Klonopin (clonazepam) is a benzodiazepine prescribed to treat panic and seizure disorders. Benzodiazepines work by releasing the neurotransmitter GABA, which produces a calming effect on the brain and dampens abnormal electrical signaling. Because of this, Klonopin creates a sedative effect that is ideal for treating conditions involving too much brain activity.
Benzodiazepines, such as Klonopin, are meant to be used for two to four weeks and at maximum, four months. This is because Klonopin use can result in addiction and dependence when taken over an extended period. Once someone is dependent on Klonopin, withdrawal will occur when they stop taking it. Although each person experiences it differently, there is a general Klonopin withdrawal timeline and some common side effects to be aware of in the case that dependence and withdrawal occur.
When Does Klonopin Withdrawal Start?
Klonopin’s maximum concentration in blood peaks between one and four hours after it is taken, and it has a half-life between 30 to 40 hours. This means that it takes 30 to 40 hours to clear half of a dose of Klonopin from the body. Because of this, early Klonopin withdrawal symptoms can begin within 24 to 48 hours after the last dose.
Klonopin Withdrawal Timeline
Although everyone will experience withdrawal symptoms and their lengths differently, there is a general Klonopin (clonazepam) withdrawal timeline that allows one to better understand what to expect during the process.
- Days 1-3: This is when the onset of withdrawal symptoms will begin. Although typically mild, these side effects can be uncomfortable as the body adjusts to the lack of Klonopin. Common benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms will occur, such as insomnia, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations and problems with coordination. Underlying conditions such as anxiety and depression may become amplified in the absence of Klonopin as the body and brain adjust.
- Week 1: This phase, known as acute withdrawal, is characterized by the occurrence of the majority of withdrawal symptoms; the intensity of most symptoms will peak during this time. Confusion, headaches and dizziness are common. It is also possible during Klonopin withdrawal to have seizures, especially if it was being used to treat a seizure disorder. These can be dangerous and Klonopin withdrawal treatment may need to be supplemented with additional seizure medication.
- Weeks 2-4: Acute withdrawal can extend for up to one month, with the same sets of symptoms but typically with less intensity as the body has begun to adjust and return to normal functioning levels without Klonopin. Headaches, dizziness and other symptoms will persist.
- More than one month: This phase of benzodiazepine withdrawal is known as protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Typically, physical and psychological symptoms can last from a few months to one year. These can include learning and memory problems, anxiety and/or depression, irritability, Klonopin cravings, insomnia and more. PAWS symptoms tend to fluctuate and may be brought on by stressful situations or sometimes nothing at all.
How Long Does Klonopin Withdrawal Last?
Overall, the duration of Klonopin (clonazepam) withdrawal can last anywhere between a week and a year. Each phase of withdrawal can be associated with certain Klonopin withdrawal side effects and varies in length. For example, between 10% and 25% of people who have used benzodiazepines long-term will experience longer than average acute withdrawal symptoms.
Factors Affecting Clonazepam Withdrawal Length
Even when one is taking the safe, prescribed dose, clonazepam dependence and eventual withdrawal can occur. 15% to 44% of people who use benzodiazepines over an extended period can experience moderate to severe withdrawal side effects after they stop taking them.
There are many factors that affect the length of clonazepam (Klonopin) withdrawal. The length of time that clonazepam has been used is a major factor in symptom strength. Roughly 40% of people who used benzodiazepines for greater than six months experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms, while 60% will experience mild withdrawal symptoms. Other factors can include underlying mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic disorders and a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse. The amount of clonazepam taken per dose, using multiple benzodiazepines together, and route of administration (oral versus injected) are also associated with more severe, longer-lasting symptoms. Together, these factors influence the clonazepam withdrawal timeline and everyone will experience it differently.
Tapering off Klonopin to Reduce Withdrawal
Tapering off a drug is a safe, effective way to reduce severe withdrawal symptoms. When tapering, the dose of a drug is slowly decreased over time to prevent shock to the body. When someone has been taking a drug, such as Klonopin, for an extended period, the body becomes used to its presence. When it is taken away, the body has to struggle to maintain its normal balance and function, resulting in withdrawal symptoms. Quitting Klonopin “cold turkey” can be dangerous, especially if it is being used to treat a seizure disorder. Tapering off Klonopin is most safely done under the supervision of a healthcare professional, as additional seizure medications may need to be given to prevent further incidents. Overall, the Klonopin taper process can take several weeks or months, depending on the severity of withdrawal.
If you or a loved one are seeking treatment for Klonopin withdrawal, we are available to help. Contact the Orlando Recovery Center to speak with a representative about professional addiction treatment that is available to address substance use disorders and any co-occurring mental health conditions. It is important to address all conditions along with Klonopin use and withdrawal, including possible underlying depression or anxiety. Take a step towards a healthier future and call today.
Food and Drug Administration. “Klonopin Label.” October, 2013. Accessed October 31, 2019.
Hood, Sean David; Norman, Amanda; Hince, Dana Adelle; Melicharm, Jan Krzysztof; et al. “Benzodiazepine dependence and its treatm[…]low dose flumazenil.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, January 22, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019.
Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS.)” Accessed October 31, 2019.
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