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Alcohol and Medications

Mixing Klonopin With Alcohol Can Increase Risks

Published:
June 13, 2024
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 13, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Mixing Klonopin and Alcohol Is Dangerous

  • Klonopin and alcohol are both depressants that have similar side effects on the body.
  • Mixing the two can result in heightened side effects and increase the risk of dependence on either substance.
  • Reframe can help you prioritize your mental health to improve your overall well-being!

We often hear of the risks of mixing depressants (like alcohol) with stimulants. Their opposing effects send mixed signals to our brain. But what about mixing alcohol with other depressants? Although they have similar mechanisms, mixing depressants like alcohol and Klonopin opens the door to risks and complications.

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing anxiety, which Klonopin is commonly used to treat. To help us manage our anxiety safely and effectively, let’s get a clearer understanding of Klonopin and alcohol, and why they don’t go together. 

What Is Klonopin?

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Klonopin (or clonazepam) is an FDA-approved prescription medication that is used to treat seizures and panic disorder. Off-label, Klonopin is also used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The dosage and frequency of administration can depend on the condition it’s used to treat. 

The drug is classified as a benzodiazepine, which is a type of depressant that produces sedation, relieves anxiety, and reduces muscle spasms. Klonopin increases gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA), which decreases the excitability of neurons — creating a calming effect in our brain.

Like all medications, Klonopin may come with side effects. Mild side effects include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Drooling

More severe side effects include:

  • Impaired thinking or memory
  • Allergic reaction
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in emotions/mood

Klonopin is effective in treating various conditions, but what happens if we combine it with alcohol? 

Interactions Between Klonopin and Alcohol

Klonopin and alcohol don’t interact directly. This means that drinking doesn’t explicitly affect the way the drug works in our body. Klonopin continues to be effective in treating the conditions it’s prescribed for. However, Klonopin and alcohol can indirectly interact and lead to dangerous side effects. 

Both Klonopin and alcohol are depressants that act on the central nervous system (CNS). They both slow down messaging within the brain and to the rest of the body, impacting cognitive and motor functions. When Klonopin and alcohol are combined, depressant effects become amplified, which can have very dangerous consequences. 

Drinking is also associated with symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, and alcohol withdrawal, all of which Klonopin is used to treat. Even without direct interactions, alcohol can negatively affect Klonopin. So is it still okay to drink?

Can You Drink on Klonopin?

Drinking while on Klonopin is not recommended even though there are no direct interactions. The indirect effects of alcohol on the medication and the conditions it is used to treat can be just as dangerous as direct interactions. 

Not only can drinking while taking Klonopin lead to dangerous side effects, but it also increases the risk of dependence on either substance. Dependence on alcohol or Klonopin alone is harmful to our health. Since the risks are amplified when the two are combined, dependence on the pair is even more detrimental to our health. To get a better understanding of why drinking while on clonazepam isn’t recommended, let’s further examine the direct consequences.

Dangers of Drinking While Taking Klonopin

Dangers of Mixing Clonazepam and Alcohol Together

Mixing clonazepam and alcohol doesn’t cause direct interactions. However, the compounded effects of mixing two depressants can be just as dangerous. There are four main dangers that result from mixing clonazepam and alcohol.

  • Amplified side effects. Drinking while taking clonazepam can heighten the depressant effects. These side effects include depressed breathing, slowing of the heart, impaired coordination, excessive drowsiness, memory problems, dizziness, and mood or behavioral changes. 
  • Increased risk of accidents. Since the magnified damper on our CNS leads to greater cognitive and physical impairments, we may be at higher risk of falling.
  • Increased risk of dependence. Since both substances have similar mechanisms and act on the same receptors, the seemingly positive effects we feel from dopamine release are highlighted. This greatly increases the risk of dependence on each substance individually or together.
  • Overdose. Alcohol and Klonopin act on GABA receptors, which multiplies the effects of both drugs. This means that it takes less medication and alcohol to overdose. Depressants are also associated with impacted inhibitions and judgment, which can result in unintentional increased consumption of both substances.

But wait! Some of us may be prescribed Klonopin, and others may be prescribed clonazepam. Are the two equally as dangerous when mixed with alcohol? 

Is Klonopin the Same as Clonazepam?

