Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that are known as “sedatives.” Physicians prescribe them to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia. Benzodiazepines increase the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which is an inhibitory transmitter that the brain creates. Klonopin and Xanax are both benzodiazepines.
Why Are These Medications Prescribed?
Physicians prescribe Klonopin for their patients to control their seizures, but they also prescribe it to relieve panic attacks. Doctors prescribe Xanax to treat people experiencing panic attacks and anxiety disorders. Xanax also treats seizures, social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder.
People often wonder how these two medications are different. Why is one person prescribed one and not the other?
A panic disorder is also known as an “anxiety disorder,” and it is characterized as a condition that makes people feel terror when they are not experiencing any danger. They feel as if they are not in control of themselves or the situation, and they may experience several symptoms, including tingly or numb hands, heat or cold chills, weakness, dizziness, pain in the chest or stomach, and a rapid heartbeat. Sweating and difficulties breathing are also common.
These attacks can occur at any time of the day and anywhere. After experiencing one, people may begin to be afraid that another attack will occur. These people may become so fearful that they can no longer leave their houses. Many people also experience agoraphobia when they have a panic disorder. This is also a fear, but it is a fear of places or situations that the person believes are dangerous.
An anxiety disorder goes far beyond the normal anxiety that a person may feel in a given situation. The type of anxiety that people experience with an anxiety disorder is much more severe. In this instance, they are expecting something negative to happen. Their bodies react by becoming tense, and they go out of their way to avoid the situation. The anxiety may come from several different causes. Some examples are generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and phobias.
What Are the Side Effects of Xanax?
The side effects of Xanax include the following:
- Muscle twitch
- Confusion or agitation
- The onset of depression or the worsening of depression
- Concentration problems
- Dry mouth
What Is Klonopin?
Physicians prescribe Klonopin for the treatment of anxiety disorders and panic disorders, and they choose this medication over Xanax because it has anticonvulsant properties. These medications are known as “mood stabilizers” because they succeed in controlling the hyperactivity of the brain. This is also a drug that has antiepileptic properties that treat epilepsy.
Because of the antiepileptic properties, physicians prescribe Klonopin for their patients diagnosed with epileptic disorders. Klonopin is a benzodiazepine that physicians also prescribe for patients experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome. It can be prescribed as a secondary medication to treat patients diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, too. Lastly, Klonopin treats spasticity and convulsions experienced by those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
What Are the Side Effects of Klonopin?
The side effects associated with Klonopin are the same as the ones listed above for Xanax. In addition to that, Klonopin may also cause the following side effects:
- A loss of coordination
- A lower libido
How Are Xanax and Klonopin Similar and Different?
Patients taking Klonopin will notice that the medication takes longer to begin working than Xanax does. Since the half-life of Klonopin is longer, you would feel its effects for a longer period of time than for Xanax. The half-life of Xanax is six to 25 hours, and the half-life of Klonopin is 22 to 54 hours. Xanax is the medication that is most likely to result in a “high,” but this can occur with Klonopin as well.
Another difference is the fact that Xanax does not treat seizures.
Dosages are different as well for these medications. Patients must take Xanax in an initial dose of 0.25 milligrams three times a day. In contrast, they may only need to take Klonopin in an initial dose of 0.25 milligrams two times per day. People diagnosed with panic disorders may require a significantly higher dose of Xanax.
Benzodiazepines also go by the commonly known name of “tranquilizers.” People begin to take these drugs in a manner in which they were not prescribed because they enjoy the feelings of being sedated. Unfortunately, many people choose benzodiazepines as a way of committing suicide. Researchers have learned that 12.5% of adults in the United States have taken benzodiazepines. This means that 30.5 million people have used Klonopin, Xanax or other benzos in the U.S.
People can develop an addiction to benzodiazepines. This may occur when physicians prescribe these medications for their patients over long periods of time. Because their patients are taking Klonopin or Xanax on a regular basis, they can become tolerant. This means that the body becomes accustomed to the current dose that the patient is taking, and it needs to be increased so that the patient can continue to feel the effects of the medication.
When people become tolerant, they may also be dependent upon the drugs. They may engage in addictive behaviors like going out and seeking the drug from illicit sources if they cannot get it from their doctors.
