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What Is Clonazepam Withdrawal?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 03 July 2014
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Clonazepam is a benzodiazepine that may be used to treat anxiety disorders, anxiety accompanying depression, some seizure disorders, sleep problems, and a variety of others conditions or short-term anxiety symptoms. Use of most benzodiazepines can lead to dependency, especially when these drugs have been used for at least a month. This can lead to clonazepam withdrawal when the drug is no longer used or when it is tapered to promote quitting. The symptoms of withdrawal may be minor to life threatening, and they depend upon how the discontinuation of therapy is handled. Lowest clonazepam withdrawal symptoms are typically associated with slow, tapered discontinuation of the drug.

When people begin to have tolerance for a medication, they may need to take higher doses or take doses closer together in order to achieve the same effects. This is a hazard of all benzodiazepines. The body gets used to the drugs quickly and requires greater amounts due to tolerance. Whenever amounts are not increased, symptoms of withdrawal may immediately begin and tend to last until the next dose of the drug is taken. If dosages are decreased, even slowly, there are some expected associated symptoms.

This definition contrasts with the view of clonazepam withdrawal when the medication is simply stopped. Withdrawal of this kind can cause extreme and life threatening symptoms. It is not advised to quit clonazepam "cold turkey," as this may result in benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.

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The symptoms associated with clonazepam withdrawal when the drug is tapered off slowly include a return of symptoms. Things like anxiety may be worse than they initially were and could be called "rebound anxiety." Other withdrawal symptoms include changes in mood and difficulty sleeping.

Quick or cold turkey benzodiazepine withdrawal can evoke benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. This condition can be exceptionally severe, resulting in psychiatric side effects like hallucinations, extreme anxiety, dissociation, and mania. Mood swings, severe depression, suicidal or homicidal thinking, and self-mutilation can also occur. Physical effects include seizures, tremors, and delirium tremens. High blood pressure, tachycardia, muscle and joint aches, and irritable bowel syndrome are also possible, as are other symptoms.

The potential severity of this syndrome underscores the importance of having a plan in place for clonazepam withdrawal if tolerance is suspected. Some people develop tolerance sooner than others, possibly before four weeks of daily drug use. If a patient has developed tolerance, he or she will usually know within a few hours to a day after not taking a dose. Anyone thought tolerant should work with a physician to slowly taper the medication, which may go on for several months before dependence on the drug is ended. Though tapering takes a long time to accomplish, it avoids the potentially deadly side effects common in abrupt discontinuation.

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