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Clonazepam (Klonopin): 8 Answers Inc. How it Works, Side Effects, and Withdrawal

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about clonazepam

Clonazepam is an oral tranquilizer sold under the brand name Klonopin, among others. It is approved for use in treating seizures, panic disorders, anxiety, and akathisia. Patented in 1960, and prescribed from 1975, clonazepam has since become the 47th most prescribed drug in the US.

The content on this page is provided for informational purposes only. If you have any questions or concerns about your treatment, you should talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare professional. This is particularly important if you are taking multiple medications or have any existing medical conditions.

  1. How does clonazepam work?
  2. What are the side effects of clonazepam?
  3. How do you avoid clonazepam withdrawals?
  4. Can you take clonazepam for sleep?
  5. Clonazepam vs Xanax: What’s the difference?
  6. How long does clonazepam stay in your system?
  7. How long does clonazepam take to work?
  8. Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking clonazepam?

1. How does clonazepam work?

Clonazepam belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Like other benzodiazepines, clonazepam works by increasing the concentration of a chemical called gamma-amino-butyric-acid (GABA) in the brain. This chemical is responsible for producing a calming effect, so when it’s concentration is increased it can relieve anxiety, stop seizures, and relax muscles.

2. What are the side effects of clonazepam?

Clonazepam may potentially cause side effects ranging from mild to severe. The list below includes some of the most common side effects but is not a complete list. Mild side effects may go away after a few days or weeks of consistent medication-taking, but if they persist or worsen you should speak with your doctor.

Common side effects:

Serious side effects:

  • Serious depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures
  • Swollen eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing

In some rare cases, patients can experience allergic reactions. Seek emergency medical care if you experience any of the following symptoms after taking clonazepam.

  • Skin rash
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the throat or chest
  • Difficulty talking or breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat

3. How do you avoid clonazepam withdrawals?

Clonazepam is classified as a habit-forming substance. This means patients may become physically and psychologically dependent on the drug.

In patients with long-term use, a tapering dosage regimen is recommended. This reduces withdrawal symptoms. Some of the symptoms include seizures, hallucinations, stomach pain, and confusion. Do not stop clonazepam abruptly without informing your physician.

4. Can you take clonazepam for sleep?

Clonazepam is not typically approved for treating sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines are classified as either anxiolytic (reduces anxiety) or hypnotic (helps with sedation) drugs. Clonazepam is an anxiolytic drug. Hypnotic benzodiazepines such as Restoril (temazepam) are used for sleep. Some physicians prescribe clonazepam for REM sleep behavior disorder. Treatment is under the supervision of your doctor.

5. Clonazepam vs Xanax: What’s the difference?

Clonazepam and Xanax(alprazolam) are benzodiazepines, they work by increasing the concentration of GABA and treat similar conditions.

It's reasonable to question what differentiates them. There are two main differences, peak plasma concentration and dosing. Alprazolam reaches peak plasma concentration at 1-2 hours compared to clonazepam at 1 -4 hours. Alprazolam is also dosed more frequently than clonazepam.

Both drugs are anxiolytics which accounts for the similarity in drug indications and both are capable of producing similar withdrawal symptoms.

6. How long does clonazepam stay in your system?

Clonazepam is a long-acting drug. It takes 4-5 half-lives for it drug to be eliminated from the body. The half-life of clonazepam is between 30 to 40 hours, meaning it stays in your system for about 7-9 days.

7. How long does clonazepam take to work?

Clonazepam takes effect within 30 to 60 mins when taken by mouth. It then takes 1 to 4 hours to reach peak levels. Peak levels are when the drug has reached the highest concentration in the body.

8. Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking clonazepam?

You should never mix clonazepam and alcohol as it can be incredibly dangerous. Clonazepam and alcohol have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS). Alcohol is a CNS depressant that produces sedation, combining with clonazepam will enhance the side effects of the drug such as severe dizziness or drowsiness, difficulty breathing, and seizures.


The content on this page is provided for informational purposes only. If you have any questions or concerns about your treatment, you should talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare professional. This is particularly important if you are taking multiple medications or have any existing medical conditions.

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