Clonidine Treatment: Signs, Symptoms, Withdrawal Risks & Treatment

Clonidine is a sedative and antihypertensive drug commonly prescribed to treat health conditions including anxiety, ADHD, and opioid addiction. When used in addiction treatment, clonidine helps reduce and eliminate many withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting alcohol and opioids.

Understanding Clonidine Treatment

Clonidine works by blocking the chemicals in your brain responsible for triggering sympathetic nervous system activity such as restlessness and sweating. The drug also decreases heart rate and relaxes your blood vessels, which improves blood flow and lowers anxiety. Clonidine is often used as part of addiction treatment to ease alcohol and opioid withdrawal symptoms — allowing patients to experience a more comfortable and pleasant recovery.

Clonidine is available in tablet and patch form. Each patient receives a different clonidine dosage based on factors including the severity of withdrawal symptoms, body weight, and medical history. Those who use clonidine in path form often use the medication for only seven days, which may be extended upon doctor’s approval based on recovery progress.

Clonidine is usually only prescribed during the detoxification stage of alcohol and opioid addiction treatment to relieve withdrawal symptoms. Following detox, your physician will taper you off clonidine to prevent withdrawal symptoms that may occur when quitting clonidine abruptly. Tapering is when your doctor gradually reduces your dosage until you’re no longer using or physically dependent on the medication.

Clonidine is not to be viewed as a cure for opioid or alcohol addiction, but helps recovering addicts overcome physical dependence on these substances. Following clonidine therapy, your treatment plan may include counseling and aftercare aimed at helping you overcome psychological causes of addiction.

Signs That Clonidine Treatment May Help

Since clonidine primarily treats alcohol and opioid withdrawal symptoms, those who struggle with alcohol and opioid abuse can greatly benefit from clonidine therapy. To find out whether clonidine can help you or your loved one, looks for signs that indicate alcohol or opioid abuse.

Common signs of alcohol abuse:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Shaking
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Euphoria
  • Anxiety
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Blackouts or memory loss
  • Cravings for alcohol

Common signs of opioid abuse:

  • Sedation
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Flushed skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constricted pupils
  • Slowed breathing
  • Constipation
  • Euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cravings for opioids

Dangers & Risk Factors Associated with Clonidine Treatment

Just like with any other prescription medication, clonidine may cause side effects. In many cases, the pros of using clonidine far outweigh the cons when it comes to addiction treatment. Clonidine lowers the risk for relapse following detox, since patients who use clonidine generally experience a safer, more comfortable withdrawal.

Common side effects of using clonidine:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Fever
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sexual dysfunction

Rare side effects of using clonidine:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Breathing problems
  • Changes in mood
  • Cold extremities
  • Swelling
  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Allergic reaction

Notify your doctor immediately if you experience any rare side effects when using clonidine. Your doctor may reduce your dosage, or discuss alternate addiction therapies for alcohol and opioid withdrawal.

Clonidine may cause adverse health effects if you use this medication with certain other prescription medications. Advise your doctor of any medications you’re currently using before starting clonidine therapy. Examples of medications that interfere negatively with clonidine include anxiety medications, sleep aids, and antidepressants.

A top major risk factor associated with clonidine therapy is physical dependence and addiction. Clonidine use carries a mild risk for addiction when not closely monitored by medical professionals, and can drive the need for additional treatment. Clonidine should always be used as prescribed to lower the risk for physical addiction.

Who Benefits From Clonidine Treatment?

Clonidine therapy is ideal for any recovering addict who wants to experience a more comfortable, pain-free withdrawal from alcohol and opioids. Clonidine is commonly used as part of detoxification therapy for individuals overcoming physical dependence on alcohol and opioids.

You may benefit from clonidine therapy if you:

  • Suffer from alcohol or opioid abuse
  • Have never completed an alcohol or opioid detox program
  • Have relapsed after going through alcohol or opioid detox
  • Have been abusing substances for an extended period of time
  • Are physically dependent on alcohol or opioids

If you or your loved one might benefit from clonidine therapy based on the factors above, your next step is to seek help in the form of addiction treatment. Addiction treatment can help you overcome physical dependency on alcohol and substances so you can experience a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.

Treating Addiction Using Clonidine

Addiction to alcohol and opioids can be physical, psychological, or both. Clonidine is used to treat the physical aspects of addiction by reducing and eliminating certain withdrawal symptoms that occur when abruptly quitting these substances. This helps you overcome physical dependency on these substances so you longer require them to feel “normally,” or like yourself.

