Substance Use

Clonazepam Withdrawal

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents

clonazepam box with 30 mg

Clonazepam Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Detox Treatment Options

Clonazepam, sold under Klonopin, is a medication used to prevent and treat panic disorder, seizures, and anxiety. This drug is a high-potency, long-acting benzodiazepine with several off-label indications, prescribed for insomnia, acute mania, and several other conditions. Since clonazepam is a benzodiazepine, it is one of many sedatives and sleeping aids commonly prescribed. 

Data shows that approximately 12.5% of American adults use benzodiazepines, representing over 30.5 million people. Although public health experts do not know for sure, it is estimated that around 17.1% of users misuse benzodiazepines. The most common reason for doing so is to relax (46.3%), sleep better (22.4%), and get high (11.8%).

Although clonazepam offers value in the medical field, it also carries a relatively high risk of abuse, and if used for several weeks, dependence can develop. At that point, clonazepam withdrawal symptoms will surface following abrupt cessation, which often causes patients to continue taking clonazepam, even if they no longer need it. Clonazepam withdrawal causes physical and psychological symptoms, some of which may last for months or even years following your last dose. 

Like any withdrawal process, your dependence on clonazepam is an individualized experience. Your medical history, current needs, mental health, social support, etc., make you unique. All of these factors need to be considered when withdrawing from clonazepam, especially if you’re dealing with an underlying mental health condition. 

The goal is to complete the initial clonazepam withdrawal period and then seek ongoing therapy — especially if symptoms of anxiety, depression, or another mental disorder are of concern. 

If you or your loved one are dependent on clonazepam and are ready to stop using it, here is what you need to know about the withdrawal process. You do not need to go through this process alone. Don’t let the fear of clonazepam withdrawal symptoms stop you from getting the help you deserve. 

What Are the Symptoms of Clonazepam Withdrawal?

When clonazepam is prescribed to patients, abrupt withdrawal is discouraged, especially among those taking this drug for extended periods or at high doses. When you stop taking this drug, which your body and mind are dependent on, you will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms similar to what you would experience during alcohol withdrawal. You’ll feel agitated, edgy, and flu-ish. 

Common clonazepam withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Insomnia 
  • Tremors
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety
  • Headache 
  • Depression 
  • Sleep issues/nightmares
  • Confusion 
  • Sweating 
  • Hallucinations

In certain instances, particularly those who take high doses, more severe symptoms may develop, including seizures and psychotic reactions. The severity of your symptoms will depend on various factors, including how long you have been taking clonazepam, the amount you’ve been taking, and whether you’re mixing it with other substances of abuse. Your mental health is also a key consideration. 

The above symptoms are what are known as acute withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are often relatively short-lived as long as you stick to your withdrawal plan. Once these symptoms subside, you can focus on the next step within the healing process. Symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) may develop at this time. This syndrome refers to a set of impairments that can persist for weeks, months, even years. 

Common symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Irritability 
  • Depressed mood
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Increased sensitivity to stress 
  • Poor sleep 
  • Cravings 

The severity of these symptoms will fluctuate, disappearing only to reappear again. 

If you were initially prescribed clonazepam for an underlying mental health disorder, rebound symptoms might develop. For example, symptoms of an anxiety disorder have since been kept under control because of clonazepam. During the withdrawal period, your anxiety disorder symptoms may come back, being more severe than they used to be — which is why so many continue using, even if they no longer want to take clonazepam. 

If you are a polydrug user, the clonazepam withdrawal process can become more complicated. However, continuing to use can be much more complicated and dangerous, especially if you consume alcohol regularly. These substances are central nervous system depressants, increasing your risk of complications. If you have developed a physical dependence on both clonazepam and alcohol, you must seek professional assistance for the withdrawal process, especially when the possibility of seizures is a concern. 

What Causes Clonazepam Withdrawal?

In many cases, users begin taking clonazepam as directed but begin to develop a tolerance. Since clonazepam is a prescription drug, many believe it’s safe, but adverse effects may develop when taken any way other than prescribed. Once a tolerance builds, and someone begins taking more clonazepam to experience the same effect, they increase the risk of dependence. Some people develop a clonazepam addiction in as little as a few weeks — even when taking the dose prescribed by their doctor. 

Research shows that although the risk of clonazepam dependence is high among patients taking prescribed doses for several weeks, most misusers obtain benzodiazepines like clonazepam from friends and relatives. Only approximately 20% get them from their doctor. 

If you have become dependent on clonazepam, you may not be able to relax or experience calming feelings without it. 

To better understand what causes clonazepam withdrawal, you must consider its mechanism of action. Like other benzos, clonazepam targets GABA receptors. GABA is a brain chemical that produces a calming effect by decreasing your central nervous system activity. There are three GABA receptors — A, B, and C. However, clonazepam and other benzos only act on GABA-A receptors. This process is complex, involving several binding sites and subunits. 

