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Clonidine Addiction Treatment

  1. Article SummaryPrint
  2. What Is Clonidine?
  3. Why Do People Start Abusing Clonidine?
  4. How Is Clonidine Used?
  5. What Are the Potential Side Effects of Clonidine Use?
  6. What Are the Practical Dangers of Clonidine Abuse?
  7. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Clonidine Overdose?
  8. What Are the Options for Clonidine Detox?
  9. What Are the Options for Clonidine Addiction Treatment?

Clonidine is a prescription drug that is most commonly used to treat high blood pressure. Most of the medical reference material available to the average person indicates that clonidine is not addictive and has no recreational value for drug abusers. If you are looking for clonidine addiction treatment options for you or someone you know, you will likely find very little specific information on this topic in the public realm.

The pharmaceutical industry rarely knows everything there is to know about the drugs it develops. Scientists often understand some of the reasons why certain chemicals produce various effects in the brain and the rest of the body, but rarely can they say what any drug will do when introduced into a human body with 100 percent certainty for all users.

Medical professionals and government regulators rely on the clinical trials conducted by drug manufacturers to extrapolate the effects of new drug treatments on the larger population. Once a drug is approved for use, it is not uncommon to learn over the course of years that the drug has effects and uses that were not anticipated by the manufacturers. Manufacturers and regulators are also slow to admit to a typical drug reactions after a drug has been approved until the weight of evidence forces an admission. This is the case with clonidine.While it is true that the vast majority of people who use clonidine as prescribed do not become addicted to the drug, there is increasing evidence that when the drug is abused by certain people, it can be habit-forming.

One of the secondary uses of clonidine is as a detox treatment for heroin and morphine addicts. Use of clonidine in the treatment of opiate and alcohol addiction has put the drug on the radar of recreational drug users and abusers.It has been reported to medical professionals that recreational drug users have experimented with high doses of clonidine and mixed the drug with more potent drugs to determine the interactions.
"...opiate addicts, in particular, have reported abusing clonidine in increasing numbers as a substitute for other opiate maintenance drugs that are harder to obtain, such as methadone."
Further, opiate addicts, in particular, have reported abusing clonidine in increasing numbers as a substitute for other opiate maintenance drugs that are harder to obtain, such as methadone. These uses have resulted in reports of atypical drug effects, including sedation and euphoria.

There have also been reports that drug addicts use clonidine to prolong the effects of more expensive drugs, such as cocaine.The bottom line is this: the medical industry currently contends that clonidine is not addictive and has no "street value" to recreational users. Most of the medical literature indicates that clonidine does not produce any sort of "high" that a drug addict would value. In the real world, however, there seems to be a growing number of people who are abusing clonidine regularly.

Although the medical industry has yet to catch up to the street use of this drug, it seems only a matter of time before the industry acknowledges the need for specific clonidine addiction treatment options to help people stop abusing this drug. Addiction and dependency of any sort is a hard habit for many people to control on their own. Clonidine abuse can be a particularly hard habit to kick when the user is also addicted to other substances.

What Is Clonidine?

Clonidine is a prescription drug that lowers blood pressure. It decreases a person's heart rate and relaxes blood vessels to make it easier for blood to flow through the body. The drug is most often prescribed to people with high blood pressure. A prominent secondary use of the drug is to treat many of the symptoms of alcohol and opiate withdrawal.Use of the drug in opiate detox has not been approved by the FDA, but doctors have been using the drug for this purpose since 1978.

Clonidine is not listed as a controlled substance in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act, so people can obtain the drug as needed with a prescription. It is not generally considered to be addictive, but the drug does cause users to develop a physical dependency. Clonidine use should not be discontinued abruptly because of the possible effects on the user's blood pressure. Instead, doctors will gradually decrease the user's dose under medical supervision. The drug is also marketed under the trade name Catapres.

Why Do People Start Abusing Clonidine?

Clonidine Abuse

lots-of-drugs Another group of drug abusers have tried combining clonidine with other drugs that do produce an altered mental state in a continuing effort to find more potent ways to get high. These abusers have reported that clonidine seems to prolong the effects of other drugs, resulting in the user needing less of the more expensive drug to achieve the same high.

Most of the available literature indicates that there is no value to drug users in abusing clonidine. Regular use does not produce any sort of high, and large doses for most people typically produce only the sort of severe drowsiness that is a result of very low blood pressure.Anecdotal evidence and recent studies seem to indicate, however, that clonidine abuse is much more widespread than the medical and regulatory sectors realize.

People who regularly abuse drugs have reported experimenting with clonidine because that is what they often do with available drugs to see what happens, and a prescription for the drug is relatively easy to obtain. Another group of drug abusers have tried combining clonidine with other drugs that do produce an altered mental state in a continuing effort to find more potent ways to get high. These abusers have reported that clonidine seems to prolong the effects of other drugs, resulting in the user needing less of the more expensive drug to achieve the same high. Still other people, typically opiate addicts, have reported experiencing a euphoric high after taking large amounts of clonidine, contradicting the notion that clonidine cannot get a person high. For this category of abusers, clonidine is used as an easily available option when the addict runs out of money to buy more expensive drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.

How Is Clonidine Used?

