Epilepsy Talk

What do Stevie Nicks and Whitney Houston Have In Common? | June 1, 2014

Seventies-era rock star Stevie Nicks is the poster girl for the perils of Klonopin addiction.

In almost every interview, the former lead singer of Fleetwood Mac makes a point of mentioning the toll her abuse of the drug has taken on her life.

While promoting her new solo album, In ‘Your Dreams’, she told Fox that she blamed Klonopin (clonazepam) for the fact that she never had children.

“The only thing I’d change [in my life] is walking into the office of that psychiatrist who prescribed me Klonopin.

That ruined my life for eight years,” she said. “God knows, maybe I would have met someone, maybe I would have had a baby.”

Whitney Houston’s songs became the universal voice of love. That’s how much Whitney came to mean to so many of us who knew her only through her music.

She came to embody all that precious emotion we carry in our hearts.

Whitney Houston’s death at 48, has raised the specter that she was taking Xanax (alprazolam) at the time she died.

What both situations have in common is that they were taking drugs in the benzodiazepine family.

And when it comes to prescription drugs that are able to destroy you, it’s hard to top the benzodiazepines.

Experts feel that chronic use of benzodiazepines may lower seizure threshold, especially in patients with epilepsy or predisposing disorders.

This is beyond the withdrawal mechanism which can occur even in low dose use for long time. That’s why it’s rarely used for a long-term in seizure disorders.

The operative word here is: long time.

Another “benzo” which has been lethal to millions of Americans is Klonopin.


It’s not as famous as OxyContin, but the prescription drug Klonopin can be just as dangerous.

Klonopin or clonazepam, was originally brought to market in 1975 as a medication for epileptic seizures.

Eventually, though, the medication was given patients who were subject to panic attacks and to addicts trying to get off drugs or alcohol, because of its ability to prevent seizures and control the symptoms of acute withdrawal.

The latter decision led Klonopin and other benzodiazepines to become the second most abused class of prescriptions, after opioid painkillers like Oxy.

But what Klonopin can do to a patient who abuses it is pretty horrific.

Scientists can’t say for sure what Klonopin does when ingested, except that it dramatically affects the functioning of the brain.

This much we know: If your brain is on fire with electrical signals — like, say, you’re having an epileptic seizure — a dose of Klonopin will help put out the flames.

It does so by lowering the electrical activity of the brain. But specifically which electrical activities it suppresses is something that nobody really seems to know for sure.

But when a patient goes off of Klonopin, there is a burst of excess neural firing and cell death. That’s the havoc we hear about that is mistakenly called withdrawal.

And that’s why Klonopin, like nearly the entire class of benzos, causes such unpredictable reactions in people.

Among the celebrities who have taken benzodiazepines with unfortunate results:
Actress-model Margaux Hemingway, who died in 1996 from a benzo-barbiturate mix…
Actress-model Anna Nicole Smith, who died in 2007 after an overdose of Klonopin and other drugs…
Author David Foster Wallace, who had Klonopin in his body when he hanged himself in 2008.

Since then, Klonopin, along with the other drugs in this class, has become a prescription of choice for drug abusers from Hollywood to Wall Street, where drug abuse for any reason is rampant.


Although Xanax (alprazolam) is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine, it’s probably one of the most dangerous.

It now accounts for as many as 60% of all hospital admissions for drug addiction, according to some research.

What’s more, violent and psychotic responses to Xanax are not limited to humans.

In May 2009, a 200-lb chimpanzee being kept as a house pet by a Stamford, Conn. woman, went on a rampage after being dosed with Xanax, escaping into the neighborhood and ripping off the face of a friend of its owner.

Sometimes, the continuous use of Xanax causes certain side-effects and the permanent use of Xanax can even give rise to biochemical transformation in the body which, in turn, causes different effects.

Since Xanax is an anti-depressant affecting the nervous system, it slows the neural activity and the ability of one’s mind to work. Especially on a high dose.

When you look at both drugs, you can see the commonality. Just like Stevie Nicks and Whitney Houston were singers, both drugs are benzodiazepines and essentially they work the same way.

They affect the brain by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that is naturally calming.

GABA can slow down or stop certain nerve signals in the brain.

It’s important to remember is that both drugs are purposely prescribed to treat epilepsy and it’s causes.

They are not recreational drugs, even though some choose them for that and other benzo cocktails.

And as far as addiction goes, anything can be addictive if misused.

Perhaps the reason I’m arguing so vehemently is that I am on both Klonopin — with Xanax, as a back-up in case of emergency. (Panic attack?)

I have taken the same amount for five years. And I feel — like anything else — if you abuse these drugs, they will abuse you.


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  1. Nicks did not die, in fact she turned 66 this past week.


