Clonidine For Anxiety: Effectiveness, Benefits and Side Effects

Anxiety is a normal stress response that may serve us in particular instances by alerting us to impending dangers and allowing us to strategize and pay more attention.

Anxiety is a part of life that is unavoidable. However, some people suffer from long periods of anxiety, which can be dangerous to their health. Anxiety can evolve into a disorder or high-functioning anxiety if it is recurring in extreme cases. (1)

When anxiety disrupts our lives and prevents us from living in peace and enjoying our everyday lives, professional support, treatment approaches, and coping skills for anxiety must be considered.

Medications are one of the most effective therapy choices for anxiety, and they play an important part in the treatment of anxiety. Drugs are frequently coupled with psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to achieve the intended outcomes. (2)

Beta-blockers, Zoloft, and Xanax are some of the most often prescribed anxiety medications. Clonidine for anxiety is another effective addition to the list. It is used to treat various ailments, the most common of which being nervous disorders.

Let us discover more about clonidine, including how it works, how effective it is, potential drug interactions, dosages, and other relevant details.

What is Clonidine? 

The drug Clonidine was first licensed to treat high blood pressure. However, it has been reported to benefit patients with anxiety symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggressiveness, and sleep problems due to its calming impact on the body.

Clonidine belongs to the Alpha-2-Agonist drug family (3) and is used to treat illnesses like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in conjunction with other medications. It affects the alpha-adrenoceptors in the brainstem, reducing sympathetic outflow from the central nervous system in the process. (4) It also lowers peripheral resistance, pulse rate, blood pressure, and vascular resistance.

Clonidine is commonly recommended for panic disorder or other mental health disorders since it reduces anxiety episodes and psychiatric symptoms. Treatment aims to lessen the severity and frequency of panic attacks. (5)

It is occasionally administered to those who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Clonidine can help with opiate withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, runny nose, agitation, perspiration, muscular pains, cramps, and sweating, yet it will not help with cravings. It is also given to those going through a phase of alcohol withdrawal.

Kapvay, an extended-release form of clonidine, has also been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medicine for children with ADHD. (6)

How Does Clonidine Work for Anxiety?

Clonidine affects the activation of the chemical neurotransmitter norepinephrine in the brain. Blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety are all influenced by norepinephrine, but it also impacts concentration and arousal. (7)

The executive processes of your brain, such as planning, organizing, and utilizing knowledge and experiences, are influenced by clonidine. This drug calms down some brain parts, making them less excitable. They get less enthused as a result of this. These effects allow you to be physically relaxed while maintaining mental attention. As a result, anxiety symptoms improve.

Clonidine also stimulates your brain to transmit messages to your blood vessels, causing them to relax and drop your blood pressure. (8)

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How to Use Clonidine? 

You can take clonidine by mouth, with or without food, twice daily in the morning and at bedtime, as prescribed by your doctor. The dose is determined by your medical condition and treatment progress. To receive the best effectiveness from this drug, take it daily and at the same time every day to help you remember. 

Even if you feel that you are now fine and do not need this drug, keep taking it. You must not stop taking this medicine unless your doctor specifically instructs you to. If the medicine is quickly discontinued, you may have symptoms such as uneasiness, agitation, tremors, headache, and an abrupt rise in blood pressure. If you have been taking this medicine for a long time or in large dosages or simultaneously taking a beta-blocker, the risk goes up. (9)

Some instances of severe, potentially deadly side effects from abruptly quitting this medicine have been reported. You mustn’t run out of clonidine or forget to take any dosages. Communicate with your doctor straight away if you wish to cease taking clonidine; your doctor may gradually lower your dose to avoid any reactions when you are discontinuing therapy with this medicine.

This medicine may not function as effectively if taken for an extended period, necessitating changing the dose or the inclusion of another medication. Since the medicine’s efficiency may be reduced as your body adjusts, you may need to modify your dosage or mix it with another drug after consuming it for a time. If this drug is not functioning as well as it used to, talk to your doctor for a better recommendation.

Dosage of Clonidine for Anxiety

Clonidine is normally administered at the lowest dose possible when initially prescribed. To begin, 0.05 to 0.1 mg may be enough. Your doctor will progressively raise the dosage until it reaches the most effective level. Clonidine tablets are available in three strengths: 0.1 mg, 0.2 mg, and 0.3 mg. Kapvay is the extended-release variant, and it comes in 0.1mg doses.

Clonidine is also available in the form of seven-day patches. They are a fantastic choice if you have a habit of forgetting to take your prescription or dislike consuming pills.

If you miss a clonidine dosage, take it immediately if you recall unless your next dose is approaching. Do not double your next dose or exceed the recommended dosage. Clonidine overdose can result in tiredness, dizziness, low blood pressure, and a sluggish heart rate.

How Long Does Clonidine Take to Work?

Once the correct dose is decided, it may need four to eight weeks to see the full benefit. However, certain symptoms may subside sooner than others. Clonidine’s anxiety-relieving effects start 30-60 minutes after the initial dose and peak after 2-4 hours. To discover the dose that works best for you, your health care physician may need to progressively alter the dose and keep you on observation.

How Long Does One Have to Take Clonidine?

How long you should continue taking clonidine depends on the symptoms you are experiencing, how often they occur, and how long you have been experiencing them. Clonidine is taken for various periods by different people. 

