The website MediGuard.org surveys users of specific prescription medications, attempting to determine how much people both use and find relief from the medications their doctors recommend. In a recent survey, 67 percent of those polled suggested that they took Klonopin due to an anxiety disorder, and overall, 77 percent of all people polled were at least somewhat satisfied with the results they got from each little Klonopin pill they took.
Reading a study like this can be a little disconcerting for people living with someone who is taking, and possibly abusing, Klonopin. On the one hand, readers might be happy to think that the medication could provide someone they love with real relief in the fight against serious mental illness. But on the other hand, they may be concerned that this likability score suggests that the drug is somehow addictive, and that it could have ensnared the person that they love. In general, it’s difficult to discern the difference between someone who uses Klonopin for a medical problem and someone who abuses the drug for fun. Often, a professional must be involved in the assessment process. But there are some signs to watch for, and when those warning signs are in play, treatment can make a huge difference.
Klonopin and the Brain
Only a doctor can provide Klonopin (also sold under the generic name clonazepam), as it’s a drug that’s considered dangerous by the addiction community. There’s a good reason for that concern, as Klonopin is part of a medication family that has been associated with very serious and very persistent cases of substance use and abuse.
On the surface, Klonopin does just one thing: It slows down electrical activity in the brain. For many years, medical professionals prescribed these medications to people in need, not realizing that the drugs they were handing out could give people persistent cases of addiction that could derail their chances at a long and happy life. In 2012, however, the National Institute on Drug Abuse outlined the results of a study that proved that benzodiazepine drugs like Klonopin could be as addictive as heroin or marijuana. In essence, the researchers found that benzodiazepines interfere with the brain’s ability to regulate the amount of pleasurable chemicals it emits. People who take these drugs are awash in feelings of euphoria and well-being, and they’re unable to regulate those emotions with willpower alone. In no time at all, they can become desperately addicted to these drugs, due to the pleasure they feel while under the influence.
All benzodiazepine medications work in this manner, and Klonopin isn’t the most addictive drug in its class. In fact, in a study in the journal CNS Drugs, researchers suggest that Klonopin is only intermediately addictive, when compared to other drugs in the same class. Studies like this might only tell half the story, however, as anecdotal evidence that’s widely available suggests that the drug really is pleasant, and that it’s being abused due to its specific qualities.
Those who have addictions might also find it easy to get Klonopin by:
Stealing it from the family medicine cabinet
Visiting real estate open house events, and stealing the drug from those medicine cabinets
Taking pills from hospital pharmacies, particularly if the addicted person works in health care
Buying the drug from pharmacies in Mexico
Ordering the drug online from overseas pharmacies
Since this drug isn’t associated with high levels of addiction, its use might not be closely regulated, and it might be remarkably easy for people to get.
The way the drug makes people feel might also make it an attractive option for abuse. In an article produced by the National Drug Intelligence Center, users of the drug report that Klonopin produces a high akin to marijuana, but it doesn’t produce red eyes or other telltale signs of intoxication. People like the way the drug makes them feel, and they like the fact that they can keep their abuse hidden. These benefits could make Klonopin a great target for abuse and addiction.
Klonopin can also produce profound sedation in people who take the drug at high doses, rendering them unconscious and unable to remember the events that just took place. This could make the drug an attractive choice for rapists, as they might easily provide a victim with pills and then do as they please until the pills wear off hours later.
While some people take Klonopin for sheer pleasure purposes, it’s important to remember that there are some people who really need this medication in order to deal with a serious case of anxiety that just won’t let up. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 40 million Americans 18 and older have a disorder like this, and they might struggle to get through the day without the help of a medication like Klonopin. People like this might even need to take higher doses of their medications in time, as their bodies become accustomed to the dose that was once considered effective.
This phenomenon is known as tolerance, and it’s a normal response to a medication. The drug alters chemical responses in the body, and the body responds by changing how it reacts to that drug. In the case of Klonopin, the drug might produce a little less relaxation in people who are accustomed to it. Regular dosing schedules that include periodic increases can keep this from becoming problematic. This issue of tolerance can be dangerous, however, in terms of addiction.
Increasing the Damage
People who are addicted to Klonopin might miss the pleasure that their early doses provided, and as their bodies adjust to the drug, they might be forced to:
Take large doses
Take doses on an unusual schedule
Crush and snort the pills
Add the pills to water and inject them
All of these steps are designed to allow the drug to work a little faster, or to produce a bigger punch inside of the body. Unfortunately, these steps can also lead to an overdose, as flooding the body with this powerful drug can lead to such a state of sedation that people simply don’t wake up again.
Why Abuse Klonopin?
It’s no secret that Klonopin is powerful and that it can be dangerous. In fact, an online search for the words “Klonopin” and “addiction” brings back hundreds of hits, each more alarming than the one previous.
But there are some people who seem to have a cavalier attitude toward this drug, and they might develop addictions without even realizing that they’re doing something that’s intensely dangerous.
In an article in New York Magazine, a woman who took benzodiazepine medications recreationally summed up the prevailing feeling about these drugs with this statement: “In my life, most of the time, I try to be natural and good to my body, but when it comes to prescriptions…I’m not too worried about it. I have fun with it. And there’s a certain sort of cool about it.” Since the drugs are provided by a doctor, people think they’re safe. And since the drug is so common, people don’t feel that there’s a stigma associated with use. They can just take these pills as they see fit, and they might never feel that they’re doing anything wrong.
Finding the Problem
People who have an addiction might develop a tolerance to Klonopin, similar to the tolerance seen in people who take the drug for therapeutic purposes, but they have behaviors that aren’t typically seen in people who take the drug for a mental health concern.
People who have addictions have a psychological connection to the drug, and they might feel as though they’d be willing to lie, cheat or steal to get it. Someone with a valid health concern might visit a doctor and even change prescriptions to deal with specific symptoms relating to a mental illness, but someone with an addiction might be so desperate to access one drug that almost anything seems reasonable.
Those who have a prescription and a need might also seem better on Klonopin. They might be able to visit with friends, go to work and otherwise participate in life without feeling a crippling sense of anxiety crushing them from all sides. Those who have an addiction, on the other hand, might seem unusual or worse due to the drug, and they might retreat from most human contact, preferring to stay in their rooms in a drug-induced haze. Rather than feeling better, they seem to feel much worse.
Klonopin addictions can also cause people to take risks with their drug use, mixing in other drugs alongside their Klonopin pills to change up their experiences. They might swill alcohol with their pills, add in a painkiller or shoot up heroin. The drug seems to open a gateway to other drugs, and mixing and matching seems to enhance the sensations of pleasure. Someone with a mental illness and no addiction might never mix and match like this, as the person might know that the drug is designed to help them and mixing might hurt them, but someone with an addiction might not be capable of making that distinction.
Approach with Caution
Those who abuse Klonopin on a recreational basis, as well as those who take the drug for a mental health concern, can become irate when they’re approached about their use.
During an intervention, people like this might claim that they:
Need the drug, whether or not they have a prescription for it
Aren’t required to explain their drug use to anyone
Can stop anytime they’d like to do so
Are capable of using the drug responsibly
As the intervention progresses, however, and the family provides more and more examples of how the drug use has ruined the person’s life and the lives of the people that person cares about, the denial can fall away and the person might be willing to really get serious about healing. We can help you make that happen.
We have a list of qualified family mediators who are willing to meet with you and help you reach out to the person you love. We can help you find a professional that uses a communication style that suits your family, and we can help you to connect with that person immediately. Please browse our directory, or call us for individualized help.