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Clonazepam is used alone or along with other medications to treat convulsive disorders such as epilepsy. It is also prescribed for panic disorder - unexpected attacks of overwhelming panic accompanied by fear of recurrence. Clonazepam belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines.
How does Clonazepam work?
Clonazepam belongs to a group of medicines called the benzodiazepines. It can be used to regulate the activity of nerves.
The brain and nerves are made up of many nerve cells that communicate with each other through electrical signals. These signals must be carefully regulated for the brain and nerves to function properly.
When abnormally rapid and repetitive electrical signals are released in the brain, it becomes over-stimulated and normal function is disturbed. This results in fits or seizures.
GABA is a chemical that, when released in the brain, acts as a calming agent and keeps the nerve activity in balance. Once the brain absorbs the GABA (uptake), this chemical can no longer act on the nerves. Too little GABA, the brain may become overexcited.
Clonazepam acts on receptors in the brain (GABA receptors) to increase the release of GABA. This increases the calming effects of nerve cells by GABA. By calming nerve cells, clonazepam prevents excessively rapid and repetitive firing of electrical signals. Thereby electrical nerve activity in the brain is stabilised, leading to prevention and treatment of fits and maintenance of normal brain function.
• Do not drink alcohol whilst taking this medicine.
• This medicine may reduce your ability to drive or operate machinery safely. Do not drive or operate machinery until you know how this medicine affects you and you are sure it wont affect your performance.
• You should not suddenly stop taking this medicine unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Suddenly stopping this medicine may result in symptoms such as tremor, sweating, agitation, sleep disturbances and headaches.
• This medication is not recommended in people who have been receiving a medication from the benzodiazepine group over a prolonged period of time.
Use with caution in
• Alcohol or medication/drug intoxication
• Decreased liver function
• Disease affecting the airways or lungs (respiratory disease)
• Elderly people
• History of alcoholism or drug abuse
• Kidney disease
• Ongoing decrease in lung function (chronic pulmonary insufficiency)
• Severe liver damage
• Shaky or unsteady voluntary movements e.g walking (cerebellar ataxia)
• Weak or debilitated people
Not to be used in
• Abnormal muscle weakness (myasthenia gravis)
• Allergy to any medicine in the benzodiazepine family
• Severe or sudden decrease in lung function (severe or acute pulmonary insufficiency)
• Severely decreased liver function
• Syndrome involving short spells when breathing stops during sleep (sleep apnoea syndrome)
This medicine should not be used if you are allergic to one or any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy.
If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction, stop using this medicine and inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Certain medicines should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, other medicines may be safely used in pregnancy or breastfeeding providing the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn baby. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, before using any medicine.
• This medicine is not recommended for use in pregnancy unless considered essential by your doctor. Seek medical advice from your doctor.
• This medicine passes into breast milk. Breastfeeding mothers should therefore either stop breastfeeding while taking this medicine, or not take this medicine. Seek medical advice from your doctor.
• Do not stop taking this medication except on your doctor advice.
• This medication may cause drowsiness. If affected do not drive or operate machinery. Avoid alcoholic drink.
Medicines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with this medicine. Because a side effect is stated here, it does not mean that all people using this medicine will experience that or any side effect.
• Muscle weakness
• Shaky movements and unsteady walk (ataxia)
• Concentration difficulties
• Decreased co-ordination
• Loss of memory following an epileptic seizure (anterograde amnesia)
The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the drug manufacturer.
For more information about any other possible risks associated with this medicine, please read the information provided with the medicine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.
How can this medicine affect other medicines?
Clonazepam blood levels may be increased by cimetidine.
Clonazepam blood levels may be decreased by rifampicin.
Clonazepam may alter the blood levels of pheytoin and primidone making unwanted effects such as drowsiness more marked.
There may be an increase in the incidence of absence seizures when clonazepam is taken with sodium valproate.
There may be an increase in side-effects such as sedation and dizziness when clonazepam is taken with:
Anti-psychotic medication such as clozapine
Hypnotics such as other benzodiazepines (e.g. temazepam)
Muscle relaxants such as baclofen
and other anti-epileptic medications such as sodium valproate.
It advised by the manufacturer to completely avoid drinking alcohol as this may result in increased sedation and an increased fequency of seizures.
Store Clonazepam at room temperature, between 59 and 86 degrees F (15 and 30 degrees C). Store away from heat, moisture, and light. Do not store in the bathroom. Keep Clonazepam out of the reach of children and away from pets.