Rivotril (Clonazepam) Abuse & Addiction: The Prescription Benzo with Hidden Dangers
Matching the meteoric rise of benzodiazepine prescriptions around the world, Rivotril abuse and addiction is increasingly becoming a major health concern today.
This drug (marketed mainly as Klonopin in the United States) is primarily used to prevent and control seizures but has also been used to treat panic attacks as well. And when used properly, it can in fact be life-saving for an enormous number of patients.
When benzodiazepines like Rivotril are abused, it can lead to potentially fatal consequences.
In fact, overdoses involving benzos have steadily been on the rise over the past several decades, spiking from around 2,000 annual deaths in 2002 to almost 9,000 in 2015.
And when you consider the fact that abusing benzodiazepines like Rivotril can cause the most severe withdrawal syndrome of any drug (worse even than heroin, crystal meth, and cocaine), this is most certainly one substance worth avoiding entirely.
What is Rivotril & How Does It Work?
Rivotril is the brand name for a chemical compound known as clonazepam. Clonazepam belongs to a group of substances called benzodiazepines or benzos for short. These drugs are primarily used to treat seizures, panic attacks, and anxiety.
A few other popular benzos of note include:
Clonazepam is marketed as Klonopin in the United States and Rivitrol in other countries around the world. Essentially though, these two drugs are in fact the exact same.
Rivotril dosages usually come in 0.5mg tablets, 1mg tablets, and 2mg tablets.
Like other benzodiazepines, Rivotril works by increasing the activity of one of the brain’s most important neurotransmitters, gamma-aminobutyric acid (also known as GABA). This particular chemical helps to calm down brain activity in a sense, leading to feelings of sedation and tranquility while preventing the onset of seizures and panic attacks (which are caused primarily by over excitation in the brain).
When these drugs are abused, however, patients may feel a Rivotril high characterized by:
- Increased sociability
- Lack of anxiety
Rivotril can be abused by snorting, injecting, or taking more of the pills than is prescribed or by combining it with other substances to increase its effects.
What’s more, continued abuse of Rivotril can lead to a buildup of tolerance, experiencing withdrawal symptoms, and developing the compulsive drug-seeking behaviors that come with addiction.
Rivotril vs. Xanax & Other Benzos: What’s the Difference?
It can be tough to know the difference between all the different kinds of benzodiazepines on the market. After all, benzos have become one of the most highly prescribed drugs for treating psychological problems today.
And while the majority of them are used to treat the same conditions (anxiety, panic attacks, seizures), they’re not all equal in terms of how addictive they can be or how dangerous their abuse really is.
In the world of benzodiazepines, it seems like clonazepam is actually one drug with the lowest risk of being abused. According to medication comparison database Iodine, Rivotril and Klonopin tend to have less of a chance of causing physical withdrawal symptoms than Ativan.
Similarly, Xanax also carries with it a higher risk of abuse compared to clonazepam.
What’s more, clonazepam can also be used with other medications in general, something many other benzodiazepines simply can’t do.
In the end, Rivotril and Klonopin are actually two of the more manageable benzos on the market today. But even so, these drugs can still have a variety of deadly health effects if used improperly.
Mixing alcohol and other drugs can cause a range of troubling side effects like dizziness, irregular heartbeat, liver damage, and vomiting. It’s part of the reason why so many medications have an explicit warning on the bottle not to mix them with alcoholic drinks.
When it comes to benzodiazepines like Rivotril though, the risk to your health is especially high when you mix it with alcohol use.
That’s because both of these substances are powerful central nervous system (CNS) depressants. When used alone, they can each cause substantial respiratory depression. When used together though, their effects on the respiratory system actually overlap, putting you at even more of a risk of a fatal overdose.
The interaction is particularly well-documented too. According to the 2014 Drug Abuse Warning Network Report, almost 164 thousand emergency room visits involved complications from mixing benzodiazepines and alcohol from 2005 t0 2011. What’s more, mixing benzodiazepines with alcohol (compared to abusing benzos alone) had a 7% increase in risk of a more serious emergency room outcome in 12 to 34 year olds, a 13% risk increase in 35 to 44 year olds, 14% increase in 45 to 64 year olds, and 16% increase in risk among patients 65 or older.
The takeaway here, of course, is to never mix benzos with alcohol abuse. It might cost you your life.
Short- & Long-Term Rivotril Side Effects
Like other benzos, Rivotril can have some pretty substantial short- and long-term side effects. And when this drug isn’t used according to your physician’s prescription, these side effects can end up being substantially more severe.
- Body aches or pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Ear congestion
- Feeling sad or empty
- Lack of appetite
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Loss of voice
- Nasal congestion
- Poor coordination
- Runny nose
- Shakiness and unsteady walk
- Sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
- Sore throat
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Unsteadiness, trembling, or other problems with muscle control or coordination
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
- Decreased interest in sexual intercourse
- Difficulty with swallowing
- Dryness or soreness of the throat
- Heavy bleeding
- Inability to have or keep an erection
- Longer than usual time to ejaculation
- Loss in sexual ability, desire, drive, or performance
- Pain or tenderness around the eyes and cheekbones
- Puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
- Voice changes
While this list of short-term symptoms is especially daunting, the long-term effects of Rivotril abuse may end up being even more terrifying.
