Everything You Need to Know About Clonidine

Drugs & Alcohol

Everything You Need to Know About Clonidine

Clonidine is an antihypertensive that has a wide variety of other applications in the medical field today.

It’s seen by some physicians as an effective alternative to many other medications that may carry with them a handful of nasty side effects or a high risk of addiction.

But just because clonidine isn’t as habit-forming as other drugs doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a potential for abuse. And what’s more, using it incorrectly can, in fact, have potentially fatal consequences.

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what is clonidine

The Clonidine HCl Basics

The Clonidine HCl Basics

In medical terms, the proper clonidine classification is an alpha-2 adrenergic agonist. Other substances in this category are used primarily to treat hypertension. Some additional clonidine uses include treating:

  • ADHD
  • Certain anxiety disorders
  • Alcohol, opioid, or tobacco withdrawal symptoms
  • Dysmenorrhea (severely painful menstrual cramps)
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Menopausal hot flashes

Clonidine (or clonidine HCl) in particular has been used in the medical field for 40 years, first entering the market solely as an antihypertensive and later being used to treat other disorders as well.

most common brand names for clonidine

A few of the most common brand names for clonidine include:

  • Catapres (for hypertension)
  • Kapvay (for ADHD)
  • Nexiclon (for hypertension)

Clonidine HCl comes in the form of an immediate release tablet, an extended release tablet, a solution, or a transdermal patch.

Clonidine and Hypertension

Clonidine’s major function in the medical field is to help reduce hypertension. More simply known as high blood pressure, this disease stems from your heart pumping too much blood throughout your system, narrow artery walls, or a combination of both.

There are countless causes for hypertension. It could be stress, poor diet, not enough exercise, or many other internal maladies. What’s more, many people have it for years without experiencing any symptoms.

Clonidine and Hypertension

But the major takeaway here is that hypertension is incredibly common. In fact, the CDC reports that almost 1 out of 3 American adults has hypertension. And that means there’s a lot of reasons to put clonidine to good use.

How Does Clonidine Work

How Does Clonidine Work?

The clonidine mechanism of action is a stimulation of the alpha-2 adrenergic cells in the brain which in turn helps to relax your blood vessels. With less blood vessel resistance, your blood can flow more easily and your overall blood pressure will consequently drop.

What’s more, clonidine’s MOA also includes interacting with the areas of the brain responsible for the “fight or flight” mechanism, our body’s natural response to stress.

Getting even more specific, researchers have shown that clonidine actually inhibits the release of norepinephrine, one of the brain’s two major chemicals that create an adrenaline response during stressful events.

Similar to how clonidine uses chemical reactions to relax your body’s blood vessels then, it also eases the tension that builds up in your adrenaline centers as well. This function in particular has led many practitioners to prescribe clonidine as a sleep aid and antianxiety medication.

Clonidine Side Effects

Clonidine Side Effects

While the side effects of clonidine HCl use aren’t typically severe, patients have reported that they are still noticeable. The most common side effects of clonidine are:

  • Constipation
  • Nervousness
  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Decreased sexual ability
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

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Additionally, if you or anyone you know taking clonidine experiences any of the following side effects, you should contact a doctor or emergency services immediately as they might indicate a serious problem:

  • Hoarseness
  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Rash
  • Swelling of the face, mouth, eyes, hands, lower legs, feet, or ankles

Clonidine Dosages

Clonidine Dosages for a Variety of Treatments

These dosages are provided by the Mayo Clinic. However, all clonidine dosages should be discussed with and prescribed by your doctor. The dosing here is meant only to be informational.

  • For high blood pressure, adults should take 0.17 mg of extended release clonidine once a day before bedtime and 0.1 mg twice a day of regular tablets.
  • The clonidine dosage for ADHD treatment begins at 0.1 milligram once a day at bedtime for teenagers and children 6 years and up. Children younger need to have their dosage determined by their doctor.
  • The clonidine dosage for sleep and anxiety will be determined by your doctor.

