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Klonopin (Clonazepam)

FAQs About Klonopin for Panic Disorder

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Updated May 07, 2014

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Klonopin is an anti-anxiety medication that can be prescribed to treat panic disorder.

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Anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed to help manage panic attacks and other symptoms of panic disorder. Klonopin (clonazepam) is a type of anti-anxiety medication that is often used to treat panic disorder and other conditions.

What is Klonopin?

Klonopin is the trade brand name for the drug clonazepam, a type of anti-anxiety medication that is classified as a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines, including Klonopin, are often referred to as sedatives or tranquilizers due to their calming, sedating, and tranquilizing effects. Other common benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam). Klonopin and these other benzodiazepines can assist in decreasing the intensity of panic attacks and anxiety.

Klonopin is commonly prescribed to treat panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia). Klonopin has anticonvulsant properties, making it an effective drug in the treatment of epilepsy and certain types of seizures. It has also been approved in the treatment of anxiety disorders, anxiety associated with bipolar disorder, and other conditions.

How Does Klonopin Treat Panic Disorder?

Klonopin influences the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, a neurotransmitter in the brain involved in regulating several functions, including sleep, feelings of excitement, relaxation, and anxiety. By affecting the GABA receptors, Klonopin slows down the central nervous system (CNS), which decreases nervousness and agitation while eliciting a sense of calm and relaxation. This action also assists in reducing the severity of anxiety and panic attacks.

Klonopin's anti-anxiety effects come on relatively quickly after taking the medication. You may need to take doses a few times a day.

What Are the Side Effects of Klonopin?

Some of the most common side effects of Klonopin include:
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Lack of coordination and unsteadiness
  • Fatigue

These side effects may go away or lessen over time. Consult with your prescribing doctor if side effects worsen or become unmanageable.

Is Klonopin Addictive?

All benzodiazepines, including Klonopin, are classified as controlled substances. Therefore, these medications have the potential to become both physically and emotionally addictive and abused. If a person develops dependence to Klonopin, discontinuing the drug can become difficult as withdrawal symptoms may occur. Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, seizures, tremors, vomiting, and irritability.

As a way to reduce the possible risk of addiction and dependence, your doctor will discuss the safest way to administer and monitor your medication over time. Never attempt to reduce your dosage on your own. To prevent possible withdrawal symptoms, your doctor can assist you in discontinuing Klonopin by gradually decreasing your dosage over time.

What Other Precautions Are There to Taking Klonopin?

There are several precautions to consider when taking Klonopin:

Medical History: Caution should be taken if you have a history of certain medical conditions. Talk to your doctor before taking Klonopin if you have been diagnosed with these or any other medical condition:

Allergic Reaction: As with any medication, you have the potential to have an allergic reaction to Klonopin. This medication should not be taken if you have a history of being sensitive or allergic to benzodiazepines. Seek immediate medical care if you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, including:

  • Rash
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, mouth, or throat

Drug Interactions: All benzodiazepines, including Klonopin, slow down the central nervous system. Other substances that perform a similar action, such as alcohol and certain drugs, should be avoided while taking this medication. Before you begin taking Klonopin, let your doctor know what prescription and over-the-counter medications you are taking.

Drowsiness: Fatigue and drowsiness are common side effects of Klonopin. Until you are used to the effects of your medication, caution should be taken when driving or performing other tasks that require your concentration.

Pregnancy and Nursing: It is possible for Klonopin to be passed to a child during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor about the risk of taking Klonopin while pregnant or nursing.

Older Adults: Older adults are often more susceptible to the effects of Klonopin. Your prescribing doctor may need to adjust your dosage to assist in limiting these effects.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended to provide answers to some of the FAQs about Klonopin use for panic disorder. This overview does not include every possible scenario, such as potential side effects, outcomes, complications, or precautions and contraindications. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about your prescription.

Sources:

Batelaan, N. M., Van BalkomStein, A. J., and Stein, D. (2012). Evidence-based Pharmacotherapy of Panic Disorder: An Update. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 15, 403-415.

Hoffman, E. J. & Mathew, S. J. (2008). Anxiety Disorders: A Comprehensive Review of Pharmacotherapies. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 75, 248–262.

Silverman, Harold M. (2010). The Pill Book. 14th ed. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

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