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Clonidine is a prescription medication used to treat several conditions. When taken for medical purposes under the direction of a doctor, it is generally safe to use. Clonidine abuse is quite rare, but it is a drug that has the potential to be abused. When people do abuse clonidine, they usually have other substance abuse issues too and may abuse clonidine alongside other prescription or illicit drugs.

This page looks at the medical uses of clonidine and how it can be helpful for addicts in recovery. It also focuses on the likelihood of clonidine abuse and the side effects users may experience.

Clonidine Explained

Clonidine has many useful purposes. It is known mainly for its cardiovascular effects and is often prescribed as a blood pressure medication. You may also know it by its brand name “Catapres,” which many people take for hypertension. It comes as both standard- and extended-release in tablet or capsule form. Although the primary use of clonidine is as a blood pressure medication, it’s also used to help those in alcohol or opioid recovery. This is because it can assist with relieving withdrawal symptoms1 and increase the chance of a person abstaining from the use of those substances.

Clonidine is also a suitable medication to treat ADHD. It is taken alongside other medications for ADHD such as Ritalin and Adderall. Other uses include relieving menopausal symptoms and also helping to reduce menstrual cramps. Some doctors may also prescribe clonidine to individuals who want to quit smoking. This is because it helps with nicotine withdrawal2 symptoms.

Some cancer treatments rely on clonidine as an epidural injection, because of its pain management properties3 Clonidine can also be a useful drug for those with Tourette syndrome4 and is administered to help relieve tics.

Clonidine as a Detox Aid

For those in recovery, clonidine can act as a detox aid5 Many addicts can benefit from its use through detox as it can help make withdrawal more manageable. It will not reduce cravings for drugs, but it can help to ease some symptoms6 relating to drug withdrawal. These include helping users relax by reducing the agitation and anxiousness that often come with withdrawal. It also can help to relieve aching muscles and cramps, as well as a runny nose or excessive sweating.

Clonidine can be beneficial for addiction detox as there is no “high” association. Users taking clonidine will not experience any type of high; it simply helps reduce the effects on the nervous system that occur throughout the detox process.

Learn more about detoxing from drugs and treatment. Or find out about addiction by clicking here.

Clonidine and Its Potential for Abuse

Although clonidine can be abused, it isn’t considered a drug with a high potential for abuse. There is some evidence7 that suggests some users may abuse clonidine when taking other substances. However, the actual potential for abuse is relatively low. For those with a substance abuse issue relating to clonidine, evidence 8 that this is often a result of using clonidine for legitimate reasons initially. For example, an addict with a substance abuse disorder may use clonidine to help during detox, but relapse and continue to use it alongside other substances. This is because it can enhance the effects of certain drug combinations9

It’s important to remember that although clonidine abuse isn’t common, it can be a problematic substance for some. This is especially true for those with addictive tendencies that are more vulnerable to developing substance abuse disorders. Therefore, it’s a good idea to understand the signs that may relate to clonidine dependency. Some of these are:

  • Having to increase clonidine dosage to experience the effects you felt before at a lower dose.
  • A compulsion to consume clonidine regularly.
  • Making sure you always have a good supply.
  • Withdrawal symptoms that may include dizziness, illness, difficulty sleeping, restlessness or anxiety, headaches, and/or vomiting.

Side Effects of Clonidine

As with all medications, clonidine has a range of side effects10 that users may feel. These side effects can happen at any dose, even when the user takes the medication as directed by a medical professional. The most common side effects include:

  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Stomach issues, such as constipation, feeling sick, or vomiting.
  • Weakness.
  • Feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge.
  • Headaches and tiredness.
  • Dryness in the mouth.
  • Cold and flu-like symptoms.

There are also several side effects that individuals may experience, but these are not as common. These can include:

  • Breathing difficulties.
  • The trouble with swallowing.
  • A hoarse or strained voice.
  • Rashes on the body or hives.
  • Facial swelling or swelling in areas such as the tongue, throat, eyes, or lips. Some users may see swelling in their lower legs, hands, feet, or ankles.

The above signs often relate to allergic reactions. Therefore, if a user experiences any of these side effects, they should stop using clonidine immediately and go to the hospital for medical assistance.

Additional Side Effects of Clonidine

Some people taking clonidine may experience other side effects, such as:

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest.
  • Skin problems such as blistering or flaking.
  • Sudden confusion and an inability to remember certain information.
  • A decrease in the amount of urine produced.
  • Swelling or dilation in the veins in the neck.
  • Drowsiness.
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • Irritability.
  • Depression.

Other related side effects include difficulty urinating, hallucinations, circulation issues in the fingers and toes, weight gain, wheezing, night terrors, or strange vivid dreams.