Clonidine is often only prescribed for the duration of detox to assist you with getting comfortably through withdrawal. When detox is complete, your doctor will taper you off clonidine to lower the risk for clonidine withdrawal symptoms. Next, you’ll undergo counseling to be treated for underlying psychological causes of addiction.

Do I Need Clonidine Addiction Treatment?

When you’re suffering from alcohol or opioid addiction, it can be difficult to know whether you truly have a problem until it’s too late. Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you might need clonidine addiction treatment:

  • Do I neglect important life responsibilities in favor of opioid or alcohol use?
  • Do I use opioids or alcohol to escape negative feelings and emotions?
  • Am I unable to control my opioid or alcohol use?
  • Am I spending too much time using, obtaining, or recovering from alcohol and opioids?
  • Have I replaced my favorite hobbies and interests with alcohol or opioid use?
  • Do I make excuses to drink or use opioids?
  • Have I been struggling with addiction for an extended period of time?
  • Have I tried to quit drinking or using opioids in the past without success?
  • Does addiction run in my family?
  • Do I have a personal history of drug or alcohol abuse?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, clonidine therapy may help you overcome alcohol or opioid addiction.

Clonidine Addiction Treatment Options

Clonidine is used in detoxification programs at most inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol rehab centers. Clonidine is usually prescribed at the beginning of your detox program. After you complete detox, you’ll be tapered off clonidine to reduce the risk for tolerance and physical dependence.

Inpatient rehab centers offer you a safe, quiet recovery environment away from outside influences and distractions. If you’ve been abusing alcohol or opioids for an extended period of time, inpatient rehab helps you establish a new daily routine packed with activities that leave no room for substance abuse. Inpatient rehabs also offer you 24/7 access to medical staff in the event you need support, guidance, or help overcoming relapse during recovery.

Outpatient rehab centers allow you to live at home for the duration of treatment so you can also balance work, school, and family lives. Since clonidine can be mildly addictive, outpatient rehab programs are generally recommended for those who are highly motivated to stay on course with addiction treatment and use the drug as prescribed. Outpatient rehab is also ideal for those who have positive, supportive family members and a safe home environment free of drugs and alcohol.


Detoxification is the first stage of addiction treatment at most alcohol and opioid rehab centers. Detox helps you safely withdraw from these substances so you can overcome physical dependency and stop experiencing cravings. Detox with clonidine therapy is known as medical detox, or medically assisted detox.

Medical detox involves the use of medications that treat certain alcohol and opioid withdrawal symptoms. For instance, sleep aids may be prescribed to treat insomnia, while anticonvulsants can lower the risk for seizures. With medical detox, clonidine may be used alone or combined with other medications to make withdrawal more comfortable.

Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Stomach pain
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Common opioid withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurred vision
  • Tearing eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Goosebumps
  • Excessive sweating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Hypertension
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Frequent yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety

Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe based on factors including the length of time you’ve been struggling with addiction, and the amount of substances you abuse daily. The effects of clonidine can reduce or eliminate many of the above withdrawal symptoms for both alcohol and opioids.


Addiction treatment centers offer all the therapies you or your loved one needs to successfully overcome addiction as a whole both physically and mentally. After undergoing detox with clonidine therapy, you or your loved one can benefit from counseling sessions that address underlying root causes of addiction. Aftercare programs are also available at most rehab centers to help you stay sober long-term after you complete addiction treatment.

Counseling helps you identify behaviors and triggers that led to your addiction in the first place. For instance, if you turned to opioids or alcohol to cope with feelings of depression and anxiety, counseling teaches you how to manage these mental health conditions without relying on substances. Counseling helps you overcome psychological causes of addiction so you can successfully navigate the world as a sober individual after leaving rehab.

Aftercare programs consist of ongoing education, support groups, and counseling sessions designed to help you stay on track with sobriety for life. Twelve-step support groups like Narcotics Anonymous allow you to bond with other opioid addicts who can give you tips and tricks for staying sober. Ongoing counseling sessions conducted with family members can help you and your loved ones overcome domestic problems that may be driving your addiction.

When combined with counseling and aftercare, clonidine therapy can help you or your loved one combat addiction for good and achieve a healthier, happier, more fulfilling lifestyle.