Clobazam Addiction and Abuse

What You Should Know About Clobazam Abuse: Signs and Symptoms

Prescription medications are among the most commonly abused drugs, yet many people overlook the signs because these medicines have been recommended by a physician. This makes the problem difficult to solve, as it usually goes under the radar.

An effective way of dealing with drug abuse is early recognition. If you take any prescription medication, it’s important to consult a doctor about your pattern of use.

Understanding the use of clobazam

Clobazam is a prescription benzodiazepine medication, used mainly to treat epilepsy. In some countries, it is marketed under the brand names Urbanol, Onfi and Frisium. This drug can also be used to treat short-term anxiety and, in some cases, insomnia. Some physicians also use clobazam to manage agitation in people suffering from psychotic conditions.

Clobazam is usually prescribed as a supplementary treatment for adults and children with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Because clobazam is a benzodiazepine medicine, it impacts the brain and CNS (central nervous system) in specific ways. Firstly, it’s important to know that clobazam is a CNS depressant. This means it serves as a long-acting sedative, which is why it’s effective for treating severe anxiety and panic conditions, including epilepsy. Unlike other benzodiazepines such as alprazolam, clobazam is not an antidepressant. However, like most benzodiazepine drugs, it is used for a maximum of two to four weeks.

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The abuse potential of clobazam

To recognise the signs and symptoms of clobazam abuse, it’s important to understand how benzodiazepines work. The signs are a function of their impact on the central nervous system.

Benzodiazepines (or ‘benzos’) are widely prescribed in the UK and US. Although clobazam is not as commonly prescribed as other benzos such as Klonopin or Xanax, it shares several similar characteristics and effects with both. All benzodiazepines have tranquilising, hypnotic, anti-anxiety, muscle-relaxing and counter-seizure properties. On a few occasions, they may be used to manage symptoms of alcohol abuse.

Benzos like clobazam are not formulated for long-term treatment. They are meant to treat severe symptoms that cannot be managed with other long-term medication. For instance, someone who uses a long-term, daily seizure-control medication might be recommended to use clobazam on a need-to basis.

Benzodiazepines are not usually prescribed for long-term use, because of their high abuse potential. In the UK, they are considered a Class C drug. This means that although the drug has approved medical functions, the benefits are habit-forming.

When you take clobazam or another benzo, the drug interacts with GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid) receptors. These are neurotransmitters in the brain that act by calming overcharged neural activity. Therefore, when someone takes clobazam they will generally feel calmer and more relaxed. The drugs also calm electrical impulses in the brain that cause seizures.

Many people experience euphoria or pleasant (relaxing) sensations after taking benzodiazepines. When they chase these feelings outside the medical use of the drug, an addiction can be formed. While clobazam abuse does not necessarily result in addiction, it increases the chances of both dependence and addiction.

Signs and symptoms of clobazam abuse and addiction

It is initially difficult to determine whether someone is abusing a prescription medicine. The signs of substance abuse disorder are often similar to the symptoms of recommended use. If you take clobazam – whether you’re abusing it or not – you’ll feel drowsy and lack muscular coordination. In some cases, you might experience memory impairment. Since clobazam is a CNS depressant, you could feel like you’re moving slower than usual and reflexes will be dull.

Other signs of clobazam use include dizziness, reduced cognition, walking difficulty and poor hand-to-eye coordination. Some people may experience certain side-effects from the drug. The signs of abuse are more severe and can be recognised upon close observation.

If your loved one or colleague uses prescription medication, it’s important to look out for additional signs caused by abuse. This can help prevent an escalation to addiction.

The following are common signs of clobazam abuse:

Taking more than prescribed by a physician

This is particularly common amongst people who have developed tolerance. With tolerance, your body becomes accustomed to the drug; so much so, regular doses no longer produce the desired effect. This may cause the patient to increase their medication intake without a doctor’s approval. If this occurs and the larger dose achieves the desired effect, they’re likely to continue with the new dosage. If you notice this, it’s time to draw attention to it.

Doctor shopping

People who use more than the recommended dose are likely to run out of supplies faster than usual. Because doctors often know when the next prescription is due, they can tell when a patient is abusing a drug. This makes the abuser more conscious of approaching the same doctor. A common reaction to this is ‘doctor-shopping’, which refers to the visitation of multiple doctors to get as much clobazam as possible. Also, look out for signs of illegal acquisition and forging prescriptions.

Taking clobazam for longer than prescribed

Take an active participation in the drug use habits of your loved ones or friends. Follow them to the doctor or mark the date they began using a specific drug. For example, clobazam (like most benzodiazepines) is designed for short-term use only and should be stopped after two to four weeks. Failure to do so may result in tolerance and dependence. If someone you know is still taking the drug after this period, they are more than likely abusing it.

Using clobazam without a doctor’s prescription

Clobazam is not only abused by legitimate patients. Some people use the drug outside ofits medical purposes. Such recreational use is more dangerous, because users tend to ingest more than the recommended quantity. Moreover, this category of abusers are seeking a specific reaction and are likely to binge on clobazam more regularly than is healthy for them, which increases the chances of overdose. Immediate intervention is important if you know someone who abuses clobazam recreationally.

