Clonazepam for epilepsy (Rivotril)

Clonazepam may cause you to feel sleepy, particularly when you first start taking it.

Continue to take clonazepam regularly. You must not stop taking it without speaking to your doctor first, as stopping suddenly will cause problems.

Do not drink alcohol whilst you are on clonazepam.

About clonazepam

Type of medicine A benzodiazepine anti-epileptic
Used for All types of epilepsy
Also called Rivotril®
Available as Tablets, oral liquid medicine, and injection

Clonazepam is used to treat epileptic disease and seizures. It can be taken by both adults and children.

A seizure is a short episode of symptoms which is caused by a burst of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Clonazepam controls the symptoms of seizures by reducing these abnormal electrical activities. It also relaxes muscles that contract, or stiffen, during a seizure. This means that the numbers of seizures are reduced and they are less severe.

Before taking clonazepam

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking clonazepam it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have breathing problems or lung disease.
  • If you have problems with your liver or kidneys.
  • If you have a condition causing muscle weakness, such as myasthenia gravis.
  • If you have a condition called sleep apnoea syndrome, where you have short periods in your sleep where you stop breathing.
  • If you have ever had drug or alcohol problems.
  • If you have ever had depression, or thoughts about harming yourself.
  • If you have a rare inherited blood condition called porphyria.
  • If you have spinal or cerebellar ataxia. This is where you may become shaky and unsteady, have slurred speech or rapid eye movements.
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.

How to take clonazepam

  • Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about clonazepam and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Take clonazepam exactly as your doctor has told you to. You will be advised to take a small dose when you first start taking it and then to increase your dose over a few weeks as your body gets used to it. Your doctor or pharmacist will explain this to you and your dose will also be on the label of your pack to remind you.
  • Clonazepam is usually taken as a once-daily dose at bedtime, although some doctors may recommend that you take it divided into three or four smaller doses a day until your body has adjusted to it. Try to take clonazepam at the same times each day, and try to avoid missing any doses.
  • You can take clonazepam before or after meals.
  • Clonazepam is available in two strengths of tablets and two strengths of liquid medicine. Each time you collect a new supply, check the label to make sure it is the strength that you are expecting.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember, but do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.

Getting the most from your treatment

  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • When you first start a new treatment there may be a change in the number or type of seizures you experience. Your doctor will advise you about this.
  • Clonazepam may make you feel sleepy, especially when you first start treatment. Do not drink alcohol, as it will increase the likelihood that you experience this side-effect.
  • People with epilepsy must stop driving at first. Your doctor will advise you about if and when it may be possible for you to resume driving again.
  • Taking clonazepam over a period of time may make you become tolerant to it. If this happens, it will not be as effective for you as it once was. If you think this is happening to you, please discuss it with your doctor.
  • While you are taking clonazepam, there is a small risk that you may develop mood changes or distressing thoughts and feelings about suicide. If this happens, you must tell your doctor straightaway.
  • Taking benzodiazepines like clonazepam may lead to the development of dependence. This is where your body becomes dependent on the medicine. If you are concerned about this, you should discuss it with your doctor.
  • If you are a woman and want to have a family, make sure you discuss this with your doctor. This is so that you can be given advice from a specialist before you become pregnant.
  • Do not stop taking this medicine unless your doctor tells you to stop. Stopping clonazepam suddenly can cause problems and your doctor will want you to reduce your dose gradually if this is necessary.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with clonazepam and any other medicines you are taking.
  • If you are due to have an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Can clonazepam cause problems?

Along with the general comments made above, clonazepam can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common clonazepam side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sleepy or dizzy, slowed reactions If this happens do not use tools or machines
Feeling unsteady or weak, poor co-ordination, unusual eye movements, poor concentration, feeling forgetful or confused. If any of these become troublesome, discuss them with your doctor
In young children, increased amounts of saliva may lead to coughing or choking Let your doctor know if this happens

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

How to store clonazepam

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Once a bottle of Clonazepam Oral Solution has been opened it will keep for 30 days - after this time, make sure you have a fresh supply of medicine.