As discussed above, you may also experience symptoms of PAWS. Researchers believe this syndrome develops due to physiologic changes that occur in the brain as a result of substance abuse. Drug abuse, including the abuse of clonazepam, changes the brain and brain chemical levels. As a result, your brain’s capacity to deal with stress may be reduced. Although PAWS can manifest after withdrawal from any abusive substance and is common among those abusing opioids and alcohol, those abusing benzodiazepines seem to be the most at risk. There have been reports of benzodiazepine abusers experiencing PAWS for years after final cessation.

If you abuse alcohol or other sedatives, this may increase the risk of clonazepam dependence. This combination is dangerous, increasing your risk of overdose during use and seizures during the withdrawal period. 

How Long Does Clonazepam Withdrawal Take?

When you stop using benzodiazepines, the withdrawal process will depend on several variables, including whether or not the drug is short- or long-acting. For example, when withdrawing from short-acting benzos, like alprazolam, symptoms begin more quickly compared to long-acting benzos (within 1-2 days) but do not typically last as long (2-4 weeks compared to 2-8 weeks). 

Clonazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine, so you can expect to experience symptoms within 2-7 days after your last dose, which will then continue for 2-8 weeks or longer. To better understand this process, it’s important to consider clonazepam’s half-life, which is the time it takes for the amount of a drug’s active substance to reduce by half in your body. Clonazepam’s half-life is fairly long, being 30 to 40 hours

If you have been taking clonazepam for an extended period, you can expect to experience symptoms for weeks. The severity of those symptoms will depend on several variables, particularly your tapering plan. It’s essential to work with an expert healthcare team to ensure the highest levels of safety and comfort. You must be aware of problematic symptoms throughout this period, sharing your concerns with those caring for you. 

As discussed, PAWS can create lingering symptoms that may last much longer than the initial withdrawal period. For many, these symptoms are caused by a combination of clonazepam dependence and an underlying mental health issue. Clonazepam is only intended for short-term use, so the duration in which you’ve been taking this drug matters. The more severe your dependence, the more significant your withdrawal symptoms will be, affecting the withdrawal timeline. 

How to Safely Manage Clonazepam Detox

The safest way to complete the clonazepam withdrawal process is to reduce your dose gradually. This process is what’s known as tapering. Each individual is unique concerning their symptoms and needs, so the detoxification period should begin with an assessment. For example, were you prescribed clonazepam and became dependent? You’re now ready to stop using the drug but struggle with overcoming the clonazepam withdrawal period?

This study focused on 73 patients with panic disorder who have not experienced symptoms for at least one year and had been taking clonazepam for at least three years. These patients wanted to stop taking the medication, so the researchers initiated a four-month tapering period, followed by an eight-month follow-up period. In total, 68.9% of the patients were free of clonazepam after four months, and 26% needed another three months. Symptoms did develop, including nausea, tremors, insomnia, muscle aches, anxiety, and excessive sweating, but were mild. It was concluded that a monitored tapering plan is an effective solution when aiming to minimize clonazepam withdrawal symptoms. 

Based on clonazepam withdrawal symptoms, having a team to support you is imperative. A professional healthcare team will monitor your symptoms to help address your evolving needs. The FDA warns that the abrupt withdrawal of clonazepam can lead to seizures. For this reason, gradual withdrawal is crucial, and for some individuals, the simultaneous substitution of another anticonvulsant may be required. 

Although medications can assist the withdrawal process, clonazepam withdrawal management alone is unlikely to lead to sustained abstinence. For this reason, it’s crucial to seek a comprehensive treatment plan that values holistic care — one that offers structured support, such as psychotherapy. This step is especially important for individuals who began taking clonazepam because of a pre-existing anxiety disorder. If you have anxiety or other psychological disorder, symptoms resurface, often seeming more severe than before. Ongoing support is needed to address these symptoms. 

For example, panic disorder can be an overwhelming and debilitating condition. Each year, approximately 11% of Americans experience a panic attack, and approximately 2% to 3% develop a panic disorder. In many cases, these individuals also suffer from other mental health issues — and substance abuse worsens symptoms. Patients are often treated with medications, including clonazepam, but the recovery process can become more complicated when dependence develops. 

Clonazepam withdrawal symptoms can hinder people from seeking the help they need.

If this is the case for you, know that you’re not alone. You can overcome clonazepam withdrawal symptoms and then work toward building a healthier, more fulfilling future. To do so, you’ll want to seek the assistance of a professional treatment center, one that understands the value of holistic treatment. Many evidence-based treatment options can help address substance use disorder and diminish mental health.

For example, psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, has been shown to significantly improve symptoms of anxiety, including panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. This form of therapy is just one option available in a professional treatment center. When you receive a customized treatment plan that is tailored toward your individual needs, you will gain access to a broad spectrum of therapy and treatment options, depending on what facility you go to. 

Take the Next Step

Withdrawing from any substance isn’t easy. It is also a highly individualized experience. 

If you’re ready to begin the clonazepam withdrawal process, it is highly recommended that you do so under the supervision of a professional healthcare team, especially if you’re at risk of complications. Not only will you remain as safe and comfortable as possible, but you will also have the support needed to transition to the next step of your recovery. 

Clonazepam withdrawal is not the end — it’s the beginning as you work toward building a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling future. 

You’re not alone. Contact a professional substance abuse and mental health facility to get started today!