Klonopin is a medication in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These drugs are prescribed for a wide variety of medical problems, from seizure disorders to panic disorders. According to an article published by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), between 10 and 12 percent of the population takes benzodiazepines during a given year. Most of the time, the AAFP reports, people take the medications for only a short period of time. When people do take the medication for longer periods of time, addiction becomes more likely.
Consider the story of Stevie Nicks. In a 2007 interview with the newspaper The Guardian, Nicks reports that she was prescribed Klonopin when she experienced stress as a result of her cocaine detoxification. Soon, she was taking larger and larger doses of the medication, and she was unable to work and unmotivated to leave the house. Instead, she stayed home, took her Klonopin pills, ate junk food and watched television. She is free of Klonopin addiction now, because she entered and completed a treatment program. It was difficult, and she continues to struggle with a tendency toward addiction, but she managed to kick the habit. Other people with a Klonopin addiction can do the same.
Dependence and Withdrawal
When Klonopin and other benzodiazepines enter the system, they attach to specific receptors scattered throughout the body. When they are attached in this way, certain chemicals emitted by the brain and the body cause an exaggerated response. In general, the body doesn’t like to feel an exaggerated response to anything, and it will go to great lengths to keep the system in a stable state instead. Over time, this means the body will make receptors less sensitive to chemicals emitted by the brain and the body. The addict will need to take greater and greater doses in order to feel the same effect.
With time, the body becomes accustomed to having Klonopin in its system. When the user doesn’t take in Klonopin, the body begins to clamor for it, in the hopes of restoring the new “normal” chemical makeup it’s become accustomed to. The person might experience these symptoms:
According to an article published in the journal Drugs, people are more likely to feel these severe withdrawal symptoms if they have been taking a high dose of benzodiazepines for more than four months. Once an addict feels these symptoms, a sense of fear can set in. Some addicts simply cannot handle the symptoms, and they will do anything to avoid them. This can keep them trapped in an addiction for years.
Unfortunately, the addict will need to face withdrawal symptoms since he or she must have a pure system in order to effectively go through addiction therapies. An addict cannot enter these programs with drugs still coursing through their veins. Detoxification is the first step in a rehabilitation program. Before detoxification starts, the addict will meet with therapists and give a clear and honest report about the drugs he or she has been taking. In addition to Klonopin, some addicts use other substances such as alcohol or methamphetamine, in order to augment the effects of the drugs. Addicts who use these additional drugs may face added problems during detoxification and rehabilitation programs, so they must be honest about everything they use.
Sometimes, the medical team decides that the addict cannot simply stop taking the medications cold turkey. The symptoms become too strong, and the seizures could become life threatening. Instead, the doctors decide that the addict should taper off the drugs, taking smaller and smaller doses each day until he or she is no longer using the drug at all. According to an article published in the journal Alcoholism, this tapering is an effective way to treat detoxification even in patients who abuse both alcohol and benzodiazepines. Using this method might take time, as the addict won’t simply be able to check in for a weekend stay and emerge with no drugs in the system, but it can be an effective mode of treatment.
Some people take Klonopin to treat anxiety disorders, depression or other mental illnesses. These people may need to find replacement therapies to help them deal with these other mental illnesses. This can be a tricky business. For example, one study published in the Polish journal Psychiatria Polka found that of 45 people admitted to the study, most patients had other mental illnesses that could be treated with antidepressants. But some patients seemed to have prescriptions with no medical need whatsoever. During the detoxification process, the patient may have frequent mental health screenings so staff can determine if those other mental illnesses truly exist, and if they do, the patient and the staff can come up with a treatment plan to deal with them.
Detoxification times can vary. Some people can emerge from detoxification in a week or two, fully prepared to go forward with additional addiction therapies. Other people need to stay in detoxification programs for a longer period of time, until they feel strong enough to move forward and work on the rest of their recovery. This is a decision the addict makes in close consultation with the medical staff.
Where detoxification deals with the chemical aspects of addiction, helping the person deal with withdrawal side effects and replacing Klonopin therapies with other medications that can be more effective, Klonopin rehabilitation programs provide intensive help that can allow the person to make real and long-lasting changes. Sometimes, an addict begins to meet with a therapist in sessions during the last stages of the detoxification process. Other times, the addict doesn’t enter a talk therapy program until the Klonopin withdrawal is complete.
In a talk therapy session, the addict learns more about why he or she is addicted to drugs. Perhaps the person has hidden fears that were never explored, secrets that he or she is afraid of exposing or old traumas that are hard to deal with. It sounds cliché, but these sorts of thoughts and poor coping skills can lead people to addiction, and sometimes, talking about them can be an incredibly healing process.
In addition to these basic therapy sessions, the addict might receive targeted forms of therapy that have been specifically designed to help addicts recover. These forms of addiction talk therapy include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Here, the addict develops a series of skills he or she can use to avoid temptation in the real world. Role-playing and acting have a prominent place in this form of therapy.
- Family-based therapy. The whole family attends sessions to learn new communication styles and deal with past problems.
- Contingency management. The addict is asked to submit urine samples before each session, and if he or she stays clean, the therapist provides a reward such as cash or a gift card. The rewards get bigger the longer the addict stays clean.
- Motivational therapy. Here, the addict is asked to actively think about why he or she wants to stop using Klonopin, and come up with an action plan to make that wish a reality. The therapist provides support, but encourages the addict to come up with plans on an independent basis.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these sorts of talk therapy programs are especially effective if they’re given while the addict lives in a residential facility. Here, the addict is removed from the temptation to use drugs, and can focus all of his or her time and energy on healing and beating the addiction. However, some addicts can participate in these sessions while they continue to live at home. It’s a decision the addict will make in consultation with the family and the therapist.
While talk therapy might be incredibly helpful in helping addicts kick Klonopin, some addicts need an extra boost of help. They might get this help through a 12-step support group such as Narcotics Anonymous. Some inpatient facilities require patients to attend these meetings during their therapy programs, but some people choose meetings that happen in their communities instead, and they may attend these programs for years. Here, they meet other addicts who are also dealing with a substance abuse issue, and they walk through a series of steps that are designed to encourage the addict to think of addiction as a chronic disease that must be worked on each day.
Reports about the effectiveness of 12-step groups can vary widely. One study, published in the journal Substance Abuse and Misuse, attempted to discern why some addicts improved while in the groups and stayed involved while others did not. Researchers found that the addicts themselves were the variables. Addicts who were motivated and ready to make a change stayed involved in the program. Addicts who weren’t so driven did not. While it might be hard to force a Klonopin addict to want to make a change, encouraging the addict to at least try the 12-step program after they have completed a more structured treatment program can be beneficial. It’s possible that simply spending time with other addicts in recovery could be inspirational, and that could be the push the addict needs to stay clean for life.
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