Contact an intervention specialist or see an expert for advice on the next steps to take.

Using clobazam in ways other than prescribed

The mode of ingestion for any drug is pivotal to the body’s reaction to it. Clobazam is traditionally prescribed by doctors to be taken orally, except in cases such as pre-surgery, when it might be injected for rapid action. However, many recreational users crush and snort it through the nose, while others prefer to inject it themselves. These methods of use are considered abuse and are a fast track towards addiction.

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Combining clobazam with other substances

Perhaps the most obvious form of abuse is combining clobazam (or any other prescription medicine) with another CNS-acting substance. Every drug has the tendency to interact with each other, so combining substances is very dangerous. Interaction is the specific reaction of one drug with another that can result in altering the desired function. For instance, when Onfi (a CNS-depressant) is combined with cocaine (a CNS-stimulant), their conflicting properties react together to produce harmful consequences. In severe cases, a brain seizure may occur. Moreover, the liver is responsible for metabolising these drugs and severe abuse can lead to organ failure.

These initial signs help you recognise when someone is abusing clobazam, so you can stop it from escalating to an addiction. However, if someone is already dependent on clobazam, there are certain symptoms you can recognise to initiate immediate treatment and rehabilitation.

Symptoms of clobazam addiction

Abusing prescription drugs doesn’t necessarily lead to addiction, but doing so increases the chances of its occurrence. Addiction is formed when the brain develops a psychological or physical dependence on a substance. This effect stimulates the brain’s reward pathway, so after continuous exposure, the brain changes structurally and chemically to adapt to the addictive substance.

When this occurs, sourcing the drug becomes a major priority for the individual. The following are signs and symptoms of clobazam addiction:

Compulsion to use clobazam regularly

Does someone you know act desperately and go above and beyond to obtain this drug? Addiction makes people do things they normally wouldn’t, so going the extra mile to source and consume clobazam should be a cause for concern.

Development of physical dependence

Do they exhibit visible signs of discomfort when they don’t use the drug? A dependent user will normally break out in cold sweats or feverish behaviour when the quantity of clobazam in the blood is low. Withdrawal symptoms may be severe or mild, depending on the level of addiction.

Poor health condition

In addition to fever and seizures, addiction can cause health complications such as respiratory depression, cardiac failure or liver damage. Sometimes, prolonged treatment is necessary.

Other signs include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Visual impairment
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion

Formation of psychological disorders

Co-occurrence is a condition where addiction to a drug leads to the formation of psychological disorders. Depression, anxiety disorder and paranoia are examples of psychological health problems associated with drug abuse and addiction. If a family member or friend is suddenly exhibiting these traits, it may be an indication of addiction.

Continued use, despite the risks and harmful associations

It’s normal to cease doing something when it poses severe risks to your wellbeing. However, many addicts continue to indulge in drug abuse, even at their own peril. This is a clear indication that the problem is beyond their control. You might recognise similar behaviour in someone who abuses clobazam.

Relationship and social problems

A substance abuser might still be able to manage their social life in the early stages, but when it graduates to addiction, this becomes difficult. They may quarrel with friends and demand so much until they become a burden. Over time, many friendships and even intimate relationships will fail. A clobazam addict will often withdraw from family engagements and other social activities. Subsequently, self-isolation soon becomes the norm.

Decline of work and school performance

It’s hard to remain productive when you’re struggling with addiction. Most of the time, the drug dictates your overall behaviour. Many clobazam-dependent users suffer from low productivity and tend to lose their jobs as a result. This makes them financially hamstrung. Similarly, students will observe a decline in their grades and could withdraw from any extra-curricular activities.

All these signs and symptoms negatively affect the individual. It’s advisable to contact a professional when you notice any of them. For the most part, if someone exhibits two or three of the aforementioned symptoms, they may be considered a moderate user. However, should this number exceed four, this can be described as severe abuse disorder.

Together with the signs of clobazam addiction, many symptoms and side-effects are associated with the long-term use of benzodiazepines. People who abuse clobazam suffer from ailments such as memory impairment and muscle coordination. It is especially common amongst older users. When older users abuse benzodiazepines for a prolonged period, they begin to exhibit dementia.

Greater risk users

People at greater risk of the disorder include those who are recreational users. They tend to take larger amounts of clobazam and combine it with substances such as alcohol. It is believed that alcohol increases the tolerance threshold and allows you to consume more clobazam. The dangers of this include overdosing and falling into a coma, which could prove fatal. Immediate treatment is advised in such cases.

It’s often difficult to differentiate between the withdrawal symptoms of clobazam and other benzodiazepines, because they share similar characteristics. They include nausea, vomiting, rebound insomnia, rebound anxiety, delirium and hallucinations. Therefore, if your partner takes prescription medication and is having difficulty sleeping, you might want to know if their drug intake is actually healthy.

Finally, the way you approach the situation plays a significant role in a patient’s recovery. If you’re judgmental and confrontational, they might be less willing to cooperate. Instead, be genuinely empathetic and solution-oriented. If you’re unsure, always consult an addiction specialist.

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