Recognizing Clonazepam Overdose Signs and Getting Treatment

Last Updated: April 28, 2021

Authored by Olivier George, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Klonopin is a commonly abused drug of the benzodiazepine class. Generically known as Clonazepam, it has essential medical applications but often results in addiction. Addiction is possible both when it is taken as prescribed and when taken recreationally. Compared to other medications in its class, Clonazepam remains in the body longer, which significantly increases the risk of a Clonazepam overdose.

Users and their loved ones should be able to recognize the signs of overdose on Clonazepam so they can seek medical treatment immediately and then begin a rehabilitation program.

Klonopin Overdose Amount

Clonazepam overdose with only Clonazepam involved is rare. This is because, in healthy individuals, the fatal dose is high; in mice and rats, it is 2000 mg per kilo of body weight. As for Klonopin overdose amount, it will depend on the strength of the pills. Given the strongest Klonopin pills manufactured and distributed in the US are 2 mg and the average North American adult weighs 80 kilos, most healthy adults would need somewhere in the range of 80,000 Klonopin pills to overdose on Clonazepam alone.

People who snort Klonopin instead of taking pills orally are at a higher risk. This is because while snorting, they cannot control the amount of the substance ingested. In this case, the drug takes effect faster, but its intensity is not as strong. It can make users take more of the drug, leading to more adverse reactions and potentially an overdose.

Man holds a lot of pills in the hand.

Reading this, it might sound as though this means there is no risk of overdosing on Clonazepam. However, this is not the case. Instead, Clonazepam overdose is caused when the medication is mixed with other substances or alcohol, referred to as polysubstance abuse.

Polysubstance Use as a Major Cause

Because Klonopin is a central nervous system depressant, the highest risk comes from combining the drug with other central nervous system depressants. Mixing Klonopin and alcohol, for example, can cause respiratory depression to the point where a person stops breathing and dies. There were also some documented cases of lethal outcomes for people consuming Clonazepam with opioids.

Overdose on Clonazepam Can Occur If It Is Mixed With:

It’s easy to accidentally mix other substances with Klonopin because it has a significant half-life, which runs between 30 and 40 hours. This means any substance used within roughly two days of taking a Klonopin dose could lead to an overdose on Clonazepam.

Facts About Klonopin Overdose Deaths

Clonazepam overdose death has become more common in recent years, which is directly linked to the opioid crisis. More than 30% of opioid overdoses involve benzodiazepines like Clonazepam. This is due to the increases in benzodiazepine prescriptions, which rose by 67% between 1996 and 2013.

In many cases, the overdoses are accidental, often because doctors will prescribe more than one CNS depressant at a time, which can fatally interact. Because it is not clear what the Klonopin overdose amount is when combined with other drugs, many users and their doctors choose to take this risk. However, some Clonazepam overdose deaths are intentional; studies have found that suicidal overdoses linked to Klonopin and other benzos are rising. This may be due to suicidal thoughts being a side effect of Klonopin and other medications.

Woman lying after Klonopin overdose, many pills on the table.

In any case, deaths from benzodiazepine use have risen steadily over the last two decades, making them dangerous drugs to use. Medication and polysubstance abuse, in general, should be avoided.

Symptoms and Signs of Clonazepam Overdose

Klonopin use and abuse come with certain risks to one’s health. It’s possible to avoid overdoses if one decides to stop drug abuse and contacts a rehab center to get help. However, sometimes people take the drug for the treatment of mental health conditions that cannot be treated with the help of other medications. In this case, one should know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of poisoning. It will make it possible to get help before it’s too late.

Common Clonazepam Overdose Symptoms Include:

  • Altered mental state
  • Hyperactivity
  • Significant aggression
  • Inability to speak properly
  • Profound confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Failure to control the limbs
  • Struggles to remain conscious
  • Shallow respiration
  • Clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weak or rapid pulse
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Coma

These symptoms are signs of overdoses in general, which means based on the symptoms, one cannot determine if the person is overdosing specifically on Clonazepam. However, should any of these Clonazepam overdose symptoms be observed, help should be sought immediately. Apart from the treatment of the poisoning symptoms, medical professionals can advise undergoing addiction treatment at a rehab facility. It may be necessary if abuse and addiction signs are present in a patient.

What to Do If One Overdoses on Klonopin

As soon as someone suspects a Klonopin overdose is occurring, they should contact emergency services. Many people believe that if they are only noticing the mildest of symptoms, they can wait it out and get better. However, overdoses can accelerate rapidly; one should never delay the treatment.

If the person experiencing any symptoms of Clonazepam overdose is near other people, they should involve them in getting help and monitoring the symptoms.

If the user is alone, they should be prepared to give emergency services the most important information first, just in case they lose consciousness. The user should also sit somewhere so that their body will remain upright even if they pass out to avoid choking risks.

The Proper Order for Giving Information to Emergency Services Is as Follows:

  • Give them the location, being as specific as possible. With this, help will arrive.
  • State the name of the drugs taken, listing Clonazepam first. Emergency services can bring the proper medications to counteract Clonazepam effects.
  • Tell the amount of Klonopin and other substances taken if known. For Klonopin, include all doses taken in the last two days.
  • List the times when the substances were taken. It gives emergency services a frame of reference for how long the overdose has been occurring.
  • Explain the symptoms being observed and when these symptoms began.
  • If known, relay the age, weight, name, and blood type of the user.

After contacting emergency services, never move to another location. Otherwise, help will not know where to go. If there are others with the user, they need to be prepared to perform CPR and keep the user upright or on their side.

Klonopin Overdose Treatment

Klonopin overdose treatment starts with interventions by emergency services. In ideal situations, this will just be monitoring vitals and getting the user to the emergency room. However, it could include administering life-saving medications, intubation, and more. At the hospital, the patient overdosing on Clonazepam will be stabilized, tested, and monitored.

Woman lying in bed in the hospital undergoing Klonopin detox.

The treatment used may include giving IV fluids, using an antidote, putting activated charcoal in the stomach, using laxatives to flush the system, and putting the user on a ventilator if they are struggling to breathe on their own. This immediate, short-term treatment is vital, but it is just the start. Avoiding future dangers means getting treatment for drug abuse and addiction. Rehabilitation focuses on detoxing the body and building the skills needed to prevent abusing drugs in the future. It also helps the user to address the reasons they began to abuse Clonazepam in the first place.

Sometimes users are tempted to skip this step, figuring that since they did not die, they just need to be more careful. But due to everything from struggles with willpower to the half-life of Klonopin, this will only lead to future overdoses. One can receive treatment in an inpatient or outpatient rehab. These facilities are located throughout the country, making them easy to access.

How to Avoid a Klonopin Overdose?

The only guaranteed method for avoiding a Clonazepam overdose is to stop using the medication. While it’s possible to carefully use the drug, due to its long half-life and dangerous interactions with other CNS depressants, including alcohol, it is easy to accidentally overdose even when taking the medication as prescribed. It is vital that people can spot the signs and seek Klonopin addiction treatment as soon as possible. After hospital care, treatment must be ongoing with a focus on rehabilitation. With the right help, there is hope for recovery from Klonopin addiction.

If someone is exhibiting signs of a Klonopin overdose, contact emergency services and wait for help to arrive. To avoid future overdoses, contact the helpline to learn about rehabilitation options.

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Page Sources

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Published on: May 3rd, 2018

Updated on: April 28th, 2021

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.