Klonopin and Alcohol: Is Mixing Them Dangerous?

Klonopin is the brand name for clonazepam, an anti-anxiety medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It is only available by prescription. Klonopin is a benzodiazepine, and some people may be at risk of abuse and addiction when taking this prescription medication.

Alcohol and Klonopin are central nervous system depressants, and when the two are combined, the possibility of dangerous and even deadly outcomes increases. It is never a good idea to take Klonopin with alcohol or to take any benzodiazepine with alcohol.

Dangerous Effects of Mixing Klonopin and Alcohol

Clonazepam is a controlled substance and can cause some people to become dependent and addicted to it. Those who have a history of substance abuse or who have taken the drug for a long time may find it hard to stop taking Klonopin when the prescription ends. If an individual takes Klonopin with alcohol, it may become very difficult to stop abusing both substances.

It is essential to know that the risk of side effects may become more intense if both substances are taken together. These are the dangerous effects you might experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired judgment
  • Difficulty walking
  • Coordination problems
  • Unusual behavior
  • Memory problems

One of the most dangerous side effects of taking these two central nervous system depressants together is the real possibility of slowed breathing and heart rate. When your breathing is slowed, you are probably not getting enough oxygen to your brain or body. When oxygen is decreased, you may stop breathing, go into a coma, or possibly die. Other hazardous effects to the body include liver damage and an increased risk of injury from walking and coordination issues resulting from combining Klonopin and alcohol.

We cannot rule out overdose as a possible fatal side effect from using the two substances together. Even a small amount of either substance can cause an overdose when combined with the other. An overdose from Klonopin and alcohol includes unconsciousness and loss of control in movement.

Klonopin and Other Benzodiazepines Used for Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is becoming a more prevalent problem in our society. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are part of the disorder and occur when a person stops drinking or reduces the amount of alcohol they consume. A person is considered to have alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) when they are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. 

AWS can range from mild to severe. A person who is going through severe AWS might have hallucinations, seizures, or delirium tremens (DTs). Benzodiazepines have been the long-standing medication for those experiencing severe AWS.

Symptoms for AWS usually include:

  • Restlessness
  • Increased agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Nightmares
  • Intense sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Tremulousness

 Medical researchers published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research wrote that “Benzodiazepines are safe, effective and the preferred treatment for AWS.” Drugs in this class for alcohol withdrawal symptoms are safe to use and are generally considered the “gold standard” when treating AWS.

Klonopin is not a common drug prescribed for alcohol withdrawal. Librium and Xanax are more commonly used. Benzodiazepines, like the above-mentioned ones, have been used to treat alcohol withdrawal for decades. When Klonopin is used, it is given for only three days during detox, either in a detox center or hospital. Some doctors may prescribe it for patients when detoxing at home.

 Below is a short breakdown of benzodiazepines work on AWS symptoms:

  • Alcohol use increases GABA levels in the brain.
  • The GABA levels decrease when an individual stops drinking.
  • Lower levels of GABA can cause anxiety, panic, seizures, and other symptoms.
  • Benzodiazepines activate the GABA receptors in the brain.
  • When this occurs, it slows down the central nervous system and produces a calming effect.
  • The individual going through alcohol withdrawal will feel relief from their symptoms.

Why You Should Not Mix Alcohol with Benzodiazepines

Mixing alcohol with other benzodiazepines is equally as dangerous as mixing alcohol with Klonopin. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) was a public health surveillance system that monitored drug-related emergency room visits in the US. The comprehensive reporting, from 2005 to 2011, produced results for the year 2014, the last year it reported.

The DAWN report presented some shocking statistics on emergency room visits involving benzodiazepines, benzos with opioids, and benzos with alcohol. It indicated that:

  • Nearly a million emergency department (ED) visits involved benzodiazepines by themselves or in combination with opioid pain relievers, or alcohol and no other substance, from 2005 to 2011.
  • When combined with opioids or alcohol, the risk of a more dangerous outcome increased to 24 percent (opioids) and 55 percent (alcohol).

Other eye-opening results from this report include:

  • 27,452 people admitted to emergency rooms in 2011 for benzodiazepines and alcohol combinations

The top age group for emergency room visits from benzodiazepines and alcohol combinations was:

  • Individuals aged 12 to 34
  • Individuals aged 45 to 64
  • Individuals aged 35 to 44
  • Individuals over the age of 65

Why You Should Not Combine Alcohol and Anxiety Pills

Anxiety medications contain central nervous system depressant qualities, as does alcohol. Anxiety drugs can be antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines, such as Klonopin, buspirone, which is prescribed for short-term and chronic anxiety disorders, and others. Alcohol intensifies the nervous system effects, including dizziness, concentration difficulty, and impaired thinking.

Many of these drugs cause side effects like drowsiness, slowed breathing, and impaired driving. These symptoms can worsen if an individual drinks alcohol when using these types of medications; therefore, alcohol use should be very limited when on any of these medicines, as a pharmacist from Drugs.com writes. She also notes that “Side effects may include dizziness, drowsiness, trouble concentrating, impairment in thinking, slowed reflexes, and poor judgment.”

Who Abuses Alcohol, Klonopin, and Other Prescription Drugs?

Both alcohol and Klonopin can cause addiction when abused alone or taken together. When they are taken together, they increase the feelings of intoxication. However, when these two substances are combined, there are tell-tale signs that a person is abusing them. Those signs are:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Extreme lethargy and sedation
  • Depressed mood
  • Slowed breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Coma
  • Death

An individual can become tolerant of both substances. Their system may become dependent on either one or both, and they may become addicted to alcohol and Klonopin. A person with a history of addiction or one with a family history of addiction may be more likely to abuse the combination of alcohol and Klonopin or other prescription drugs. A list of commonly known medications and possible reactions when taken with alcohol are here.

Mixing Klonopin And Alcohol – The Long-Term Effects

There are many dangerous side effects when a person mixes Klonopin with alcohol, as mentioned on this page. When combined, they can cause paranoia, intensified anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Additionally, Klonopin creates an interruption in brain activity. It is likely that when these two substances are taken together, memory loss is possible, as indicated in this medical paper from Duquesne University.

Klonopin withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, but when medically supervised, it can be safe and its symptoms reduced. If an overdose of Klonopin is suspected, it is best to call emergency services immediately.  Medline reports the signs of a Klonopin overdose are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness for a period of time (coma)

 The safest and most effective way to end addiction to Klonopin and alcohol abuse is medical detoxification followed by a 90-day inpatient addiction treatment program. Arete Recovery specializes in alcohol and prescription drug rehab and can get you or someone you love on the road to recovery and life without substance use.

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