Barbiturate vs Benzodiazepines

For centuries, people have been using hypnotic-sedative agents. Klonopin, or Clonazepam, is one of the newer forms of benzodiazepine. It was developed in the 1960s to replace the barbiturate class of drugs. Both classes of drugs are central nervous system depressants. However, today, benzodiazepines are the most prescribed psychotropic medication worldwide. Both classes of drugs impact significant chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are the messengers that enable the brain cells to communicate with each other and the rest of the body. While these drugs act differently on the brain cells (benzos increase specific activity, which slows down activity), barbiturates reduce cerebral metabolic activity. They treat depression (an off-label use), anxiety, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines also treat sleeping disorders and alcohol withdrawal (an off-label use). It is considered best practice to only use benzos for short periods – less than two weeks.

Klonopin is considered a Schedule IV drug by the FDA. It is considered safe for specific medical uses but has the risk of misuse or developing addiction. It has three strengths: 0.5mg, 1.0mg, and 2.0mg. The primary ingredient in Klonopin is clonazepam, which increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA-A) levels. It has a calming effect on the body. Many crush the pills and snort them speeding up the effect on the body. Klonopin should not be combined with opiate medications, other street drugs, or alcohol. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which, when combined with Klonopin, can cause coordination problems, respiratory depression, and other serious side effects.

Side Effects of Klonopin

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Problems with coordination
  • Difficulty thinking or remembering
  • Increased saliva
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in sex drive or ability

For people with mental health conditions, Klonopin can have adverse behavioral side effects, which include agitation, aggression, hyperactivity, irritability, and temper tantrums.

“Every day, approximately 220 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Combining opioids and benzodiazepines can increase the risk of overdose because both drugs can cause sedation and suppress breathing—the cause of overdose fatality—and impair cognitive functions. Research shows that people who use opioids and benzodiazepines concurrently are at higher risk of visiting the emergency department, being admitted to a hospital for a drug-related emergency, and dying of drug overdose.”

According to the Department of Justice, there has been an increase in the use of Klonopin at high schools. The drug is frequently used as a “date rape” drug. In 2020, over 14,758,212 prescriptions were written for Klonopin in the US.

Development of Dependency and Addiction

Because users feel a sense of calm and well-being, combined with the drug’s potency, one can become addicted – even when used as prescribed by a physician. When used over an extended period, the body and brain grow dependent on the drug. Over time, the brain will require more of the drug to find balance-meaning a sense of calm that the drug induces, and thus addiction begins.

The more the user takes, the more the body relies on it; eventually, higher dosages are needed to achieve the desired effect—calm. Once the user has developed a dependence on Klonopin, the body continually demands an increase in consumption.

“The use of benzodiazepines, including Klonopin, exposes users to abuse, misuse, and addiction risks, which can lead to overdose or death. Abuse and misuse of benzodiazepines commonly involve concomitant use of other medications, alcohol, and illicit substances, which is associated with an increased frequency of serious adverse outcomes…”

The user’s body and brain withdraw when continued drug use does not happen.

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • uncontrolled muscle movements and body tremors (shaking)
  • anxiety
  • blurred vision
  • personality or mood changes
  • dizziness
  • fatigue (lack of energy)
  • digestive reactions, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and reduced appetite
  • headache
  • increased sensitivity to light and loud noises
  • increased blood pressure or heart rate
  • insomnia (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep)
  • muscle pain and stiffness
  • panic attacks
  • seizures, which may be life-threatening

Sadly, as with many other drugs, the withdrawal phase can last weeks or months.

The discomfort of withdrawal symptoms will often cause the person to pick up the drug again. If a person has been combining Klonopin with other medications and street drugs, withdrawal symptoms are acerbated, sometimes leading to death.

A licensed, trained medical professional in drug addiction can safely guide someone who wants to stop using Klonopin. Understanding the person and his/her/their addiction is necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms. An issue in managing withdrawal is the:

  • the duration of the time taking the drug
  • the dosage being consumed
  • other drugs being used in combination with Klonopin
  • physical health of the person in withdrawal
  • mental health conditions

Symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia may increase. A healthcare professional can help the user manage the withdrawal symptoms, which sometimes require the introduction of other medication. Trying to stop using Klonopin after an extended period of use and/or in combination with other drugs can cause seizures. A licensed medical detox facility is considered the best option.

Once a user has completed detox (ridding the body and brain of toxins from drugs), he/she/they should immediately move into substance abuse treatment. A treatment facility staffed with medical and clinical professionals who are experts in substance abuse offers clients the tools and knowledge to begin his/her/their path through recovery. Since not everyone responds the same to treatment, various therapies should be available. A treatment plan review should happen regularly to determine what therapies are best.

These therapies include:

  • Group therapy
  • One on One therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy)
  • Family therapy
  • Medication management workshops
  • Addiction education
  • Alternative therapies (yoga, meditation, art therapy, etc.)
  • Physical fitness workshops
  • 12 Step and non-12 Step programs
  • Life skills training
  • Career analysis

And more depending on the facility.

Call today to speak with a staff member if you or a loved one suffers from Klonopin addiction. Your call is confidential, and all your questions will be answered. Help is available now.