    Comment by Baruch — June 1, 2014 @ 3:11 PM

  2. WOW! I stand corrected. (And after all that research.) I guess their common ground was an addiction to benzos.

    Thanks so very much Baruch!!!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 1, 2014 @ 5:20 PM

  3. I am not a doctor, but, If you are trying to get off these kinds of meds, here is a suggestion I can give you that worked well for me to minimize the withdrawl effects. Take ten of your pills and carefully shave off just a sliver from each pill using a razor blade, take those for the next ten days, then take the next ten pills after that and shave off a little more of what you did the previous ten and continue this pattern until you are down to half a pill then take half a pill for two weeks & start the process over again with the half pill untill you are down to taking a sliver & then none. Be accepting that Each time you cut more off each set of ten pills, expect to have some of those uncomfortable feelings like your falling out of an airplane or falling back in your chair for a day or so. Resist the temptation to take more when you are having these feelings. Sincere prayer will help you through these moments. My experience trying to get off a half or full pill at a time never worked for me, but this gradual, very gradual, reduction in the amount I was taking worked wonders. it took about 4 or five months for me to get completely off, but if you will have the patients to stick it out adjusting as you go, you can realize your escape. Every month for about 2 years after that I could feel my clarity come back and the brain fog I was experiencing has lessened as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Alan — June 1, 2014 @ 10:00 PM

    • While withdrawing from the prescrption might be one ordeal to overcome, for most people desperate to controlling their seizures, there are not much of alternatives than being STUCK with the prescriptions, putting up with ALL kinds of side effects.
      It’s a struggle to overcome both the medical hardships & prescription side effects.


      Comment by Gerrie — June 2, 2014 @ 7:36 AM

    • Would this be a good way to wean off Keppra? My 16yr takes Keppra 500mg: 2.5 tabs am and 3 tabs pm. Just wondering…..


      Comment by Ellie — June 5, 2014 @ 11:28 AM

      • Ellie, don’t even THINK about weaning off of Keppra by yourself.

        Note your symptoms and reactions, speak to your neuro and ask him what your alternatives are.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 5, 2014 @ 1:43 PM

      • My son is currently weaning off Keppra, under strict supervision of his neurologist, who is doing this very slowly and cautiously, for which we are grateful. Son is transferring over to Topamax, which counteracted some of the bad side effects of Keppra.


        Comment by Martha — June 5, 2014 @ 2:12 PM

  4. I totally agree with you Gerry, yet Alan, I think yours is a very clever way to titrate yourself down slowly, without feeling the dramatic side-effects.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 2, 2014 @ 10:01 AM

  5. There is a clear liquid version of Lorazepam (Ativan), but we have not tried it, so I cannot vouch for it. Switching from tablets to the liquid form of the same drug can present other problems. You can pulverize and liquify the tablets yourself, however. There is a huge amount of information (and support) at:



    Comment by Martha — June 3, 2014 @ 8:45 AM

  6. Hi Martha, Thanks for the link!

    The only real question I have is how would you translate the tablet to liquid?


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 3, 2014 @ 12:16 PM

  7. Re: converting tablet to liquid. It’s tricky, and it may vary from one benzo to another. There is much information at Benzobuddies.org. You need to turn your kitchen into a chem. lab. You’ll need mortar and pestle to pulverize the tablet, glass cylinders with graduated markings, a pipette (or at least a very finely graduated dropper). Lorazepam is not easily soluble, but some people can get by with milk. All the instructions are at Benzobuddies, and the people there are very helpful. They will even help you put together a protocol.

    It has been exceedingly difficult for us, because our son has autism, and feels the slightest change. He also developed seizures (possibly as a result of benzo dependency/withdrawal). We are working now with a neurologist who is helping.


    Comment by Martha — June 3, 2014 @ 12:37 PM

  8. And medical marijuana remains illegal nation-wide


    Comment by UptownGal — June 3, 2014 @ 7:01 PM

  9. You might want to read these articles:

    Medical Frequently Asked Questions:

    Medical Marijuana (Legal Issues)

    Pivotal Point Is Seen as More States Consider Legalizing Marijuana

    Epilepsy Foundation Calls for Immediate Action on Medical Marijuana


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 4, 2014 @ 10:56 AM

  10. Another opinion on medical marijuana, from Dr. Orrin Devinsky:



    Comment by Martha — June 4, 2014 @ 10:54 PM

  11. Oh Martha. He’s my hero! When I met him, I asked if I could kiss his feet! Imagine his reaction! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 5, 2014 @ 1:41 PM

  12. I had a friend who was addicted to Benzo and slept 2 or 3 hours per day. It was prescribed for her panic attacks.

    Well after many years of taking it, she was out of touch with her family and her 2 children. Luckily i met her on the internet and convinced her how badly this drug has messed up her life and how she was sleeping it away and how she was loosing good friend left and right because of it. Well after many months of talking, i finally convinced her to stop. But she couldn’t she went right back to it. After a few tries and failures, i told her to ask for help from her husband. Which she did, but even that didn’t work. So the next step was for medical intervention. That also took 2 attempts. The 2nd attempt finally worked.

    But the main issue is that people get used to it and they will want to increase it more and more to get the effects. So much more that they can’t control themselves eventually.