Klonopin is the only brand-name version of the generic drug clonazepam. They can be used interchangeably. Unlike some other drugs with several brand-name versions that feature different dosages and forms, clonazepam has only Klonopin. It is no different from generic clonazepam. 

Clonazepam is a benzodiazepine, but it is classified as a slow-acting drug. Our body processes and eliminates it more slowly than other benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Restoril. 

Along with its primary uses, clonazepam is also commonly prescribed for people undergoing alcohol withdrawal.

Clonazepam for Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when we’ve developed a physical or neurological dependence on alcohol. As our body adjusts to not having alcohol, we may experience one or more of these withdrawal symptoms.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Increased heart rate 

Clonazepam is a depressant that acts on receptors in our brain similar to those that alcohol affects. Essentially, it imitates alcohol’s effects on the brain as it reduces the severity of some withdrawal symptoms. Most notably, clonazepam helps treat seizures, insomnia, and anxiety, which are common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Now that we know alcohol and clonazepam don't — and shouldn’t — go together, is there any other substance we shouldn’t combine with Klonopin?

What Not To Take With Clonazepam

Clonazepam interacts with many other prescribed medications and substances, from opioids to certain herbs.

  • Opioids. Opioids are strong prescription medications used to treat pain. Mixing clonazepam with opioids can lead to extreme drowsiness and severe respiratory symptoms.
  • Antihistamines. These medications are used to treat allergies. Many antihistamines also cause drowsiness and, when combined with the depressant effects of clonazepam, can lead to impaired thinking and motor function. If we need to take an antihistamine, we should consult with a physician and go for nondrowsy options.
  • Other medications that cause drowsiness. Since clonazepam also causes drowsiness, when we mix it with other medications that have the same effect, the result is extreme drowsiness.
  • Cannabis. There are few studies to date on the interaction of cannabis and clonazepam, but both substances cause similar side effects. Like alcohol, when cannabis is mixed with clonazepam, the amplified effects can be dangerous.
  • Herbal remedies used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Herbal remedies can also cause a calming effect or drowsiness, which can add to the effects of clonazepam. Also, since herbal remedies don’t undergo the rigorous testing required for FDA-approval of medications, the risk of interactions is less clear. 

As we discussed earlier, alcohol mixed with clonazepam can prove dangerous. But will only one drink cause any harm?

How Much Is Too Much?

When taking clonazepam, alcohol consumption is not recommended in any amount. Even minimal amounts of alcohol will enhance the depressant effects of clonazepam. Alcohol indirectly affects the medication, compounding the depressant effects without changing the dosage. The resulting adverse effects aggravate the conditions that clonazepam is designed to treat.

Additionally, since clonazepam and alcohol are both depressants, combining them increases our risk of dependence on either substance. Depressants like alcohol and clonazepam both promote the production of dopamine and serotonin, the “feel-good” hormones in our brain. Although temporary, the feelings of pleasure and relaxation can hijack our brain’s reward system and lead to dependence. Separately, alcohol and clonazepam are substances with high dependence rates. When mixed, even minimally, the risk of dependence increases. 

Drinking while taking clonazepam is not recommended, but what about after stopping the medication? 

How Long After Taking Clonazepam Can You Drink?

Clonazepam is most commonly prescribed for a short period of time unless it’s used to treat epilepsy. Even after discontinuing clonazepam, drinking right away is not recommended because the medication might still be present in our body. 

The half-life of clonazepam ranges from 18 to 50 hours. In that time, depending on individual factors, half of the medication will be eliminated from our system. However, it takes about 5 half-lives to be completely eliminated. So, it could take roughly 3 to 11 days for clonazepam to be completely out of our system after the last dose. To avoid any adverse effects, healthcare providers advise waiting at least 11 days after the last dose before drinking again. However, alcohol can still negatively affect conditions that the medication was prescribed to treat, including anxiety, seizures, and mood. 

Drinking while taking clonazepam is risky for any of us, but are there people who are at higher risk of harm?

Who Is at Risk?

Due to the way alcohol affects us and the conditions that clonazepam is used to treat, certain people are at higher risk of experiencing negative consequences from drinking while on the medication.

