Clonazepam is a benzodiazepine. It is approved for the treatment of panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia), as well as certain types of seizure disorders. However, benzodiazepines are also commonly used to treat difficulty sleeping and alcohol withdrawal.
Panic Disorder occurs when a person experiences unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear. These episodes have physical symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, and nausea. Fear of future episodes is also part of panic disorder.
Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you because you may notice that you feel tired or dizzy.
When starting clonazepam, anxiety or insomnia may improve rapidly or over a period of days.
Benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam, are often used for short periods of time only. They may produce emotional and/or physical dependence (addiction) even when used as recommended. With input from you, your health care provider will assess how long you will need to take the medicine.
Do not stop taking clonazepam without talking to your healthcare provider first. Stopping clonazepam abruptly may result in one or more of the following withdrawal symptoms: irritability, nausea, tremor, dizziness, blood pressure changes, rapid heart rate, and seizures. Withdrawal reactions may occur when dosage reduction occurs for any reason.
The use of clonazepam with drugs like opioid medications has led to serious side effects including slowed and difficulty breathing and death. Opioid drugs are medications used to treat pain and include medications such as: codeine, oxycodone, morphine, and illegal drugs like heroin. Some opioid medications are also in cough syrup.
If you are taking clonazepam with an opioid medication, get medical assistance immediately if you feel dizziness or sleepiness, if you have slow or troubled breathing, or if you pass out. Caregivers must get medical help right away if a patient does not respond and does not wake up.
If you are planning on becoming pregnant, notify your healthcare provider to best manage your medications. People living with anxiety disorders who wish to become pregnant face important decisions regarding risk versus benefit of benzodiazepine use in pregnancy. Clonazepam can increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Newborn withdrawal and “floppy baby syndrome” are other possible side effects. It is important to discuss this with your doctor and caregivers.
Regarding breastfeeding, caution is advised since clonazepam does pass into breast milk.
Clonazepam may be taken with or without food. Take with food if you experience an upset stomach.
Clonazepam may be taken every day at regular times or on an as needed (“PRN”) basis. Typically, your healthcare provider will limit the number of doses you should take in one day.
Your health care provider will determine the dose and method of taking the medication that is right for you based upon your response.
Clonazepam oral disintegrating tablets must remain in their original packaging. Open the package with clean dry hands before each dose. Do not try to put tablets in a pillbox if you take the orally disintegrating tablets. Take the tablets right away, do not store for later use.
Clonazepam oral disintegrating tablets will dissolve in your mouth within seconds and can be swallowed with or without liquid.
If you take the medication every day (instead of ‘as needed’), use a calendar, pillbox, alarm clock, or cell phone alert to help you remember to take it. You may also ask a family member or a friend to remind you or check in with you to be sure you are taking your medication.
If you miss a dose of clonazepam, take it as soon as you remember, unless it is closer to the time of your next dose. Discuss this with your healthcare provider. Do not double your next dose or take more than what is prescribed.
Avoid drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs while you are taking clonazepam. They may decrease the benefits (e.g., worsen your condition) and increase the adverse effects (e.g., sedation) of the medication. Alcohol increases the risk of accidental overdose with medications like clonazepam.
A specific treatment to reverse the effects of clonazepam does exist. This medicine, called flumazenil, can reverse the effects of clonazepam but must be given through an IV at a hospital. Only a doctor can decide if you need this medication.
Common side effects
If you experience these side effects after starting clonazepam they will often improve over the first week or two as you continue to take the medication.
Clonazepam is a safe and effective medication when used as directed. Benzodiazepines may produce emotional and/or physical dependence (addiction) even when used as recommended. Physical dependence may develop after 2 or more weeks of daily use. The risk of withdrawal reactions when stopping therapy with clonazepam is increased with prolonged us of the medication.
The following medications may increase the levels and effects of clonazepam:
The following medications may decrease the levels and effects of clonazepam:
Clonazepam should not be taken with other benzodiazepine medications.
Clonazepam may cause drowsiness, so caution should be used when combining it with other medications that cause drowsiness. These could include:
When starting clonazepam, anxiety or insomnia may improve rapidly or over a period of days or within hours of the first dose of medication.
The FDA has found that benzodiazepine drugs, such as clonazepam, when used in combination with opioid medications or other sedating medications can result in serious adverse reactions including slowed or difficult breathing and death. Patients taking opioids with benzodiazepines, other sedating medications, or alcohol, and caregivers of these patients, should seek immediate medical attention if that start to experience unusual dizziness or lightheadedness, extreme sleepiness, slow or difficulty breathing, or unresponsiveness.
As a benzodiazepine, clonazepam comes with the risk of abuse, misuse, and addiction to the medication. Physical dependence to clonazepam can occur with prolonged use of the medication. A withdrawal reaction may occur when stopping clonazepam, but this risk can be reduced by slowly reducing the dose of clonazepam when stopping.
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