How to Treat Addiction & Abuse with Clonidine

Although clonidine is primarily used to treat health conditions such as anxiety disorder, high blood pressure, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is also a suitable medication for use in the treatment of substance withdrawal. Substance addictions to opioids, alcohol and nicotine are often treated with the inclusion of clonidine.

While it does not reduce cravings, it can help to relieve some of the symptoms associated with withdrawal such as anxiety, agitation, muscle cramps, nausea, and vomiting. It works by slowing down heart rate, which helps to induce a feeling of calmness and relaxation. This, in turn, helps to provide relief for many of the symptoms associated with substance disorder withdrawal.

What Addictions is Clonidine Used to Treat?

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Opioid addiction
  • Heroin addiction
  • Nicotine addiction

Medications for Abuse and Addiction

Overcoming an addiction to any mood-altering substance typically requires completion of a detox and rehabilitation programme. However, as part of these programmes, medication may be used to either ease the symptoms of withdrawal or to prevent a relapse.

Medication may be helpful in certain scenarios when used as replacement drugs for the substance that one is withdrawing from. The use of such medication helps with the withdrawal process because it lessens the severity of the symptoms that may occur. In some instances, it can even prevent the symptoms from occurring at all.

There are also some medications that can be used to prevent a return to substance use. Some of these medications induce unpleasant symptoms when a certain substance, such as alcohol or opioids, are used.

If a co-occurring disorder is present, for example, anxiety or depression, it may be appropriate to administer medication to treat the symptoms of these conditions to lessen the severity of the withdrawal process.

How to Choose the Right Medication

Choosing the right medication during the detox and rehab process is a decision that will rest squarely on the shoulders of your doctor or another medical professional. He or she will conduct a full assessment and examination before your detox begins to determine whether medication is appropriate for your circumstances and if so, which medication is expected to have the best results.

It will be necessary for you to tell your doctor about any medication that you are currently taking, including over-the-counter medication and herbal supplements. You should also inform your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions.

What is Clonidine?

Clonidine is an anti-hypertensive medication that was first introduced to treat high blood pressure. However, as described above, it is now also used to treat certain anxiety disorders such as ADHD and to help with withdrawal from some types of substances. It is also commonly used to treat tic disorders such as Tourette syndrome.

As it is a mild sedative, it is sometimes used to help people relax before a surgical procedure. Moreover, specific studies have determined that it is effective as a pain medication for use post-op as well as for those suffering heart attacks.

Brand Names for Clonidine

Kapvay

Nexiclon

Catapres

Clophelin

History of Clonidine

In the early 1960s, Boehringer Ingelheim was trying to create a compound that could be used as a decongestant nasal drop. What was created did have a decongestant effect but the other side effects that were experienced when taking the medication were much more remarkable.

A secretary who was administered the drug at the time fell asleep for twenty-four hours, saw a drop in her blood pressure, and a slowing of her heart rate. It was obvious at this point that the compound was seen to be much more useful as a drug to lower blood pressure so in 1966 it was introduced as an anti-hypertensive drug. It was marketed under the brand name Catapres.

It has since been approved for use in a number of other conditions, including ADHD.

Is Clonidine Addictive?

Since clonidine is a mild sedative, there is the chance that it could be abused and taken in high doses. Nevertheless, it is not officially classed as an addictive drug.

What is the Mechanism of Action

Clonidine stimulates the brain’s Alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, one of the effects being it helps to lower blood pressure by allowing the blood to flow more freely through the body. A consequence of clonidine lowering blood pressure is a subsequent slowdown in heart rate, which then induces a sense of calm and relaxation. It is this that helps to suppress withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, and muscle aches, which are all common in substance withdrawal.

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How Long Does It Take for Clonidine to Work?

The effects of clonidine may be noticed within an hour, and these effects can last for between 12 and 16 hours for oral doses. However, the length of time that the medication takes to work can be different for every person.

What Are the Side Effects of Clonidine?

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of libido
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Itchy skin
  • Restlessness

Facts/Statistics on Clonidine

Fact #1

Clonidine is available as an oral tablet or a skin patch.

Fact #2

Clonidine is available in different strengths – from 25 micrograms up to 200 micrograms. The higher the micrograms, the more clonidine there is and therefore the stronger the medication is.

Fact #3

Dosage will depend on the condition being treated and the person's biological make-up and medical history.

Studies Done on Clonidine
A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 1981, aimed to determine the effectiveness of clonidine in opiate withdrawal. It was found that ‘clonidine hydrochloride, an alpha-2-nor-adrenergic agonist, significantly attenuates the opiate withdrawal syndrome’.

In 2015, another study, this time published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research was conducted to compare the effectiveness of clonidine hydrochloride with buprenorphine-naloxone in treating opioid withdrawal. The results showed that ‘administration of buprenorphine-naloxone was more efficient in reducing the signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal and in controlling the craving for the abused substance during the first few days of detoxification’.

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