Footprints to Recovery

Side Effects of Klonopin on the Body

Medically Reviewed by David Szarka, MA, LCADC

Klonopin (clonazepam) is a benzodiazepine prescribed for seizure disorders as well as anxiety disorders like social phobias and panic attacks. Clonazepam is the generic form of the brand-name drug, Klonopin. It comes in clonazepam oral liquid or clonazepam tablets. Taking Klonopin increases gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA) in your brain. GABA is a chemical that helps you feel calm, relaxed, and sometimes drowsy. Clonazepam slows down your central nervous system (CNS) and releases tension in your body. This can ease ruminating thoughts leading to severe anxiety and panic disorders. It can also inhibit muscle spasms and CNS activity associated with seizures.

Klonopin can make you feel somewhat euphoric and uninhibited. These feelings are stronger in larger doses. This effect of the drug is why some people begin to abuse it, or seek it out without a prescription for medical use. Klonopin is typically prescribed on a short-term basis because of its high risk for dependence and addiction. In fact, clonazepam and alprazolam (Xanax) are the two benzos most commonly sold as street drugs.

What Are the Side Effects of Klonopin?

Klonopin side effects vary by individual, dosage, and length of use. If you take Klonopin as prescribed by your doctor for a short period of time, you may only experience mild side effects. If you’ve been taking klonopin in large doses or for several weeks or months, you may have more adverse effects.

People taking this medication may experience common Klonopin side effects like:

  • Coordination problems
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • More saliva production
  • Increased urination
  • Slurred speech
  • Dry mouth

More serious Klonopin side effects (boxed warnings) may include:

  • Hives or rash
  • Problems breathing
  • Throat discomfort or hoarseness
  • Swelling of throat, tongue, face, eyes, or lips
  • Confusion and behavioral changes
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Physical dependence

Abuse can lead to more long-term side effects of Klonopin that impact your physical and mental health. If you’re engaging in other substance abuse behaviors along with misusing Klonopin the long-term effects can be different and more severe.

Side Effects of Klonopin on the Brain

Klonopin (clonazepam) is a CNS depressant, which means that it inhibits certain brain chemicals to slow down the central nervous system. In large doses or with continued abuse, this can cause several negative effects on the brain.

  • When you slow down the central nervous system, you slow down your breathing. This is known as respiratory depression. Abusing Klonopin puts you at risk for taking so much that your breathing stops, leading to cardiac arrest, coma, or overdose.
  • Some research suggests an increased risk for dementia when benzodiazepines are taken for long periods of time.
  • Because of the way they slow down the CNS, benzos can put you at increased risk for memory loss and problems managing your emotions and impulses.
  • Over time, your brain may become dependent on Klonopin to produce GABA. You may experience withdrawal symptoms without clonazepam like those associated with mental health conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks.

Side Effects of Klonopin on the Heart

Because of the way benzos act on cardiovascular functions, they are sometimes used to treat high blood pressure and other heart conditions. However, abusing benzos or taking them long term increases the risk of cardiovascular problems. GABA can decrease the speed of your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. If these functions are slowed down by too much, you could be at risk for heart damage or heart failure.

Side Effects of Klonopin on the Digestive System

Digestive issues while taking Klonopin are typically mild. The majority of gastrointestinal issues occur as withdrawal symptoms that happen when you stop taking benzos. Depending on how long you’ve been taking benzos or if you’ve been abusing them, you may experience several withdrawal symptoms when you stop. One of these is known colloquially as “benzo belly.” This condition typically begins a couple of weeks after stopping benzodiazepines and lasts several weeks or months. Benzo belly is characterized by times of constipation and other times of diarrhea. It may also include abdominal pain and appetite changes.

Side Effects of Klonopin on the Immune System

Benzodiazepines may suppress the immune system in certain cases and may increase the risk of pneumonia in older patients and those with Parkinson’s disease. It may also increase the risk of infections and blood clots if you experience injury while taking Klonopin.

The nature of addiction may also increase your risk of illness, disease, and infection. If you’re abusing Klonopin for recreational purposes, you’re likely focused on feeding your addiction and not taking care of yourself. People who are abusing drugs and alcohol are often not exercising, eating nutritious food, keeping up with doctor’s appointments, and other practices that support a strong immune system.

Side Effects of Klonopin on the Endocrine System

Abuse of benzodiazepines like Klonopin can even impact your endocrine system. They can affect the release of the pituitary hormone, which is tied to reproductive functions, metabolism, growth, blood pressure, and other activities.

Regular benzo use can also affect women’s menstrual cycles and lower serum cortisol levels. Its impact on the thyroid gland may increase the risk of mental health disorders, insomnia, epilepsy, anxiety, and bruxism.

Signs You Have a Klonopin Addiction

If you are concerned with your use of Klonopin (clonazepam) or that of a loved one, there are several telltale signs that there’s a problem. These include:

  • Taking more Klonopin than your doctor prescribes.
  • Drinking alcohol or taking other drugs with Klonopin.
  • Seeing multiple doctors to get prescriptions.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking Klonopin (clonazepam).
  • Poor performance at work or school or absences due to benzo use.
  • Changes in weight, personal hygiene, and sleep habits.
  • Erratic behavior or mood swings.
  • Not being able to cut back or quit clonazepam.

Self-Assessment: Am I Addicted?

Recover From Klonopin Addiction

If you’re misusing Klonopin (clonazepam) or you’re concerned about a loved one’s use, call us. Our behavioral healthcare professionals have years of experience helping people take back their lives from addiction. We can help you too.

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