benzodiazepines, alcohol has a high potential for the development of physical dependence and abuse. Mixing these two drugs together is a dangerous practice.
Dangers of Using Klonopin with Alcohol
Most people are aware that it is not advisable to mix prescription medications like Klonopin with other drugs of abuse and/or alcohol. In the case of abuse of Klonopin and alcohol, there are several dangers that can occur when these drugs are mixed.
- Enhancement of effects: When two central nervous system depressants are taken together, the effects of both drugs become enhanced. Individuals using these drugs in combination will experience increased effects of both drugs at lower doses as a result of this enhancement affect. This can result in:
- Needing a far lower dosage of either drug to suffer an overdose
- An increase in the potential to develop serious side effects from either drug
- Markedly impaired cognitive functions, such as problem-solving
- Greater risk of suffering harm due to either accidents or poor judgment
Perhaps the best way to summarize the enhancement effects that occur when one mixes alcohol with a benzodiazepine like Klonopin is to remember the formula 1 + 1 > 2.
- Unpredictable effects: Whenever drugs and alcohol are mixed, there is an increased potential for unpredictable reactions to occur in different individuals. Mixing alcohol and Klonopin can result in reactions that could not been foreseen otherwise and can be highly dangerous.
- Long-term health effects: Mixing drugs like alcohol and Klonopin results in a number of increased stresses on an individual’s system. The liver is taxed as a result of using multiple drugs, and chronic use of multiple drugs can result in an increased potential for liver damage. The kidneys are also unduly stressed, and the potential for the development of issues with the kidneys is also increased. The cardiovascular system is always adversely affected in these instances, increasing the risk of developing a stroke or heart attack. Central nervous system depressants suppress breathing, and this can lead to a vulnerability to develop a number of respiratory ailments.
- Psychological effects: Long-term use of alcohol and Klonopin can also result in a number of emotional and psychological issues, such as the development of panic attacks, other issues with anxiety, depression, and even psychotic issues, such as hallucinations and delusions.
- Increased potential for physical dependence and addiction: Whenever an individual engages in chronic polysubstance abuse, they increase their risk to develop physical dependence to either or both of the drugs they are abusing and to develop a substance use disorder to either or both substances. Individuals who have substance use disorders to multiple drugs of abuse are notoriously difficult to treat.
Symptoms of Abuse
Individuals who develop substance use disorders to benzodiazepines like Klonopin will often also have substance use disorders to other drugs like alcohol as co-occurring and complicating disorders. In addition, many of these individuals will have a number of potential psychological disorders, such as depression, issues with anxiety, personality disorders, etc.
According to the American Psychiatric Association there are a number of signs and symptoms that can suggest an individual is developing a substance use disorder:
- Continuing to engage in nonmedicinal use: One of the major signs that an individual is abusing drugs is that they use drugs for nonmedicinal purposes or in manners that they are not intended to be used. These uses include:
- Using the drug for its psychoactive effects
- Obtaining the drug without a prescription
- Combining drugs in dangerous ways
- Trying to obtain multiple prescriptions from different physicians
- Using the drugs in manners they are not intended to be used (e.g., snorting, injecting, etc.).
- Issues with control: Hallmark symptoms of substance use disorders are issues with control over the use of drugs and/or alcohol. These signs that individuals are having issues controlling their use of drugs include:
- Spending more time using the drug than the person originally intended
- Using the drug in greater amounts than originally intended
- Continuing to use the drug in spite of experiencing negative ramifications important areas of life
- Spending significant amounts of time recovering from use
- Spending significant amounts of time trying to get the drug
- Detrimental effects to one’s personal life: Individuals who abuse drugs will inevitably experience issues associated with their personal relationships, work, financial situation, living situation, school, and other important areas of their lives. These issues can be directly tied to their use of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Physical dependence: The development of physical dependence on drugs that are not used under the supervision of a physician (e.g., with a physician’s prescription) and/or used in manners that are inconsistent with the intended uses of the drug (e.g., using the drug to cope with stress, using it for its psychoactive effects, etc.) is a sign that the individual has a substance use disorder. Individuals who develop physical dependence while using a drug under the supervision of a physician and in a manner that is consistent with the prescribed intent of the drug do not qualify to be diagnosed with substance use disorders.
Only a licensed mental health care professional can diagnose a substance use disorder in someone. Anyone who suspects that they or someone close to them may have a substance use disorder should consult with a mental health professional. Individuals who have substance use disorders have a manifestation of a serious psychological disorder and should only be treated by mental health professionals in a suitable treatment environment.