Drug Interactions

As with most drugs, clonidine can interact with other drugs and cause negative effects. It is important to talk to your physician about any medication you are currently taking before taking clonidine. They will offer proper medical guidance and ensure that you take clonidine safely. Some known drugs clonidine interacts with are:

  • Diphenhydramine (aka Benadryl).
  • Xanex.
  • Abilify.
  • Duloxetine (aka Cymbalta).
  • Quetiapine (aka Seroquel).
  • Pregabalin (aka Lyrica).

Clonidine Overdose Signs

Overdosing on clonidine can be very dangerous11 If you notice any symptoms of overdose in someone taking clonidine, seek emergency help right away. Signs of overdose can include:

  • Extreme weakness or tiredness.
  • Tiny pupils.
  • Shivering or feeling very cold.
  • Extreme dizziness or feeling faint.

Clonidine in Drug Addiction Treatment

Clonidine can play a significant role in the treatment of addiction. To understand where clonidine fits into a drug addiction treatment plan, it’s first important to understand addiction and the type of treatment it requires.

Drug addiction is a chronic disease that can have a substantial impact on the life of the addict and others around them. Most addicts never intended to become dependent on substances, but addiction can be incredibly difficult to break free from. A person who has a substance use disorder usually experiences both physical and psychological symptoms relating to their substance use.

Drug addiction normally relates to brain chemical changes that are felt after consuming a substance. Drugs can trick the brain into associating pleasure and reward with a particular substance. This leads to the individual experiencing cravings and an intense desire to consume the substance again. This cycle often continues and progresses to addiction over time. This is because the individual will usually build up a tolerance to a drug and need to take more of it to feel the same effects, leading to dependence.

Drug Withdrawal

As an addict becomes dependent on a drug, they start to experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. This can happen in a brief space of time. Some users may feel withdrawal symptoms within just a few hours of their last “hit.” It’s these withdrawal symptoms that drive the addict to keep using. Some addicts may even need to continue using a substance just to feel “normal.” Addiction truly takes hold of an individual and escaping it feels almost impossible. Fortunately, it isn’t, and recovery is possible.

Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms relating to drug abuse can be incredibly intense. Although the symptoms an addict will experience depend on the substance they are addicted to, common withdrawal symptoms12 may be:

  • Difficulty sleeping – An addict who is withdrawing from a drug may find it difficult to sleep or stay asleep because of cravings or changes in brain chemistry relating to their use.
  • Nausea – Someone craving drugs and experiencing withdrawal may feel nauseous or vomit.
  • Fever – Withdrawal can lead to changes in body temperature. An addict may get a fever and find it difficult to stop shivering or trembling because of this.
  • Sweating – Excessive sweating can be seen in some addicts that are experiencing withdrawal from drugs.
  • Anxiety – It’s common for an addict withdrawing from drugs to feel the psychological and physical effects of anxiety.

Treatment and the Role of Clonidine

Treatment for drug addiction is usually very complex. This is because addiction doesn’t relate solely to dependence on a drug. Addiction is very much based on psychological factors, habits, and behaviors. Therefore, most people who enter drug addiction recovery require a very comprehensive treatment program. This often involves detox, therapy, and rehabilitation. Detoxing from a drug means abstaining from it entirely and allowing your body to adjust to functioning without it.

Detox is the first stage of the recovery process and this is likely where addicts will benefit from clonidine the most. Detoxing from a drug often comes with many withdrawal symptoms and is physically the most difficult step. Detoxing usually takes around 7-10 days, which means an addict can experience intense withdrawal symptoms for a prolonged period. Clonidine can help to reduce these symptoms13 and ensure that the individual is as comfortable as they can be.

Withdrawal symptoms can lead to an addict relapsing to relieve these. It’s easy to understand why this happens, as a single dose of the drug they’re addicted to can relieve the symptoms they are experiencing. Clonidine may help reduce the risk of relapsing by making withdrawal symptoms more manageable. However, it’s important to recognize that clonidine alone won’t get an addict through a detox — it also requires a lot of willpower and determination.

An addict may find clonidine useful throughout other stages of their recovery, but it is most frequently administered for detoxing. Following detox, an addict in recovery will move on to individual or group therapy. They will continue their journey by working on the psychological issues that arise with an addiction.

Getting Help for Drug Addiction

If you have a drug addiction, getting help can allow you to get your life back on track. The grips of addiction can cause problems in all areas of your life. Entering recovery can help you regain control and live a happy and healthier life. It takes incredible courage to enter recovery, but there are many addicts just like you who have taken control over their addiction with treatment.

Call us today at (855) 491-7694 to discuss treatment options and let us help. We know that calling isn’t for everyone, so you can email us if you’d prefer.

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