  • People with preexisting respiratory conditions. The amplified depressant effects of mixing Klonopin and alcohol can strain our respiratory system. For those of us who have preexisting respiratory conditions, the damper on our system can lead to trouble breathing and death. 
  • People with psychiatric disorders. Those of us with co-occurring mental health conditions are at higher risk of dependence. Psychiatric disorders also require routine medication, which can negatively interact with Klonopin and alcohol.
  • Older adults. Aging commonly brings more adverse health conditions and decreasing function of the different systems in our body. The strain that two depressants can cause on our body is more dangerous for older adults. 
  • Adolescents and young adults. Although older adults are more prone to problematic health conditions, younger adults, especially adolescents, are at higher risk of developing dependence. The combination of Klonopin and alcohol can create a perfect storm for their dependence on these substances.
  • Pregnant women. Taking Klonopin when pregnant is recommended only if our healthcare provider deems it necessary. But there are risks associated with taking the medication while pregnant. In addition, alcohol is extremely dangerous during fetal development and should not be consumed in any amount during pregnancy. Together, Klonopin and alcohol exponentially increase the risk of complications.
  • People with past substance misuse. Since Klonopin and alcohol combined can significantly increase the risk of dependence, those who have misused substances in the past should consult a physician to explore all options. It’s vital to ensure the effectiveness and safety of treatment.

While these groups are at higher risk of negative effects, drinking while taking clonazepam isn’t recommended for anyone. How can we navigate a relationship with alcohol and Klonopin safely?

Approaching Alcohol and Klonopin Responsibly 

Klonopin is an effective treatment for various conditions, but it can be extremely dangerous when mixed with alcohol. If you’re prescribed Klonopin and concerned about your relationship with alcohol, you can still approach it safely and mindfully with these tips.

  • Educate yourself. Understanding the risks of drinking while taking Klonopin can help you make more intentional consumption choices. If you’re unaware of the consequences, you’re more likely to engage in harmful behaviors. In addition to learning more about the risks of Klonopin, alcohol, and the combination of the two, you can talk with a physician about the risks.
  • Avoid alcohol. Avoiding alcohol while taking Klonopin is the only surefire method to prevent the adverse effects of mixing them. Klonopin is commonly prescribed for short-term treatment, but even after discontinuing the medication, alcohol can negatively affect the conditions the drug treats.
  • Monitor effects. Klonopin can cause adverse effects with and without alcohol. By monitoring any effects you experience, you can manage your condition better and collaborate with your physician in finding a treatment that works best for you.
  • Adjust dosage or treatment plan. If you’re working on developing a healthier relationship with alcohol or ending alcohol dependence altogether, it’s important to disclose all relevant information to your physician in order to ensure safety and effectiveness while taking prescribed Klonopin. 
  • Choose alternatives. To help you avoid alcohol and prioritize your health, consider alcohol-free alternatives, including mocktails and replacement activities such as hobbies, exercize, or sports. Try mindfulness practices such as gentle movement and deep breathing to support the mechanisms of Klonopin rather than adding to its dangers by drinking. 
  • Manage stress. Stress impacts our health and can influence our drinking patterns. Stress-reducing activities such as journaling, meditation, and exercise promote better overall health and helps us reduce the use of alcohol for self-medication.

Developing mindful drinking practices helps us navigate Klonopin safely and create a healthier relationship with alcohol that is beneficial in the long run. 

Bringing It All Together

Clonazepam is effective in treating seizures and panic disorder; it can also help with anxiety, insomnia, and other common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. However, because it’s a depressant that acts in ways similar to alcohol, mixing the two can be dangerous. In addition to the amplified negative side effects, the combination greatly increases the risk of dependence on either substance. Avoid alcohol while on Klonopin to help set yourself up for the win!

Summary FAQs:

1. Can I mix clonazepam and alcohol?

No, mixing clonazepam and alcohol is not advised.

2. Is it true that when taking clonazepam, alcohol consumption increases the risk of negative effects?

Yes. Drinking while taking clonazepam can lead to dangerous side effects. 

3. How long after taking clonazepam can I drink alcohol?

Elimination of the medication can vary from person to person. It’s recommended to wait at least 11 days after the last dose of clonazepam to drink alcohol.

4. What are the potential side effects of taking Klonopin for alcohol withdrawal?

Side effects of Klonopin include drowsiness, fatigue, drooling, and dizziness.

5. Is one drink okay when taking Klonopin?

No. No amount of alcohol is deemed “safe” when taking Klonopin.

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