How Long Does Withdrawal From Klonopin Last?

Klonopin (clonazepam) is a medication commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia. It is intended for short-term use. This is because, after about several weeks, most people develop a physical dependence. When someone is dependent on a drug like Klonopin, it means they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking it or reduce their dose.

Klonopin withdrawal symptoms can last for days to weeks and in some cases longer. They may begin within hours of the drug leaving your system and may come and go at times. Klonopin withdrawal typically includes a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, such as anxiety and irritation. In some cases, symptoms can include life-threatening seizures.

Overview

Klonopin is a member of a family of drugs called benzodiazepines, or more simply, benzos. Benzos, including Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam), are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the country. According to national survey data, nearly 30 million people used them in 2015.

Some people take benzos exactly, or almost exactly, as directed by their physician. Others acquire them illegally or intentionally take them more often, or in larger doses than they are supposed to.

It doesn’t actually matter too much which type of Klonopin user you are. That’s because anyone taking benzos for longer than three to four weeks, even people taking them exactly as directed, can experience withdrawal symptoms.

Among people using benzos for more than six months, about 40 percent will experience moderate-to-severe withdrawal symptoms. The other 60 percent will still have symptoms, but they will be far milder.

The symptoms of Klonopin withdrawal are similar to alcohol withdrawal. You can expect to feel edgy, irritated, and flu-ish. These symptoms may come and go. Symptoms that may have originally driven you to start taking Klonopin, such as anxiety and insomnia, may come back with a vengeance.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict exactly how Klonopin withdrawal will affect you. Even if you’ve gone through it before, your next time could be completely different.

Generally speaking, the severity of your symptoms will depend on the amount of Klonopin you’re currently taking, how long you’ve been taking it, and whether you’re mixing it with other drugs or alcohol.

Signs and Symptoms

Klonopin is a long-acting benzodiazepine and its half-life is about 30 to 40 hours. This means that it can take a while for the signs and symptoms of withdrawal to begin. Klonopin withdrawal symptoms can start anywhere from two to seven days after your last dose. According to experts at the World Health Organization (WHO), acute symptoms typically continue, on and off, for two to eight weeks.

Klonopin withdrawal causes both physical and emotional symptoms. These symptoms can vary considerably from person to person, based on several contributing factors.

Factors that may impact your withdrawal experience include:

  • Your current Klonopin dose
  • How long you’ve been taking it
  • How many times you’ve increased your dose
  • Whether you regularly mix it with other drugs (opioids, stimulants) or alcohol
  • Whether you mix it with other benzos or z-drugs (Ambien)
  • Your age and physical health
  • The severity of your mental health problems
  • The current state of your mental health
  • Your history of drug and alcohol abuse 
  • Your previous withdrawal experiences 

The acute withdrawal stage begins in the days following your last dose. Acute symptoms can be intense, and even dangerous for some people. Other people may find their symptoms to be more uncomfortable than intense.

Symptoms can be broken down into two general categories, those relating to your physical health and those relating to your mental health.

Physical manifestations of benzo withdrawal can include:

  • Hyperventilation
  • Troubled sleeping (nightmares, waking in the night)
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness or unsteadiness
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Blurred vision or other visual disturbances
  • Extreme sensitivity to light
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears or hearing a sound that isn’t really there)
  • Grand mal seizures

The psychological symptoms of Klonopin withdrawal can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Restlessness 
  • Nightmares
  • Strange bodily sensations
  • Depression
  • Strange perceptual changes (things touch, taste, or feel different)
  • Problems concentrating
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Delusions
  • Confusion
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Distorted body image

Rebound Symptoms

Rebound symptoms are also common. These are symptoms of underlying disorders that the Klonopin may have been keeping under control. If you originally began taking Klonopin to treat the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, those symptoms might come back. In the first few days of withdrawal, rebound symptoms can be more severe than they used to be. Unfortunately, this often intimidates people into giving up their withdrawal attempts too soon.

Protracted Withdrawal

The second stage of Klonopin withdrawal, which is known as protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal, is a syndrome that can last anywhere from months to over a year. But don’t freak out just yet. These symptoms definitely don’t happen to everyone. When they do, they are very different from acute withdrawal. Symptoms may include lingering depression, anxiety, and agitation.

Coping and Relief

The best way to successfully quit Klonopin is to follow a slow tapering schedule. Tapering, which means gradually reducing your dose over time, is also the best way of preventing severe withdrawal symptoms.

It’s tempting to want to quit cold turkey as soon as you find the motivation or desire to do so, but it’s in your best interest to resist this temptation. In fact, the longer you draw out your Klonopin taper, the less likely you are to experience any withdrawal symptoms at all.

Tapering your Klonopin dose is a way of tricking your body into thinking it’s not in withdrawal. It is not an exact science, which means your tapering schedule should be updated as you go along. You will need to work closely with a doctor who can adjust your dose every few days or weeks, as necessary. If your withdrawal symptoms become too much to handle, your doctor can slow down the taper and even increase your dose. The dose reductions are so small though, that you may not even notice them after the first couple of weeks.

