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Clonidine is a medication that is commonly used to treat hypertension but which can also be prescribed on a short term basis to help with symptoms of withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. The medication has been proven to treat a wide array of symptoms including anxiety, depression, increased blood pressure and pain. When taken as part of an addiction treatment regimen, Clonidine has the potential to treat neuropathic pain, night sweats and similar symptoms of drug or alcohol withdrawal.

How Clonidine Works


Clonidine reduces cardiac output.

Clonidine works by reducing blood pressure and thus stimulating the brain receptors that reduce cardiac output. The medication causes reduced calcium levels in the brainstem which results in the blocking of norepinephrine. The reduction of norepinephrine is the primary response that aids in the reduction of substance withdrawal symptoms for those who are in the early stages of drug or alcohol detox.

This medication is proven effective at reducing the painful side effects of alcohol withdrawal as well as narcotic withdrawal. Affecting the sympathetic nervous system, Clonidine can reduce high blood pressure, slow a rapid heartbeat and dramatically reduce sweating that is caused by a spike in body temperature. This medication is used to treat these dangerous symptoms as well as certain other potentially dangerous or uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal such as diarrhea, restlessness and irritability.

Clonidine in Alcohol Withdrawal

Individuals detoxing from alcohol are likely to experience painful side effects during the early days of withdrawal. Clonidine is often combined with tranquilizing medications to help alcoholics to relax during the early stages of the withdrawal and detoxification process. Some addiction treatment professionals provide clonidine in conjunction with other medications to those in recovery from alcoholism to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while providing a backdrop upon which further treatment and counseling can take place.

Side Effects of Clonidine

Unfortunately, like any medication, Clonidine use, even in addiction treatment, can result in various side effects. Individuals who take this medication can potentially feel dizzy or lightheaded which may cause them to slip, fall or otherwise have an accident. These symptoms are the result of blood pressure being very low when the medication is taken. Additionally, Clonidine cannot be taken long term as the reduced blood pressure that occurs when taking the drug can be potentially dangerous when occurring long-term.

Talk with your treatment provider about other options in treatment if you have already been taking Clonidine for a significant period of time or if you are worried about the side effects that may occur. If you already suffer from low blood pressure, Clonidine is not the ideal medication for you. Be open and honest with your treatment provider about the various treatment options that are available in addition to Clonidine to help you overcome withdrawal and prepare for long-term treatment and recovery.

For help finding a rehab center in your area, call our helpline. We will provide you with a free referral to treatment that will show you how to overcome withdrawal and take back control of your life.

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