Anxiety in America Today

Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health disorders today. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that a whopping 35.1% of 30-44 year olds will have experienced an anxiety disorder at some point in their life.

And when it comes to treating these disorders effectively, many medications simply fall short of being satisfactory.

As such, researchers are constantly on the lookout for the next antianxiety medication. Billions of dollars are spent annually on both testing new chemical combinations as well as finding different applications for drugs that are already on the market.

Clonidine, for instance, was first used in the medical field as an antihypertensive and, for the most part, is still used primarily for that reason today.

But physicians soon found that the sedative side-effects of the substance can actually provide a release from symptoms of anxiety in some patients.

Treating Anxiety with Clonidine

Part of the reason clonidine is so effective at treating anxiety is that one of the main clonidine MOAs is to target and subdue the fight-or-flight centers of the brain.

With the stimulating effects of these areas subdued, many people taking clonidine for anxiety may experience a noticeable reduction in their symptoms.

And besides the obvious benefits that this relief can bring, anxiety reduction may also make it less likely to engage in other risky behaviors such as abusing dangerous substances.

What’s more, clonidine has been shown to be less prone to causing dependency than other antianxiety medications like Xanax or Ativan.

While your doctor will help you find out your proper dosage, you’ll likely take 0.1 mg clonidine for anxiety, twice a day.

Using Clonidine for Sleep and ADHD

While much research still needs to be done on the overall effectiveness of using clonidine for sleep and ADHD, some practitioners have found that it’s quite effective at treating both simultaneously.

One systematic chart review found that 85% of test subjects with ADHD showed a significant improvement in sleep patterns after taking 0.05 to 0.8 mg of clonidine on a regular basis.

These test subjects, however, were aged 4 to 17. And although many physicians find that clonidine works wonders in children around this age, they’re more likely to prescribe different medications like Ambien or Lunesta for adults.

Clonidine and the Opioid Epidemic

Going through opioid withdrawals can be an incredibly excruciating process. Symptoms like anxiety, muscle aches, insomnia, and agitation make relapsing back into abusing opioids all the more likely.

What’s more, the rate of opioid abuse has skyrocketed in the past few decades. In fact, the CDC reports that an astounding 91 Americans die every single day from an opioid overdose.

Given the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and the growing trend of opioid abuse, it’s becoming ever more crucial to find new ways of making opioid addiction recovery all the more likely.

That’s why certain addictive substances such as clonidine, methadone and buprenorphine are being used to help dull the symptoms. While these drugs may lead to eventual dependency themselves, addiction specialists have found that the reduction in withdrawal symptoms that they provide actually helps increase the chances of full recovery.

Clonidine for Opiate Withdrawal

The key to clonidine’s effectiveness here is that it acts on the adrenaline center of the brain, one of the most active areas during withdrawal.

You see, when your body builds up a tolerance to substances like opioids over time and these drugs are quickly taken away, your mind is launched into a fight-or-flight state. This triggers the activation of the adrenaline centers.

With clonidine reducing the effectiveness of this system though, a number of the resulting withdrawal symptoms may become far less severe. Some of the symptoms of opiate withdrawal that clonidine may help subdue are:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Diminished cognition
  • Depression
  • Flushing
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Spasms
  • Twitching

Clonidine Abuse: Signs to Watch Out For

Researchers have found that clonidine actually boosts and extends the opioid high. Given that it is typically easier to obtain than other prescription opioids, the elevating effect that clonidine has on the opioid high makes it particularly at risk for abuse.

Clonidine has been shown to have an intensifying effect when combined with other sedatives like alcohol or barbiturates as well. What’s more, some antidepressants may also interact with clonidine negatively, causing increased drowsiness or other complications.

If you suspect that someone you know is abusing clonidine, there are many different signs of abuse to watch out for. Here are just a few:

  • Do you notice signs of intoxication (e.g. extreme drowsiness, lack of coordination, unusual mood)?
  • Are they consistently making excuses for avoiding social contact?
  • Has their physical appearance changed with regards to weight, hygiene, or general concern for how they look?
  • Are they having trouble at work, school, or with the law?
  • Do they no longer participate in activities that they used to enjoy?
  • Are they unable to fulfill obligations that were never a problem for them before?
  • Are they showing signs of clonidine withdrawals?