The medical community prescribes Klonopin and Xanax for short periods of time because of the potential for abuse. If patients need further treatment, doctors must switch to another type that doesn’t include addictive medications. Therefore, chronic cases of anxiety disorders need treatments other than Klonopin or Xanax to avoid the possibility of becoming dependent or addicted to these benzodiazepines.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms?
People can become addicted to both Xanax and Klonopin, and when this occurs, they must not stop using the medications abruptly. If they do, they may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Weight loss and a loss of appetite
- Memory loss
- Difficulties with concentration
- The inability to sleep
- High blood pressure
- Symptoms of the flu
- Dry mouth
- Mood swings
- Blurry vision
- Depression or anxiety
- Restlessness or agitation
Benzodiazepines and Opioids
Many people prescribed benzodiazepines are also taking opioids, and it is leading to a growing number of visits to American emergency rooms. People listed several reasons that they combined benzodiazepines with opioids. For example, 11.8% of these people said that they simply wanted to experience the high or because they were addicted to the drugs. Another 46.3% of people stated that they took these medications as a way to relax, and about 5.7% of the group stated that they were only experimenting.
Approximately 20% of the participants in the study obtained their drugs from physician prescriptions. Most of these people got these medications from their friends and family members.
Overdosing on Benzodiazepines and Opioids
In 2019, 16% of the opioid-related overdose deaths were also related to benzodiazepines. Each day, 136 Americans die as a result of an opioid-related overdose.
Adding to this problem is the number of prescriptions that physicians are writing for benzodiazepines today. Between 1996 and 2013, these prescriptions increased by 67%. The quantity of the pills also increased during that time. Taking opioids and benzodiazepines together often leads to an overdose because both medications suppress the person’s breathing and leave them sedated.
The medical profession is contributing to this problem because physicians are prescribing both benzodiazepines and opioids for their patients at the same time. Between 2001 and 2013, the number of people prescribed benzodiazepines and opioids increased by 17%. In 2001, this rate was only 9%.
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set out to decrease the propensity of doctors prescribing both medications for the same patient. The new guideline states that physicians must refrain from prescribing benzodiazepines if they are also prescribing an opioid drug for a patient.
The Food and Drug Administration also added black box warnings to the bottles of benzodiazepines and opioids to warn people that the medications may present life-threatening risks.
Xanax or Klonopin are legitimate treatments for anxiety disorders, but these substances do have a real potential for abuse. If you are concerned about taking either benzodiazepines or opioids, feel free to contact us at the Granite Recovery Centers.
Treatment for Xanax or Klonopin Addiction
If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction or a dependence on Xanax or Klonopin, we can diagnose you with a substance use disorder and treat the condition. If you are still using the substance, this is an excellent time to get started on your recovery. Since you are using Xanax or Klonopin right now, you have not begun to experience any of the withdrawal symptoms that were listed above, so you are ready to enter our drug detox program.
You must go through the detoxification process first. If you fail to end your physical addiction to Xanax or Klonopin, your chances of completing your treatment and remaining sober will be very slim. Relapsing and returning to drug use is always a concern after people leave drug treatment, so we want to make sure that you begin this process in the correct manner. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
If you have begun the detoxification process on your own, our medical professionals will diagnose your substance use disorder and begin your treatment. If you need to go through the detoxification process, our medical doctors and nurses will assist you every step of the way. Our medical professionals will administer medications that will relieve your withdrawal symptoms so that you can tolerate the process without too much discomfort.
You may have been taking Xanax or Klonopin because you were treating your anxiety. This is something that a large number of people with substance use disorders do, so you are certainly not alone. In fact, substance use disorders and mental health disorders are known to co-occur or exist at the same time. That is why we treat co-occurring disorders at Granite Recovery Centers in a dual diagnosis treatment program.
Our doctors and therapists will diagnose your mental health disorder and treat it at the same time that we will treat your substance use disorder. You may wish to reside at the treatment center. If this is the case, we have an inpatient treatment program where you will receive individual therapy, group therapy, meditation and the 12-step program if you like.
If you or your loved one would rather remain at home, we can accommodate you with our outpatient treatment program. You will receive the same services in the outpatient treatment program, but you will have more autonomy as you remain at home.
If you are ready to begin treatment for your substance use disorder and/or mental health disorder, contact us today.