Clonazepam is the generic version of Klonopin, which is a benzodiazepine medication used to treat anxiety and depression. Clonazepam is considered to have an intermediate onset of action, which makes it a practical choice when treating mental health disorders like anxiety or depression.
Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States, and it affects 18.1 percent of the population, translating to 40 million adults each year. Fortunately, the condition is treatable with medications like clonazepam. However, only 36.9 percent of those struggling will reach out for treatment. Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of factors, including personality, life events, brain chemistry, and genetics.
It’s extremely common for someone struggling with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression. An estimated 50 percent of those diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety disorder. Other forms of anxiety disorders like panic disorder affect six million adults, social anxiety disorder affects 15 million adults, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects 7.7 million adults annually.
Depression is another condition that can often be crippling. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimated that 264 million people globally live with depression to some extent In 2017, 17.3 million adults over the age of 18 experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year, translating to 6.7 percent of all adults in the country.
It’s normal to experience depression if you get fired from a job you loved, lose someone you’re close to, go through a divorce, or any challenging situation life throws our way. Depression is a healthy reaction to these stressors, and most people will feel low or sad at some point. However, for those diagnosed with clinical depression, the low mood manifestations are more severe and persist much longer. Statistics show depression occurs more often in women than men.
In some cases, depression can only be treated with medications like clonazepam. If your doctor has prescribed you the drug, you’ll likely have various questions and concerns. It’s vital for you to understand how this medication works and how it can be part of your treatment plan.
As with any medication, you must understand the risks of taking clonazepam for anxiety or depression and how your diet or other drugs could interact with the medicine or lead to health complications. Let’s go over the most critical aspects of clonazepam and the side effects you could experience as a result of use.
How Clonazepam is Administered
Clonazepam is available as an orally disintegrating tablet or a tablet. If you’ve been prescribed the pills, you must take them with water. If you have a disintegration tablet, place it on or under your tongue and let it dissolve before swallowing. It’s not necessary to take with water.
Clonazepam is typically taken one to three times a day, and you can take the dose with or without food. Benzodiazepines like clonazepam cause a reduction of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which is the reason it’s used to treat anxiety. The effects of clonazepam for social anxiety symptoms are experienced quickly, but other potential benefits can take longer.
The initial dosage your doctor will start you with is 0.5mg to 1mg per day in divided doses. Depending on your reaction, they could either increase or decrease as needed. If you are using clonazepam for social anxiety disorder, the physician will start off by prescribing a lower dose of the medicine for a limited period.
Your doctor should follow up and ask questions about how you’ve felt since starting clonazepam. You must answer the questions honestly so they can determine its effectiveness in treating the symptoms. It will also provide you the opportunity to tell them about any side effects you’re experiencing. At this point, your doctor can decide if your dose needs to be adjusted.
You should not use clonazepam if you:
- Have significant kidney or liver disease
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Are under the age of 18
- Have a history of sensitivity to benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Ativan, or Valium
- Have been diagnosed with acute narrow-angle glaucoma
- Have been diagnosed with hepatic porphyria
In some cases, clonazepam has been known to increase symptoms of depression. If your depression worsens, you should contact your treating physician immediately. If you experience suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or immediately call 911.
If you take other medications besides clonazepam, you must be aware of how these medications affect one another. Side effects can range from mild to severe, and they’re not limited to just prescription medications. You should also be conscious of any over-the-counter products, herbs, or other supplements that could lead to adverse reactions with clonazepam.
The following prescription medications are not considered safe to use in conjunction with clonazepam:
- Antianxiety agents
- Barbiturates and non-barbiturate hypnotics
- Phenothiazines (Thorazine)
- Antipsychotic agents (butyrophenone and thioxanthene classes)
The medications that increase levels and effects of clonazepam include:
- Tagamet (cimetidine)
- Sporanox (itraconazole)
- Nizoral (ketoconazole)
- Luvox (fluvoxamine)
- Serzone (nefazodone)
Medication that could decrease the levels and effects of clonazepam include:
- Tegretol (carbamazepine)
- Luminal (phenobarbital)
- Dilantin (phenytoin)
Clonazepam Side Effects
The most common side effects that someone experiences when using clonazepam are dizziness, drowsiness, and cognitive impairment. Those who are older are more likely to experience medication side effects, including those common with benzodiazepine use.
The side effects associated with clonazepam are typically dose-dependent. The more of the drug a person takes, the more they’ll experience the effects. If someone uses the 1mg per day they’re prescribed, and the doctor increases the dose to 3mg or 4mg per day, they’ll experience more side effects or intensify the effects they felt at 1mg.
The most commonly reported side effects of clonazepam include:
- Issues with coordination
- Blurred vision
- Changes in sexual performance or sex drive
- Frequent urination
- Pain in your joints or muscles
- Increased saliva production
- Respiratory or sinus issues
The potential side effects of clonazepam are severe, and in some cases, life-threatening. If you’re using the drug with illicit drugs, alcohol, or other medications like opioids, it will increase the risks of the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling of your throat, face, and eyes, which are signs of an allergic reaction
- Loss of consciousness
- Extreme sleepiness
- Unresponsiveness, which is a sign someone has taken too much or mixed with another substance that is causing a reaction
If you experience any of the above-mentioned problems, immediately call for help.
Does Clonazepam Cause Dependence?
As you’d expect from using any medication, there are risks involved, including psychological and physical dependence when using clonazepam. If you take the medication daily for longer than two weeks, you set yourself up for developing physical dependence. This means if you abstain abruptly, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms. Speak with a doctor before stopping. They will guide you to slowly take less of the medicine over time, a method known as tapering, until you can stop safely.
If someone uses too much clonazepam, it’s not generally life-threatening, except in cases where it’s combined with other drugs like opioids or alcohol. When you first start using clonazepam, you should avoid certain activities that could be hazardous until you’ve adjusted to the medication. Until you know how you’ll feel when using the medicine, you should avoid operating heavy machinery, driving, or participating in any potentially dangerous activities.
How Clonazepam Affects Depression
If you’re struggling with depression while using clonazepam, you should discuss any personal or family history of the disorder. It’s especially true in those who have a family history of depression. Clonazepam can cause behavior changes, severe mood swings, agitation, aggressiveness, irritability, and nervousness. If someone becomes addicted to clonazepam, it’s important to diagnose underlying mental illness as a part of their treatment.
Clonazepam slows chemicals in the brain that could become unbalanced. Most who use the drug will have physical side effects that diminish with time, but it can affect depression severely.
Emotional side effects of clonazepam include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Severe depression
- Sleep disturbances
- Issues with memory or thinking
- Loss of interest in activities they once found joy
- Loss of pleasure in activities they once found joy
- Behavioral changes
- Mood swings
If you’ve been using clonazepam and fear you’ve become dependent, you must reach out for medical help immediately. You should never abstain from the drug without the guidance of your doctor. You may have to look into rehab or seek immediate emergency care from the hospital.