While substance use disorders are typically characterized by these outward signs, they don’t necessarily point to a clonidine abuse problem. Only a qualified professional can make that call.

As such, if you are concerned about someone’s clonidine use, contact a physician and start looking into the wide variety of rehabilitation options.

Symptoms of Clonidine Overdose

Although clonidine is widely considered to be less addictive and cause less harm than other illicit substances, it is still possible to overdose from it.

If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing a clonidine overdose, look for the following signs provided by MedlinePlus:

  • Shivering
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Pale skin that’s cold to the touch
  • Small pupils
  • Slurred speech

If you notice these symptoms, call the poison control center (1-800-222-1222) as soon as possible and 911 if they have collapsed or are not breathing.

Clonidine High and Addiction

There is little evidence that clonidine alone actually creates a high or a clonidine buzz. The more likely reason for abuse is that users end up mixing clonidine with other drugs to intensify their effects.

Alcohol, opioids, and barbiturates all have sedative side effects that are bolstered by using clonidine at the same time.

Having said that, continued clonidine abuse, whether it’s by illegally obtaining and taking the drug or ignoring your doctor’s dosing directions, can eventually lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Dangers of Clonidine Withdrawal

Dangers of Clonidine Withdrawal

As with addiction to any substance, cutting it completely out of your life after developing a dependence will likely result in symptoms of withdrawal. For clonidine addiction, these symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Shaking
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting

One especially important point to note with clonidine withdrawal is that it can be quite dangerous, even fatal. As clonidine suppresses your body’s blood pressure, suddenly removing it from your system may cause your system to overcompensate, an effect called “clonidine rebound.”

This can cause a rapid increase in blood pressure that may actually lead to a cardiac incident and death.

Given the potentially fatal consequences of rapid clonidine detox, anyone considering quitting should first consult a qualified professional. Not doing so could end up being deadly.

What’s more, entering into a rehab facility could prove to be the best decision of your life when you know what to look for.

Clonidine: An Incredibly Useful Drug When Used Properly

Like many other medications on the market today, clonidine can have some pretty beneficial applications. Hypertension, ADHD, insomnia, and opiate withdrawals are all treatable with this versatile drug’s help.

But equally similar to many other substances, clonidine use does come with the potential for abuse and addiction, particularly when it’s used with other substances.

As such, it’s important that anyone using clonidine follows their doctor’s prescription completely. Otherwise you may be facing an addiction that’s not only troublesome, but fatal as well.

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Everything you need to know about Clonidine

2020-01-30T16:48:30+00:00May 29th, 2019|16 Comments


  1. Kristine C September 19, 2018 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Should I be worried taking this for anxiety. Cause I’m in recovery and I told the lady I didn’t want to take anything I could become addicted too. I’ve only taken it 3 or 4 times. I got it like a month ago.

    • Northpoint Seattle Staff September 23, 2018 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! Please reach out to your doctor with any concerns about your medications, as your doctor knows your personal information and can provide the best solutions for you.

  2. Toni October 6, 2018 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    My 7yr old son suffers from ADHD, ODD & anxiety and not sleeping well. He is taking Ritalin LA but his outbursts/tantrums have been progressing to more aggressive over time as well as his sleep being disturbed every night more and more. His dr added clonidine .1mg at night which helped him fall asleep at 1st but he still couldn’t stay sleep which is more of the sleep problem. She then switched him to clonidine ER .1mg in morning and at bedtime. 2wks later increased to 2 at night & 1 in the morning and @1wk later 3 at night & 1 in the morning. It’s been just a few days at this dose so far. He has had far fewer aggressive outbursts in school the last 2wks but he still cane sleep though the night. The ER doesn’t have the same effect with helping him fall asleep either so now it takes a while to fall asleep and he’s still getting up during the night. It is slightly better now at only 1-2 waking up as opposed to 4-5 times. Is it safe to combine the immediate release with the extended release just to get him that boost at night to help him fall asleep?

