This means it is considered to have some abuse potential, but not so much that it is a major concern beyond controlling the drug as you might expect of most prescription drugs. With that said, it should still only be taken as prescribed.
Klonopin & the FDA
Records indicate that Klonopin was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1975. It was approved as a prescription medication for the short-term treatment of anxiety and panic disorders, and as a measure that could help prevent some seizures.
It was approved in oral tablet form, at strengths of 0.125 mg, 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg, although the 0.125 mg and 0.25 mg tablets have since been discontinued.
Klonopin, and the generic clonazepam, is a Schedule IV controlled substance. This is a fairly common classification for drugs considered to have some abuse potential but not considered to have such major abuse and addiction potential that it is a serious concern beyond making sure the drug can only be obtained through a prescription.
Understanding Schedule IV Controlled Substances
Drugs covered under the Controlled Substances Act, described later, are scheduled into five categories. Schedule I controlled substances are considered the most dangerous, with no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse. Schedule V Controlled Substances are the least dangerous, with fairly low abuse potential and clear medical use.
This system is not without its controversies, mostly regarding how some drugs are classified, with marijuana and some psychedelics controversially considered Schedule I, which can make it more difficult to research these substances (among other issues). However, Schedule IV substances don’t face most of these issues, and this scheduling for Klonopin is fairly uncontroversial.
Benzodiazepines like Klonopin do have some abuse potential, but they aren’t narcotics and aren’t generally considered addictive, although they can cause physical dependence. They can be dangerous if misused, and some people do abuse them to amplify their sedative effects, sometimes mixing them with other drugs. However, these dangers aren’t so extreme that most experts would argue the drug doesn’t belong in either Schedule IV or an adjacent categorization.
The Controlled Substances Act
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was an effort to unify federal drug regulations by implementing the system in which regulated drugs were categorized into one of five schedules, as described above. The goal is to have drugs properly scheduled based on the substance’s medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability.
Because our understanding of drugs is always evolving, there are also systems in place to add scheduling to a drug, change a drug’s scheduling, or have it descheduled completely where appropriate. The proceedings to potentially enact these changes can be started by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), or by petition from any interested party. The DEA lists these as example parties:
- The manufacturer of a drug
- A medical society or association
- A pharmacy association
- A public interest group concerned with drug abuse
- A state or local government agency
- An individual citizen
Drug Scheduling & Controlled Substances
The CSA outlines the criteria by which drugs are scheduled or may have their scheduling change. These include these following:
- The drugs actual or comparative potential for abuse
- The exact evidence of its pharmacological outcome, if known
- The state of current scientific data regarding the drug or other substance
- Its historical and present form of abuse
- The extent, period, and severity of abuse
- What, if any, risk the substance poses to the public health
- Its psychic or physiological dependence liability
- Whether the substance is a direct precursor of a substance already controlled under the subchapter in which these rules are outlined
A drug’s scheduling can have a real impact on both the legitimate and illicit use of the drug, and also on drugs that people may use in substitution of the drug changing in availability. Unfortunately, drug scheduling is an inherently political system, meaning scheduling changes aren’t always made entirely based on available scientific information and expert opinion on the best way to classify and regulate a substance.
- Controlled Substance Schedules. Drug Enforcement Administration.
- Prescription of Controlled Substances: Benefits and Risks. (September 2021). StatPearls.
- Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use. (August 2013). American Family Physician.
- Drugs@FDA: FDA-Approved Drugs. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- The Controlled Substances Act. Drug Enforcement Administration.
- Outcomes Associated With Scheduling or Up-Scheduling Controlled Substances. (May 2021). International Journal of Drug Policy.
- Drug Enforcement Administration Drug Scheduling. (June 2022). StatPearls.