Clonazepam is a prescription drug sold under the brand name Klonopin in the United States, and under other names including Ravotril, Rivotril, Rivatril, Zapiz, and Lonazep in other countries. It is a long-acting derivative of benzodiazepine, with anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant, and anxiolytic properties.
One of the conditions that clonazepam is sometimes prescribed for is social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is a psychological condition whereby a person experiences fear and distress in common social situations, leading to reduced functioning in those situations (or detriments to life caused by avoiding such situations). Consider it an extreme form of shyness.
Clonazepam has been shown to be highly beneficial to those suffering from social anxiety disorder, however there are many drawbacks to its use, especially if used over an extended period of time. Though it is still the medication of choice by some physicians for some patients, the more common medication for social anxiety disorder is now selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.
Among the drawbacks to clonazepam are:
* Clonazepam can be habit forming, with addictive potential.
* The longer clonazepam is used, the more of a tolerance the body builds up to it, meaning it gradually becomes less effective.
* Stopping clonazepam use must be done carefully and gradually, or there is a risk of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, causing psychosis characterized by dysphoric manifestations, irritability, aggression, anxiety, and hallucinations, as well as a risk of status epilepticus, where the brain is in a persistent state of seizure.
* It is possible to overdose on clonazepam, which can be characterized by symptoms including slowed reflexes, drowsiness, confusion and even coma.
* Clonazepam can have harmful interactions with many other drugs, including other benzodiazepines, alcohol, anesthetics, antibiotics, antidepressants, antifungals, antipsychotics, barbiturates, narcotics or opiates, protease inhibitors, seizure medications, and sleep medications.
* Clonazepam can cause a very long and varied list of side effects, including but not limited to: Blurred vision, changes in libido, constipation, decreased appetite, diarrhea, difficulty breathing or swallowing, difficulty urinating or excessive urination, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, fever, irregular heartbeat, persistent tremors, restlessness, seizures, severe rash, shuffling walk, stomach upset, weakness, or yellow eyes or skin.
Clonazepam can help some people, but there’s no question it is a serious drug that should only be taken under guidance of a physician and after discussing in detail its pros and cons, as well as possible alternatives.
Bettina E. Bernstein, “Social Phobia.” eMedicine.
“Clonazepam Oral.” WebMD.
“Clonazepam (Oral Route).” Mayo Clinic.
“Clonazepam Tablets.” MedTV.