    • Northpoint Seattle Staff October 16, 2018 at 2:36 am - Reply

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Please reach out to your primary care giver or pharmacy, as they have your medical records, and are able to make recommendations for treatment.

    • Sed September 14, 2019 at 2:45 am - Reply

      Maybe the Ritalin isn’t worth taking?

  3. Shirley Thigpen November 10, 2018 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    How in the heck do I get off this . My blood pressure stays over 200 and I’m addicted to this clonidine.

    • Northpoint Seattle Staff November 14, 2018 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      Feel free to contact us with the information posted here on the page. We look forward to assisting!

  4. Bill November 20, 2018 at 5:51 am - Reply

    Initially I was started on clonidine when my other BP meds either aggravated my renal failure or gave me bad side effects. As time passed I needed more clonidine to control my BP. I’m fine with it. Only side effect is dry mouth. But I was wondering if I will just have to always increase my dose or will this plateau?

    • Northpoint Seattle Staff November 23, 2018 at 8:48 pm - Reply

      That can depend on several factors, Bill. We would recommend contacting your care provider directly to request their perspective and thoughts on your future dosages.

  5. John December 18, 2018 at 2:37 am - Reply

    Doc prescribed 0.1mg for opiod withdrawal. Is this a common dose for that purpose? Took 1st dose today, No relief. Does it take time?

    • Northpoint Seattle Staff December 19, 2018 at 8:21 am - Reply

      Clonidine has a variety of applications, and yes, it can assist with withdrawal symptoms. It could take some time to build up, but we recommend verifying by contacting your care provider, as they are more aware of your personal situation. We hope this helps!

    • Christian McNeil December 22, 2018 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      Hi John….I am in recovery from opioid dependence as well. Clonidine comes in 0.1, 0.2, and 0.3 mg. So what you are getting is the lowest dose. My Dr. started me at 0.2 mg and I can absolutely attest that this helps! And I am coming off 70 mg of methadone from 2 plus years cold turkey. I asked him to up my script to 0.3 mg and he did. You just need a higher dose but again I promise you this medicine helps a lot. Ask your Dr. for a higher dose.

  6. dennis mccarty February 6, 2019 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    I take cionidine .2 mg per dose along with ramipirll and Norvasc. have been taking this for a year. my new doctor wants me off clonidine for the side effects of kidney problems. my only side effect is drowsiness and cottonmouth. I really don’t have any other problems with this drug I get regular blood tests and have learned to manage the drowsiness while working. everytime doctors try to take me off clonidine my blood pressure goes skyhigh. is there another drug that I can discuss with my doctor that will have the same effect on my blood pressure without the side effects. I have no sign of addiction to this drug. my problem is it is the only drug so far that keeps my blood pressure in check. I would love to hear from you on this matter. b/p 180 over 110 without 132 over 78 with clonidine quite a difference. thanks

    • Northpoint Seattle Staff February 16, 2019 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      You would need to reach out to your doctor to get a prescription recommendation. They have your full medical history and current medications, so they can provide an informed response to your concerns. We wish you all the best!

  7. Vi May 6, 2019 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    Might be a pointless thing to worry about (part of the reason i was prescribed this) but i’m on clonidine for anxiety i take .1 mg once a day because taking it twice a day is impossible with how tired it makes me but it makes me a bit uneasy that its also for high blood pressure as that’s not an issue i’ve ever had and im scared it will cause my blood pressure to be too low? i dont know a whole lot about this, i’m just very anxious. i might be trying something else soon anyway because the only difference it’s made in my life is that it makes me extremely tired. sorry

    • Northpoint Seattle Staff May 15, 2019 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      You should discuss the reaction with your medical provider and see if there are any other options for you. If you are extremely tired and it isn’t helping as intended (for your anxiety) then perhaps you should discuss other medication you could try instead. Not all medications work for every person as intended, which is why there are variations of similar medications. We wish you all the best!

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