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What is Klonopin?

Klonopin might be used to alleviate insomnia.
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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2014
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Klonopin® (clonazepam) is a prescription oral medication used in the treatment of various mental health disorders, such as anxiety, panic disorder, and depression. However, since the drug possesses anticonvulsant properties, it is also prescribed to deter seizures associated with epilepsy, as well as to subdue symptoms of restless legs syndrome. While known as Klonopin® in the U.S., this drug is sold in other parts of the world under the trade name of Rivotril®. The pharmaceutical segment of the Swiss-based company, Hoffmann–La Roche, Ltd, distributes this drug to the global market.

A member of the benzodiazepine family of psychotropic drugs, Klonopin® is a mood-altering agent that targets the central nervous system. The biochemical effect in the brain is what lends the drug the ability to influence perception and behavior. Unfortunately, this quality is also what leads to this substance being intentionally abused.

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The pharmacological action of Klonopin® is to enhance the function of a major neurotransmission inhibitor known as gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) by binding to its receptor sites. This leads to the suppression of neural firing or, more specifically, deterrence of the rapid spiking discharges connected with seizures. It is also fast acting. In fact, Klonopin® has an absorption rate of nearly 90% with optimum blood concentrations being reached within as little as one hour after being ingested. This high degree of bioavailability is likely due to the fact that the drug has many receptor sites available outside of the central nervous system, including those found in smooth muscle, mast cells, and several major organs.

Like other psychotropic drugs, there are certain risks associated with taking Klonopin®. For one thing, there may be a danger of developing a chemical dependency from long-term or habitual use. This risk appears to be particularly evident when this drug is repeatedly used to counter insomnia. However, when used responsibly, and under the guidance of a professional health care practitioner, the potential benefits may outweigh this risk.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the issue of withdrawal. It is absolutely critical that the patient be “weaned” from this drug in incremental stages. Otherwise, severe anxiety and irritability may occur. In fact, suddenly and completely ceasing this medication may promote psychotic episodes, including dysphoria (depression) and hallucinations. In addition, sporadic seizures may occur, even in those who didn’t experience any prior to taking the drug.

In terms of general side effects, Klonopin® may produce drowsiness and impair cognitive and motor function. Due to this action, the drug is not usually recommended for young children or the elderly. In addition, this drug can interfere with normal REM cycles, meaning that sleep patterns may be affected and grogginess may be felt upon awakening. Finally, Klonopin® should not be used during pregnancy unless carefully monitored by a physician since there is an increased risk of birth defects.

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