According to Professor Heather Ashton of Newcastle University, long-term abuse of benzos like Rivotril may cause:
- Memory impairment
- Increased anxiety
- Hallucinations at the onset of sleep
- Hyperactive or aggressive behavior
- Suicidal tendencies
- Emotional anesthesia (the inability to feel pleasure or pain)
Rivotril Abuse & Pregnancy
In addition to the long list of side effects that can come from Rivotril abuse, using this drug inappropriately can also cause a number of worrisome problems during pregnancy as well
To explain, benzodiazepines cross the placenta and can in fact cause the fetus to become addicted. As a result, they may experience a withdrawal syndrome several weeks after birth which may be characterized by hyper-excitability, feeding difficulties, and increased crying.
According to Harvard Medical School, exposure to benzodiazepines during pregnancy may also increase the risk of cleft lip and cleft palate as well as infantile hypotonia (also known as “floppy infant syndrome”) which is characterized by:
- Poor respiration
- Difficulty feeding
- Poor head control
- Impaired muscle tone and movement
While abusing benzos increases these risk, they are still possible when taking prescriptions responsibly. As a result, you should be sure to consult your physician if you have concerns.
Rivotril Overdose: What to Watch Out For
Overdosing on Rivotril or any other benzodiazepine can be incredibly dangerous. Abusing too much clonazepam or combining it with other drugs can lead to permanent damage to the brain and body while also putting your life itself at risk.
Unfortunately, recognizing the signs of a Rivotril overdose can be especially difficult when compared to other drugs simply because there are so few symptoms to watch out for. According to MedlinePlus, these symptoms include:
Everyday Health lists a number of other clonazepam overdose symptoms to be on the lookout for including:
- Severe rash or hives
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Swelling of your face, lips, or tongue
- Chest pain
- Worsening depression
- Thoughts of suicide
If you think you or someone you know has overdosed on Rivotril, it’s important that you call poison control immediately at 1-800-222-1222. According to MedlinePlus, “if the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.”
When it comes to overdoses time is always of the essence so do not hesitate.
Symptoms of Rivotril Withdrawal
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines is largely considered to be the most painful and overwhelming detoxification process of any prescription medication.
It can even be more unbearable than getting clean from drugs like heroin or crack according to some former users.
And when you see the long list of withdrawal symptoms associated with benzos like Rivotril, you can easily see why it’s so tough to get through. According to the Ashton Manual, these symptoms include:
- Tingling, numbness, altered sensation
- Fatigue, influenza-like symptoms
- Muscle twitches, jerks, tics, “electric shocks”
- Dizziness, light-headedness, poor balance
- Blurred/double vision, sore or dry eyes
- Hypersensitivity to light, sound, tough, taste, smell
- Appetite/weight change
- Dry mouth, metallic taste, unusual smell
- Urinary difficulties/menstrual difficulties
- Skin rashes, itching
- Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
- Increased anxiety, panic attacks
- Social phobia
- Perceptual distortions
- Poor memory and concentration
- Intrusive memories
Why Benzo Detox Can End Up Being Fatal
In addition to the long list of Rivotril withdrawal symptoms above, there is also one more side effect from detox that’s especially worth noting – fatal seizures. Benzodiazepines like Rivotril are some of the only drugs that can actually lead to death from withdrawal symptoms alone.
Even heavy hitters like heroin, crack, crystal meth, and cocaine all have relatively safe (albeit uncomfortable) withdrawal syndromes.
With benzos, the threat comes from how these drugs interact with the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA and, equally importantly, how the body changes over the course of your addiction.
To explain, benzodiazepines like Rivotril increase the potency of GABA. The body, in its never-ending push towards homeostasis, counteracts the stronger GABA by increasing the potency of excitatory neurotransmitters. This is one of the reason why tolerance develops when it comes to benzodiazepines.
When Rivotril is rapidly removed from your habitual use, however, GABA’s potency quickly drops back down to normal while the excitatory chemicals stay just as strong. As a result, the stronger chemicals overpower the weaker GABA and send the brain into a flurry of electrical activity.
This activity can end up causing grand mal seizures which are potentially fatal.
It’s incredibly important, then, if you are looking to detox from your Rivotril addiction that you find a professional drug detox facility to help you manage the symptoms of withdrawal safely.
And while it can be difficult to push down the shame and guilt so common with addiction and ask for help, doing so can end up saving your life.
Rivotril: An Addictive Benzo with Deadly Potential
As you can see Rivotril is not a prescription drug that’s worth messing around with. In addition to the substantial effects it can have on your health in both the short- and long-term, addiction to Rivotril can be more overpowering than almost any other substance on the streets today. And getting clean from it can be, as past users have described, “hell on earth.”
That’s why spotting the signs of a Rivotril abuse problem early and getting professional treatment during recovery is so crucial to both your physical and mental safety.
If you or someone you love has become addicted to Rivotril, Women’s Recovery is here to help. Our intensive outpatient program (IOP) is perfect for anyone coming out of Rivotril detox from a mild or moderate addiction.
Beyond that, we also offer case management services, specialized treatment for co-occurring disorders, and recovery housing for women in Denver.