Clonazepam is a benzodiazepine drug that helps to regulate abnormal electric activity in the brain. In most cases this is used to treat those who are suffering from seizures, but it can also be used for alternative medical reasons as well. Many doctors prescribe this medication to help calm anxiety or other symptoms of psychosis that are triggered by physical ailments. Unfortunately, side effects of this medication are incredibly common, though they are not usually severe. It is very important for patients to work closely with a doctor while on clonazepam to monitor their condition and their reaction to the medication to avoid these types of reactions.
Indications and Usage
Clonazepam is commonly sold under the name Klonopin or the Klonopin Wafer. This drug is often used in conjunction with other medications to help limit the occurrence of seizures in patients suffering from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. It is often prescribed when the patient has failed to respond to succinimides, or those suffering from akinetic or myoclonic seizures. Clonazepam can help control these conditions, but will not cure them.
You will take clonazepam by mouth one to three times a day. Doses do not need to be taken with food, but you may need to drink water with your dose. The tablet dissolves very quickly, so liquid can help ensure that all of the medication gets into your system. You should not hold the tablet for very long after removing it from the packaging, as it can partially dissolve in your hands. You should not stop taking clonazepam suddenly or increase your dose without a doctor's consent to avoid the risk of bringing on uncomfortable side effects.
Initial doses for adults treating seizures will be started at 1.5 mg per day, divided into three doses. Your condition will be monitored during this time to determine whether or not your seizures are being controlled with the minimum amount of side effects. At this time your dose will be adjusted as necessary to control your condition at the optimum level.
The maximum dose of clonazepam should not exceed 20 mg daily for those using the drug as a seizure medication. Those using clonazepam for anxiety or a panic disorder will be started on .25 mg, which can be increased to 1 mg after three days. Doses higher than 1 mg have been used to treat anxiety or panic disorders, but these are usually be found to be less effective than the lower dosage. In the case that patients could benefit from a higher dose, they should not take more than 4 mg per day.
Children under the age of ten or those who weigh less than 30 kg (approximately 66 pounds) should not take clonazepam. Children are often given between .01 and .03 mg per day and should not be given more than .05 mg per day without close supervision. As they age, doses may be increased to .25-.5 mg every third day to help control seizures. Doctors recommend giving children divided doses whenever possible to help avoid overdosing. The largest dose should be given before the child goes to bed. Clonazepam should not be used to treat anxiety in those under the age of eighteen.
Pregnant women are at risk for developing complications with their pregnancy while taking clonazepam. You will need to talk to your doctor about your risk to determine whether or not you should continue taking this mediation while you are pregnant. Your dose will probably be lowered to compensate for your hormone changes during this time.
For seniors, at this time there are no studies for those over the age of 65 using clonazepam to treat seizures or anxiety. Those in this age range should proceed with caution and stay on low doses and carefully monitor their condition to avoid side effects or overdosing.
Clonazepam Side Effects
Side effects for clonazepam are quite common. Fifty percent of users reported additional drowsiness while on the medication. Thirty percent reported coordination problems, up to 25 percent claimed behavior problems, and 12 percent reported dizziness. Other common side effects, occurring in up to 10 percent of users include upper respiratory infections, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, confusion, decreased sex drive, painful menstrual cramps or coughing. These side effects often became less severe after the first three days of taking the medication. If your symptoms do not get better, talk to your doctor about adjusting your dose.
Less common side effects to clonazepam included toothaches, foot or ankle swelling, spinning sensations, gout, back pain, muscle cramps, acne, sneezing, loss of taste, nosebleeds, vision problems, motion sickness or ear infections. Some patients also appeared to have coordination or behavioral problems similar to being intoxicated. These side effects are not usually the sign of a more serious condition, but you should inform your health care provider if they appear. If side effects persist you may need to undergo examination to determine the cause of the problem. Do not stop taking your medication without medical instruction as this can cause your seizures to return.
In the case of an overdose, patients may collapse or become unable to breathe. This may be preceded by drowsiness, confusion or coma. Should any of these symptoms occur, contact emergency medical services and poison control immediately to determine the best course of action. Children and seniors are at a much higher risk for overdose than other age groups so it is vital that you watch them carefully, especially within the first three days of starting clonazepam.
Pregnant women may be at risk for developing malformations in the fetus while on clonazepam. These include cleft palate, open eyelids, limb defects and fused stermebrae. Reductions in maternal weight have also been reported at high doses. These side effects are not common, but should be taken very seriously. Reductions in your prescription level can help avoid these defects and side effects.
Cold or allergy medications, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, narcotics, medications for depression and anxiety mediations may need to be avoided while you are on clonazepam. These can cause increased drowsiness that may make it difficult for the patient to function. You will need to inform your doctor about any other seizure medications and benzodiazepines that you are taking prior to starting your clonazepam prescription to ensure that you are not taking anything that will increase your risk of side effects.
If you are taking antibiotics, antifungal medications or antidepressants you should inform your doctor before you begin your dosage. These drugs can interact with your medication, making it more difficult for your body to absorb it properly. Other medications that are known to interact with clonazepam include MAO inhibitors, barbiturates and any medications that are used to treat psychiatric disorders. In many cases, these drugs will not cause dangerous side effects, but they may result in your medication having less than the desired effect.
Clonazepam is known for disrupting the patient's ability to remain alert. You should avoid activities such as driving that require your full concentration while on this medication, especially in the first three days while your body is becoming accustomed to the drug. Alcohol can increase many of the side effects of clonazepam so you should not drink while taking this medication. Though no research has been done in this field, you should inform your doctor about any vitamins or herbal supplements you take regularly. Some may contain ingredients that could have an impact on your clonazepam prescription.