The case of chronic clonazepam use in Rio de Janeiro through the voices of users

Rafaela Teixeira Zorzanelli, Renata de Marca


In Brazil, Rivotril® (clonazepam) has gained a reputation as a social object. Its logo is emblazoned on everyday objects and the drug itself is the topic of online communities and featured on television programs. Method. We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with a sample of adults (aged 18 and over) who lived in the state of Rio de Janeiro and who had been using Rivotril® for over 12 months. Using the snowball technique, we collected an unintentional sample of 20 subjects over 18 years of age who lived in Rio de Janeiro and who had been using the drug continuously for at least 12 months. Researchers presented the project to their social contacts, sending them emails in which they invited them to indicate people who fitted the inclusion criteria. Results. The key points of the analysis were: 1) the users developed “lay expertise” on the dosage of the drug; 2) whenever treatment was supervised by a psychiatrist, an antidepressant was prescribed together with the benzodiazepine; 3) once they started using clonazepam, the users’ perception of their capacity to live without it changed; 4) although all the interviewees were long-term users, they did not see themselves as dependent on the drug. Discussion. The users customized, negotiated, and legitimized their use of clonazepam, from how much and how often they took it to their habits of sharing it. Further research investigating users’ accounts of prescription drugs are needed to include their perceptions, which are frequently overlooked in the field of analysis.

Palabras clave

Psychotropic drugs; Mental health; Benzodiazepines; Clonazepam

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