Clonazepam Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

Published March 5th, 2021 by Erik Rivera
Fact Checked by
Camille Freking
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Gerardo Sison
Updated Date: Mar 23rd, 2021

Clonazepam is a medication that is commonly used for the treatment of panic disorder and certain types of seizures. Clonazepam belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepine drugs that work by increasing the effects of GABA, a chemical that slows down activity in the brain. 

Clonazepam is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule IV controlled substance because it has the potential to cause abuse and addiction. 

When patients use clonazepam for an extended period of time or become dependent on the medication, they can experience symptoms of clonazepam withdrawal.  

Who is likely to experience symptoms of clonazepam withdrawal?

Benzodiazepines like clonazepam have the potential to cause withdrawal symptoms even when patients use the medication as prescribed by their doctors. Clonazepam is intended only for use as a short-term treatment due to the risk of dependence and misuse with long-term treatment. Clonazepam should not be used for a period of more than four months, but it has been known to cause issues of dependence in patients who take the drug for as little as three to six weeks.  

Studies conducted on benzodiazepine dependence and withdrawal found that about 40 percent of people who take clonazepam or other benzodiazepines for a period of six months or more will experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the medication. The remaining 60 percent of patients experience mild withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can occur even if the dose of the medication is gradually reduced over time. 

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms that a patient experiences typically depends on the dose of the medication and other medications that the patient is using simultaneously. Withdrawal syndrome can manifest itself through physical dependence and mental health side effects.

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What are the symptoms of clonazepam withdrawal?

After abruptly stopping the use of clonazepam, symptoms of anxiety disorders and panic disorders can return. Withdrawal from the medication can cause both physical and psychological symptoms. 

Common physical withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headache

  • Irregular heart rate or heart palpitations

  • Dizziness

  • Restlessness

  • Tremors

  • Insomnia

  • Sweating

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Decreased appetite

  • Fatigue

  • Impaired coordination and motor functions

  • Blurred vision

  • Feeling lightheaded

  • Muscle spasms and cramps

  • Seizures

Common psychological withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Hallucinations

  • Confusion

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Nightmares

  • Short-term memory lapses

  • Delusions

  • Panic attacks

  • Irritability

  • Mood swings

  • Distorted perceptions of reality

  • Worsening suicidal thoughts

What is the timeline for clonazepam withdrawal?

Each person experiences the symptoms of clonazepam withdrawal differently. While there is not a strict timeline for clonazepam withdrawal, the drug is a long-acting benzodiazepine, which affects the speed at which withdrawal occurs. 

Patients typically begin to experience acute withdrawal symptoms within two to seven days after the last dose of the medication is taken. These symptoms may continue on and off for two to eight weeks after the last dose of the medication is taken. 

The amount of time a patient will experience clonazepam withdrawal symptoms depends on a number of different factors, including how long the drug has been taken, the dose of the medication, whether the medication has been mixed with other drugs or alcohol, the patient’s age and medical history, and other factors. 

Some patients may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms from clonazepam, which causes symptoms like depression, anxiety, and agitation to linger on and off for up to a year after the medication is stopped.

What treatment is available for clonazepam withdrawal?

While you may not be able to avoid clonazepam withdrawal symptoms entirely, the best way to minimize your symptoms and have a safe, positive outcome is to slowly taper down your dose of the medication with a doctor’s supervision. 

When you taper down your dose of the medication, your body will have time to gradually adjust to lower doses, which helps to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Increased anxiety and agitation is common while withdrawing from clonazepam, so your doctor may choose to prescribe another medication to stabilize your anxiety and minimize acute symptoms. 

Some patients may need to detoxify from clonazepam in an in-patient setting, particularly if they are also using other prescription drugs at the same time or are experiencing an addiction. However, patients that are only withdrawing from clonazepam usually do not require inpatient treatment.

Summary

Clonazepam affects the chemistry of your brain in order to treat panic disorder and some types of seizures. When patients stop using clonazepam abruptly or rapidly reduce their dose, they may experience withdrawal symptoms like headache, anxiety, nausea, and difficulty concentrating. 

In order to reduce the likelihood of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms that can potentially be dangerous, patients should lessen the symptoms of Klonopin withdrawal by slowly tapering down their dose of the drug under the guidance of a medical professional instead of trying to quit "cold turkey." 

Your doctor can provide medical advice to create a tapering schedule to prevent the worst symptoms of Klonopin withdrawal during the detoxification process. The withdrawal process will look different for everyone, as will the benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline, making it even more important to quit your substance use under medical supervision. 

The same can be said for alcohol withdrawal, opioid withdrawal, or the discontinuation of drugs like Valium or Xanax. It's important to seek substance abuse treatment before drug abuse becomes life-threatening. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from Klonopin addiction or substance abuse, seek addiction treatment programs from a healthcare professional. 

Sources:

https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/benzo.pdf 

https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bcp.12023 

https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-6685/clonazepam-oral/details 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/#part4.s13

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