Clonidine is prescribed as a tablet that can be taken orally two or three times a day or as a transdermal patch that releases doses of clonidine into a person's system over time. The patch seems to have no value for street abuse, because the user cannot control the dose. Doctors who suspect a patient is abusing clonidine may want to switch the patient to the patch to circumvent the problem.One of the most significant uses of clonidine is to assist with opiate detoxification. The drug helps alleviate certain withdrawal symptoms while blocking the opioid receptors in the brain. Ironically, this is not an FDA-approved use, and it seems as if opiate addicts who were introduced to clonidine in detox are the largest group of people who are reporting illicit use of the drug.

What Are the Potential Side Effects of Clonidine Use?

People who use clonidine as prescribed may experience uncomfortable side effects. Abusers of the drug are at greater risk of experiencing negative effects. When the drug is taken in large doses, it has a high potential of causing lethal changes in blood pressure.Common clonidine side effects:

  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Sexual dysfunction

If a clonidine user experiences any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately:

  • Body rash
  • Hives
  • Body welling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness

What Are the Practical Dangers of Clonidine Abuse?

Using clonidine illicitly is particularly dangerous because of the lack of definitive information about the possible consequences. In the reported cases of abuse, it seems addicts frequently combine clonidine with other drugs, which can lead to a lethal overdose that cannot easily be treated by medical professionals. There is also very little information about the dose that is required to produce certain desired effects, leading to drug experimentation that can result in serious long-term health consequences.

Although clonidine is not a controlled substance, if a prescribing doctor becomes convinced that a person is abusing the drug, he or she will likely refuse to prescribe any sort of pain medication or other addictive drug to the patient going forward. This can have severe consequences if the person is ever in need of those types of drugs.If you or someone you know has developed a clonidine habit that has resulted from experimentation with the drug, you may benefit from professional clonidine addiction treatment that can help you conquer the problem.


Call our national referral helpline at 1-888-287-0471, or fill out a contact form, to speak to a treatment advisor. Our advisors are available 24 hours a day, every day of the week.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Clonidine Overdose?

People who abuse clonidine are at a higher risk of overdose and accidental death, particularly if they are also using other types of drugs. High doses of clonidine can lower blood pressure as much as 20 points. There is little definitive information on the physical effects of high doses of the drug in different categories of people, making it hard to know the exact dose that will prove fatal.Signs of a clonidine overdose:

  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Cold, pale skin
  • Contracted pupils

Seek emergency medical help immediately if you observe any of these symptoms in a person who is using clonidine.

What Are the Options for Clonidine Detox?

Regular clonidine use causes physical dependency. The drug is designed to cause physical changes in the body that it comes to depend on to work properly. If a user is not careful when going off of the drug, the body can react badly and go into withdrawal. Anyone who is abusing the drug is at a higher risk of experiencing withdrawal when clonidine use is stopped. Medical professionals highly recommend users gradually discontinue the drug under supervision.

A person who is using the drug as prescribed can likely taper off of the drug on an outpatient basis. If a clonidine abuser wants to stop using the drug, however, he or she will likely benefit from supervised clonidine detox on an inpatient basis. Discontinuing clonidine can cause a rapid rise in blood pressure, which can be extremely difficult to manage without medical help.

Clonidine detox can usually be accomplished in a medical setting over the course of two to four days. Drug addicts who are abusing other drugs in addition to clonidine, such as heroin or cocaine, should not try to quit any of the drugs cold turkey. Inpatient detox is the only way to safely stop using multiple drugs at once.Call us at 1-888-287-0471 to discuss various clonidine detox options in your area. Our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day. Alternatively, fill out an information form on the website and we will contact you.

What Are the Options for Clonidine Addiction Treatment?

While there are likely few options that are specifically designed for clonidine addiction treatment, many of the treatments that are available for opiate and cocaine addiction would be appropriate for most people. It is important to remember that a clonidine abuser will typically have other addictions that he or she must grapple with. Clonidine abuse may often be only one aspect of a more complicated problem.

If a person is only using clonidine, it may be feasible for him or her to self-direct a clonidine rehab program by using a private therapist and group counseling to address the underlying causes of drug use. Although your local professionals may not have specific experience with clonidine addiction treatment, they will likely have sufficient experience in general drug counseling to help a person recover.The gold standard of addiction treatment for people with multiple addictions is a stay at a residential treatment facility for a period of up to 90 days.

It is easier to concentrate on developing new ways of thinking when the person is removed from the stress of real life. Residential treatment offers individual drug counseling by a licensed psychologist in a structured environment and a slate of complementary activities that are designed to build upon daily individual counseling. Common types of treatments offered at residential drug facilities:

  • Hypnotherapy
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy, and other alternative treatments
  • Integrated psychiatric care
  • Group therapy
  • Health and nutritional counseling

Choosing the right clonidine addiction treatment option can be a daunting process, if you try to do it alone. If you or a loved one needs advice or assistance, call our national referral helpline at 1-888-287-0471 to speak to a treatment advisor, or fill out a contact form on the website. Our help is free and confidential.

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  1. Question: What is a physical addiction?Submitted By: Arlene B.

    • S.F.

      A physical addiction is where the body becomes tolerant to a drug and requires more to function normally. The body stops producing certain chemicals because the drug is creating them. Once the drug is withdrawn, the body will take a while to restart production of these chemicals.

  2. Question: What is a psychological addiction?Submitted By: Gordon B

    • Project Know Answer:

      A psychological addiction is where person feels as though he or she cannot function without the drug, particularly in stressful or social situations.

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      A number of cough medicines contain dextromethorphan, also known as DMX, or codeine, which are addictive substances.

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