Understanding Clonidine

Clonidine belongs to a class of medicines known as antihypertensives. It is frequently prescribed to help with symptoms of opioid withdrawal, often experienced with opioid use disorder (OUD).

Clonidine works by blocking chemicals in the brain that trigger sympathetic nervous system activity. This reduces uncomfortable symptoms of opioid detoxification, such as sweating, hot flashes, watery eyes, and restlessness. Additionally, clonidine has been known to help lower anxiety which can be an uncomfortable symptom to experience during the detox process.

Clonidine can help reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal, but it is not a cure for opioid addiction by itself.

Medication offers the highest chance of recovery when combined with inpatient or outpatient treatment, support groups, and professional counseling. Most licensed treatment facilities will offer a recovery plan that includes multiple facets of treatment.

Uses Of Clonidine

Compared to other treatments for opioid withdrawal, several advantages of clonidine include:

  • It is not a scheduled medication.
  • Clonidine can be used to manage OUD without opioids in some cases, allowing for the use of other medically assisted treatments (MAT) faster.
  • Depending on the provider’s assessment, it can be continued after detoxing to assist with anxiety and other health concerns.

Clonidine’s use in detox scales far beyond just OUD but is also frequently used for alcohol use disorder to assist with managing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that include anxiety & seizures.

In the case of alcohol dependence, clonidine is typically combined with benzodiazepine tranquilizers such as Librium, Valium, or Xanax.

The science is clear: Medication-assisted treatment works. There is no easy way.

- Paul Coleman, president and CEO at Maryhaven

Clonidine Statistics



Medications are used in nearly 80% of detoxifications in treatment facilities.



The detoxification stage lasts approximately 7 days while taking clonidine.



There are four treatment steps to sobriety: intake, detoxification, rehabilitation, and ongoing recovery.

How Does Clonidine Help Addiction Treatment?

The thought of intense cravings and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can be intimidating for people just starting their recovery journey. Unfortunately, some individuals who start treatment quickly fall back into old behaviors at the first signs of withdrawal symptoms.

When taking clonidine, however, there is a greater ability to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. In addition, the medication helps make the process easier, ultimately increasing the chances of continuing past the detoxification stage. After successfully eliminating substances from the body, one can move on to building a strong recovery plan.

Medication helps you break free from the ‘hijacking of the brain’ caused by opioids…There’s no wrong door to recovery. This is a highly deadly disease. We need to offer everything that works and not try to dictate the precise recipe for every individual.

- Dr. Alexander Walley, director of Addiction Medicine at Boston Medical Center

How Is Clonidine Administered?

Clonidine is offered in two forms: a tablet and a patch. A medical provider should be able to determine which will be the most appropriate for each treatment plan.

Clonidine in tablet form is usually given every few hours on the first day of taking the medication. Over the next several days, doses may be adjusted depending on the withdrawal symptoms experienced.  Within five to seven days, withdrawal symptoms from your OUD or AUD will start to subside. Once this happens safely, the medication will no longer be needed unless otherwise indicated.

A treatment program using a clonidine patch will require it to be placed on the skin, generally an area with little hair, such as the upper outer arm or upper chest. After it’s applied to the body, the patch will deliver a constant amount of medication. To accommodate different body sizes, each patch is offered with varying strengths of clonidine. Typically, it takes approximately two days for the patch to reach a steady state, so the first couple of days of detoxification may entail using the patch and taking a tablet. Medication will be administered over a period of seven days through the patch; however, if withdrawal symptoms continue, the medical provider may recommend staying on the patch longer.

It will take roughly seven days to complete the entire detoxification process while on clonidine.

Both the tablet and patch versions of clonidine require check-ins under medical supervision to ensure frequent monitoring of blood pressure and pulse. Because of this, it’s most effective when used in an inpatient setting, so side effects can be observed under close medical supervision.

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Side Effects Of Clonidine

Although clonidine helps many people through the detoxification process, it can sometimes lead to unwanted effects. It’s important to notify the medical provider if symptoms last longer than they should or become severe.

Some of the side effects you may experience from taking clonidine include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Constipation

Rarer side effects of clonidine include:

  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Rashes
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Mood changes
  • Breathing problems

Some individuals have also become either addicted or dependent on clonidine. It’s often looked at as an appealing drug due to its low cost and availability. It’s important to use clonidine as part of a comprehensive treatment program with medical supervision. This helps ensure one does not fall back into old patterns or develop a new addiction.

Clonidine Interactions

Some drugs may cause adverse effects when used with clonidine. Clonidine can also be contraindicated with other medications that may already be currently utilized.

Before clonidine is administered, talk with your doctor about any medications you are currently prescribed. Some of the medications known to interact with clonidine include:

Many drugs can cause adverse effects when taken together. Always check with your healthcare provider about possible interactions between medications.

Where Is Clonidine Available?

A valid prescription is required to obtain clonidine. It is important to speak with a healthcare provider about proper dosing information, potentially harmful side effects, and frequency before taking clonidine.

Clonidine is a proven medication for multiple health conditions that have been around for more than 40 years. Along with treating a variety of withdrawal symptoms, it is also commonly used for:

If you or someone you care about is struggling with an opioid, alcohol, or other substance use disorder, clonidine can help minimize many of the withdrawal symptoms to make recovery a very real possibility.

Learn More About Clonidine Addiction Treatment

If you are interested in investigating the possible benefits of clonidine in treating your substance use disorder, or that of a loved one, the time to start is now. Contact a treatment provider today to talk about available rehab options.