What is Clonidine?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Clonidine or Catapres® is a prescription medication that treats a variety of conditions. It may most often be employed to lower blood pressure, but it’s also prescribed to treat withdrawal from alcohol or nicotine, and it has a number of off-label indications. This kind of medicine is called an adrenergic agonist, and it works by binding to certain receptors for adrenaline (norepinephrine), causing them to produce more of this neurotransmitter. This is thought to have a positive response on high blood pressure and the other conditions for which the medicine might be considered.

Though clonidine is occasionally administered in a patch form, the most common method of drug delivery is oral. There are different doses of the medication, and dose amount and frequency depends principally on the condition being treated and age of the person receiving the drug. Sometimes children use this medicine in conjunction with other attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs to help address poor sleep or tics that can be caused by other stimulants. Naturally, doses in a pediatric population tend to be lower than doses used for adults.


The many types of conditions that clonidine may treat are truly varied. On-label uses, include treatment for hypertension, and smoking or alcohol cessation. In addition to possibly being used in the treatment of ADHD, the drug has also been prescribed for migraine headaches, hot flashes and night sweats, or sleep disorders. Since clonidine provides some sedation, it’s been used as a tranquilizer, a sleep medication, or as part of pre-surgical anesthesia.

Some people shouldn’t take this medication. Those who have had heart attacks, heart disease or arrhythmias may need special doses or a different drug. Kidney disease may also contraindicate its use. Pregnant and nursing women should carefully consult with doctors about whether clonidine is appropriate; as it’s not known how great a risk this may pose to a fetus or a nursing baby. Certain medications like digitalis, amitriptyline, calcium channel and beta-blockers, or other anti-hypertensive drugs may conflict with clonidine, too.

Many people who take clonidine have expected mild side effects that include dizziness, drowsiness, sedation, stomach problems, lowered libido, and dry mouth and/or eyes. Some people also find they’ll have to urinate more during nighttime hours or they may have itching skin or minor rashes. Paradoxically, this medication may increase insomnia instead of alleviating it.

Serious side effects can occur with clonidine. Any evidence of these occurring is an indication to quickly obtain medical care. Symptoms include anaphylactic allergic reaction (hives, swelling of mouth, lips, or tongue, and difficulty breathing), pounding heart rate, hallucinations, very pale skin, feeling very faint, shortness of breath, greatly decreased heart rate, or little to no urinary output. Many people tolerate this medication well and won’t experience these dangerous side effects.


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Post 4

@burcinc-- That can definitely be an issue for some people. But I think that a doctor will check a patient's blood pressure before prescribing this medication for them, whether it's for an off-label use or not. I doubt that a doctor will prescribe it to someone who already has low blood pressure.

I take clonidine for ADHD and I have not had any issues with my blood pressure. I'm hyperactive, so clonidine helps me calm down and concentrate. I think the same thing applies when clonidine is used for anxiety. People with anxiety often have a high heart rate, so I don't think it will bother them either.

Post 3

@turquoise-- Doesn't clonidine lower your blood pressure?

I'm using clonidine off-label as well, for opiate withdrawal. Sometimes I'm fine but sometimes it makes me dizzy. It's definitely lowering my blood pressure. I think this is a problem for people who already have low blood pressure normally.

Post 2

I'm on this medication for menopause. It helps with hot flashes and sleep problems, both of which have been major issues for me since going into menopause. I was a bit wary about using clonidine at first, since this is an off-label use of the drug. But my doctor said that he has other patients on it and they haven't encountered any problems.

I'm not sure how long I will be on the drug for, but it's definitely making life easier for me right now.

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