Clonidine is classified as an antihypertensive medication. Learn more about clonidine, its uses, and the symptoms and risks of withdrawal.

While clonidine is not as commonly abused as other classes of drugs, there can be a risk of dependence in some individuals. Its use alongside opiates poses a particular risk for abuse and subsequent withdrawal symptoms. Learn more about clonidine, its uses, and the symptoms and risks of withdrawal.

What Is Clonidine?

Clonidine is classified as an antihypertensive medication. It is sometimes sold under brand names like Catapres, Kapvay, Clophelin and Nexiclon. Clonidine is prescribed for a range of conditions, including:

  • Hypertension — otherwise known as high blood pressure; Clonidine’s primary use is as a treatment for hypertensive patients.
  • ADHD – clonidine is FDA-approved for use in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in both children and adults.
  • Tourette’s Syndrome – sometimes used to treat the tic symptoms of this neurological disorder.
  • Anxiety – the medication is sometimes prescribed for its anti-anxiety and mild sedative effects.
  • Alcohol and narcotic withdrawal – patients experiencing withdrawal may see symptoms minimized with clonidine. In particular, those detoxing from opiates may benefit from clonidine.
  • Quitting smoking – similarly, clonidine is sometimes prescribed to help address the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
  • Menstrual cramps – clonidine has demonstrated some effectiveness in treating severe menstrual cramps.

Is Clonidine Addictive?

While clonidine is not as addictive as other classes of drugs, users may become dependent on it. Some reports suggest that using clonidine may increase the effect and duration of certain drugs, particularly opiates. As such, those using clonidine with alcohol or drugs may experience more significant dependence.

As with other medications, using clonidine in a manner or amount outside of what has prescribed by a doctor is a signal of substance abuse.

Clonidine Side-Effects

Consumption of clonidine can have side-effects including the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Fever or warm flashes
  • Cold symptoms such as runny nose, cough, sore throat and sneezing
  • Moodiness
  • Constipation, diarrhea or other digestive issues
  • Insomnia or sleep issues
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Sexual dysfunction

These side effects can vary if clonidine is taken along with other controlled substances.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Those experiencing withdrawal from clonidine may experience some adverse effects. LIkelihood and severity of symptoms may depend on recency, length and amount of medication used. 

As clonidine is most commonly prescribed for hypertension, a common withdrawal symptom is the understandably a rapid rise in blood pressure. Other reported symptoms include:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Nervousness or agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea or vomiting

Other, rare side effects of withdrawal include: 

  • Hypertensive encephalopathy
  • Cerebrovascular accidents
  • Death

Additional symptoms of withdrawal from clonidine may occur if it is being taken in conjunction with prescription medications, alcohol or other narcotics. For example, if clonidine is being consumed with opiates to amplify their effect, withdrawal symptoms may be compounded with those of opiate withdrawal.

As with any drug, be sure to follow the direction of a medical professional when weaning off a prescription medication.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last

Withdrawal timeframes can vary significantly depending on the dosage amount and length of use. Additionally, it is often recommended that users of clonidine gradually taper off use rather than abruptly stop. This is due in large part to the risk of a high blood pressure spike after ending the medication’s use. As with any changes to prescription medication, it is important to follow expert medical direction before ceasing use of clonidine. 

Next Steps

If you are using clonidine alone or with other substances and have questions or need help, please contact us. Our caring team of medical professionals can help get you the information and assistance you need.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.