If you are currently in Klonopin withdrawal, there are a few things you can do to find relief. First and foremost is to find the help of a professional. Other ways to reduce your discomfort and make withdrawal easier include the following:

  • If you are tapering on your own, give your bottle of pills to someone you trust. Have them dispense them to you one (or one half) at a time.
  • If it’s alright with your doctor, you can treat headaches and muscle aches with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.
  • Talk to your doctor about natural anti-anxiety and anti-nausea options, like CBD oil.
  • Explain yourself to loved ones and roommates. Ask that they cut you some slack if you become easily agitated or annoyed.
  • Try a natural sleep aid, like melatonin or a soothing sound machine.
  • Get as much exercise as possible. This will help you burn off your restlessness and calm your mind.
  • Start exploring new methods of relaxation. Consider meditation, yoga, or a warm bath.  

Warnings

One of the big things to understand about withdrawing from benzos is that relapse is common. This is particularly true for high-dose users and people with other substance abuse problems. Fortunately, the risk of relapse can be mitigated by proper detox planning and support.

Grand Mal Seizure Risk

Klonopin withdrawal can lead to several dangerous medical events, such as grand mal seizures. These grand mal seizures, which tend to occur by day 10 after abrupt discontinuation, can come out of nowhere, with no earlier signs of withdrawal. While they are rare, doctors are not always able to predict who might be affected.

Some people are at increased risk of withdrawal complications:

  • Seniors: Older adults are particularly vulnerable. During Klonopin withdrawal, seniors are at risk of falls. They also have an increased risk of delirium and confusion.
  • Pregnant women: Pregnant women also face additional risks when withdrawing from benzos. The impact of benzodiazepines on fetal health is not well understood. Case reports suggest that babies exposed to benzos in utero may be born early, have a low birth weight, or have a cleft lip.
  • People with psychiatric disorders: People with a history of psychiatric issues are at increased risk of withdrawal complications. If you struggled with a panic disorder prior to your Klonopin use, you are more likely than other people to have a panic attack during withdrawal. A history of psychosis and suicidality may also pose increased risks.
  • Polydrug users: If you regularly mix Klonopin with other drugs or alcohol, you may be at increased risk of complications. Detoxing from several drugs at once can lead to unpredictable symptoms.
  • People with a history of complications: Your past experiences with withdrawal may be a good indicator of your risk of complications. If you have experienced dangerous side effects like seizures or delusions when you were withdrawing from benzos or other drugs in the past, then you’ll want to take precautions. 

    To improve your chances of success, it is important for you to develop a detox and withdrawal plan. Experts at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), advise starting with inpatient detox treatment or making a commitment to stay in contact with your primary care doctor. 

    This can be a challenge for some people. Inpatient treatment programs can be very expensive and aren’t always covered by insurance. Most people have access to a primary care doctor or health clinic that can help them develop a taper schedule, but you really have to be committed to the process. This can be hard for people without the time or ability to make multiple office visits. Ideally, tapering involves visiting your doctor at least once per week and following up with phone calls in between.

    Long-Term Treatment

    The long-term success of Klonopin withdrawal depends on a successful taper. Some studies suggest that when done in conjunction with psychotherapy (talk therapy), benzo withdrawals are more successful. Other studies show that the results are about the same.

    If you are struggling with psychological or addiction issues, therapy is a primary component of long-term healing. Without therapy, people struggling with addiction often relapse.

    The ideal duration of your taper will depend on several factors, including your starting dose and your primary goals. Studies in primary care settings have found that a gradual taper over the course of at least 10 weeks is most successful. Some people continue their taper for a year or more. 

    There is no universal tapering rate. The research suggests that, generally speaking, slower tapers are more successful. If you are doing a slow taper, your doctor will only reduce your dose every two or three weeks, and the reductions will be small. People taking high doses of benzos may start with a quicker taper and slow down once a lower dose has been achieved. 

    Most people will have a primary goal of abstinence, but this is not always the case.

    In certain situations, such as advanced age, the goal is a dose reduction. People who have been taking Klonopin therapeutically for many years are often on very high doses. This happens because people develop a tolerance to the drug, in which the same dose is unable to produce the effects it used to. Tapering helps reset your tolerance level so that you no longer need such a high, sedating dose.

    Outcomes

    Quitting benzos is hard but worth it for most people. One recent study followed patients for a full year after they began their benzo taper. Compared to how they were on day one, researchers noticed the following:

    • Improved moods
    • Improved memory
    • Better concentration
    • Decreased fatigue
    • Better ability to perform everyday activities
    • The absence of initial withdrawal symptoms

    Resources

    If you are interested in stopping or reducing your Klonopin intake, then the best place to start is with your primary care doctor. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, but you do have health insurance, check your insurance company’s website for a list of providers.

    If you do not have health insurance, you can go to a community clinic in your area. Community clinics will treat you, regardless of your ability to pay. To find a community health center near you, use this search directory from U.S. Health Resource and Services Administration.

    A Word From Verywell

    Klonopin withdrawal is no picnic. In fact, people who have withdrawn from both benzos and opioids often say that benzo withdrawal was the worse. But this stage passes. Soon enough, you will realize how much of yourself was lost to Klonopin. At that point, you will start to feel like your old self again. You may even realize just how much you actually liked that person.

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