    Benzo drugs can take over your mind and it can cause you to do some weird think you wouldn’t do without it.

    Benzo drugs should not be taken for more than a couple of weeks. Any longer and it can cause problems rather than help.

    I take Ativan, which is a Benzo, but i only take it when i feel a seizure coming on. I take 2 x 2mg tablets when that happens, and if i don’t sleep right away, i’ll have hallucinations and i will not feel normal till about 2 days later.


    Comment by Zolt — June 5, 2014 @ 6:16 PM

  13. Zolt, it’s terrific news that your friend was able to get help and get off the Benzos.

    But horrible side-effects aside, there are people who are “addictive” personalities.

    I’ve been taking 0.5 Xanax for five years, for emergencies. I’ve never increased the dose because — like you — I only use it occasionally, rather than depending on it daily.

    As I said (an overstatement, I guess) “if you abuse these drugs, they will abuse you.”


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 5, 2014 @ 6:55 PM

  14. I agree with Phylis.Dont mess with Keppra on your own. My earlier comments about weaning off are directed at the types of meds discussed in the artucle.. The Benzos, pines and pams, Mine was Lorazepam (Ativan) origionally prescribed as an assistent to stop sezures and to deal with my anxiety the seisures created. I had aldo tried Keppra for a while which gave me good seizure control but I was not the most pleasant person to be around. Adding in the Lorazepam was not a pretty picture. For me,it increased seizures, and inflamed the agitation factor of Keppra. Now that I am off both. Life is wonderful, with 95% seiizure control with Dilantin (brand name only VERY IMPORTANT) and Vimpat. The Dome only sticks around for about an hour or so. Those taking seizure meds know what I mean when I say Dome or 20 pound helmet!


    Comment by Alan — June 6, 2014 @ 11:34 AM

  15. GOOD FOR YOU ALAN! And thanks so much for your recommendations and specificity.

    I, for one, don’t know what a “dome” is.

    But, in terms of helmet information, you can go to “Helmets for your Health”


    (It’s not “published yet.)


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 6, 2014 @ 5:26 PM

  16. oops, I guess its not a very good descripion. Dome is my word for how my head feels after taking seizure meds about 20 minutes after taking them to the time it takes for alertness and clarity to come back. its just describing the sense of pressure on the head and the weitghts clipped to my upper eyelids…. Actually, come to think of it, this is describing the feelings of being toxic on the med,not daily use.


    Comment by Alan — June 7, 2014 @ 4:59 PM

  17. Good description! Thanks, Alan.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 7, 2014 @ 5:05 PM

  18. scary my regular doctor gave me that clonazepam just the other day to helpme with my anxiety as it appears my anxiety plays a part in my seizures.. seeing neurologist soon.. as well… I won’t go crazy on these pills.. they last longer then the Ativan… lorazapam. any other affects they can have?


    Comment by laura — January 25, 2015 @ 5:01 PM

  19. I find that Klonopin has been very good for me — anxiety and seizure wise.

    And no addiction worries. I’ve been on it with no change of dose for 5+ years.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 25, 2015 @ 5:26 PM

  20. What about when you are the person who always has to stay strong for everyone else and panic attacks are horrible? I always take klonopin as prescribed.Now I’m trying to stop and I don’t know who I am without it.


    Comment by Angela Foxen — December 4, 2017 @ 7:45 AM

    • Klonopin is a tough one. You take it because you clinically need it and then, although you still clinically need it, you’re stuck.

      I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve been taking Klonopin for 10 years, without a change in dose or frequency. But I say. I’m one of the lucky ones.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 4, 2017 @ 8:49 AM

  21. Just for the record. Stevie Nicks was not “addicted” to Klonopin. She was taking a Doctor PRESCRIBED dose and the result of that PRESCRIBED dose of Klonopin was a DEPENDENCE to Klonopin. Big difference.


    Comment by Jim — February 23, 2018 @ 4:44 PM

  22. She was addicted and so am I ! I am working on getting off Klonopin after 28 years! 4 mg. I did not realize how much it affected me until I weaned off but still experienced withdrawals. I had to go back on 25% of the meds I weaned off I could not handle it fell much better off meds can’t wait u til out of my system but will take my time 28 years is a long time was off for almost 2 weeks could not drive or wor. Be careful with this drug.


    Comment by Sandra Carrano — May 10, 2018 @ 9:45 PM

    • I’m lucky. I’ve been taking Klonopin for 10+ years without a change in dose.

      But being addicted must be terrible. And the warning is well taken.

      But kudos to do for having the fortitude to wean yourself off. That must have been very difficult, but rewarding, too.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 11, 2018 @ 6:51 AM

  23. I was on 4 mg. Down to one but still experiencing minor withdrawals after 7weeks of weaning and almost 2 weeks off. It was so bad I took .5 and felt better in less than 20 mins.


    Comment by Sandra Carrano — May 10, 2018 @ 9:47 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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