The requirement for medicine should be reevaluated regularly. Some people only need this medicine for specific periods of their lives, such as when they are in school, but others benefit from it for many years. It is risky to stop taking clonidine suddenly if you have been consuming it on a routine basis.

Suppose you and your doctor decide to discontinue taking clonidine. In that case, your doctor will show you how to appropriately reduce the amount to avoid a fast rise in blood pressure and other side effects while your body adapts to life without it.

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Benefits of Clonidine

Clonidine has several advantages for overall body health, making it particularly beneficial for anxiety.

Reduces Anxiety: 

Benzodiazepine medications like Xanax and Valium are frequently used for anxiety. (10) These, on the other hand, can become habit-forming and have a detrimental impact on cognitive skills such as attention. As a result, clonidine is frequently recommended to those who suffer from anxiety.

Boosts Efficiency of Stimulants 

Clonidine can be taken in addition to a stimulant medicine, and it frequently improves the stimulant’s efficacy. (11)

Does Not Affect Appetite

Clonidine is appetite neutral, meaning it does neither enhance nor reduce hunger. Stimulants frequently lower appetite, which can be problematic for those who are already underweight. (12)

Helps with Sleep Issues

Sleep issues are a prevalent concern for persons who suffer from anxiety. One potential benefit of clonidine is that it may aid in sleep improvement. Some doctors give clonidine off-label to aid their patients in sleeping. (13)

Reduces Blood Pressure: 

If you have high blood pressure and anxiety, clonidine may be an excellent option because it helps lower blood pressure while also improving anxiety symptoms.

Helps Children with ADHD 

A meta-analysis of 73 trials examined the efficacy of six different ADHD drugs for children aged 6 to 18. 4 When compared to atomoxetine and extended-release guanfacine; clonidine was found to be the most efficacious and tolerated of the three non-stimulants studied. (14)

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Clonidine vs. Xanax

Clonidine and Xanax are two separate types of drugs. Clonidine is a centrally acting alpha-agonist hypotensive drug, whereas Xanax is a benzodiazepine.

Clonidine is primarily used to treat high blood pressure and anxiety, as we stated before, while Xanax is used to treat anxiety disorders and provide short-term relief from anxiety symptoms in adults. Adults with or without a fear of locations and circumstances that could trigger panic, helplessness, or shame can use Xanax to treat panic disorder. (15)

Although both are useful in treating anxiety, there is a significant variation in their mode of action. Since Xanax is a benzodiazepine, it affects certain brain chemicals to assist with stress relief and panic attacks (16), whereas Clonidine is an alpha agonist and is primarily used to treat high blood pressure, but it also helps people feel calmer because of its effect on the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. (17)

Side Effects of Clonidine 

Clonidine’s primary function is a reduction in heart rate, which is one of the reasons it is so helpful in controlling blood pressure. It dilates a person’s blood vessels, allowing greater room for blood flow. Clonidine can also interact with the part of the brain that regulates impulsivity, which explains the link to ADHD.

For this reason, some of the most common short-term adverse effects you may experience include drowsiness, dizzy spells, constipation, and mouth dryness. Clonidine can have a drowsy effect on a person in the short term, making it difficult to drive a car or operate other machinery. Combining clonidine with other depressants, such as alcohol, can be extremely harmful since it may amplify the substance’s impact.

The usage of clonidine has the potential to cause a wide range of side effects. Fever, headaches, exhaustion, and overall weakness may occur in those who use the drug. It is also conceivable that more significant consequences on the cardiovascular system may occur in some extreme cases. Heart palpitations, congestive heart failure, and atrioventricular obstruction are examples of these side effects. Such negative consequences can be exceedingly harmful.

Clonidine can potentially have a negative impact on the central nervous system. Anxiety, hallucinations, sadness, and sleep disturbances are all side effects of clonidine. These side effects can be serious and hazardous, and they should be addressed as soon as possible by medical specialists.

Long-term clonidine usage may cause gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and stomach discomfort. Constipation is also a problem for some people.

Signs of Clonidine Abuse and Withdrawal Symptoms

According to studies, clonidine amplifies and prolongs the effects of opioids and other drugs. Many persons who take drugs may seek out clonidine since it is typically easier to acquire a prescription. Keep an eye out for the indicators of clonidine usage if you believe someone you know is misusing the drug. (18)

Individuals who utilize clonidine for an extended period might become physiologically reliant. Tremors, headaches, increased agitation, and tense behavior is among the withdrawal symptoms associated with clonidine, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In rare cases, the withdrawal symptoms have been so severe that they have resulted in death, demonstrating the danger of clonidine withdrawal. Those who observe similar signs in another person should seek medical help right once.

The majority of clonidine’s minor long-term side effects can be considerably reduced with treatment, although certain side effects might last for a long time.

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Clonidine Abuse with Alcohol

Since clonidine tends to increase the effects of alcohol or other drugs, most people who abuse it do so in conjunction with another substance. Clonidine will intensify and extend the duration of high and minimize the quantity of the medication required to achieve pleasure.

Clonidine is frequently used with alcohol. Clonidine has a calming impact that might help some individuals sleep which this impact is amplified when mixed with alcohol. When clonidine is used with alcohol, it causes dizziness or a lightheaded feeling, and some people even have hallucinations.

When people abuse clonidine and alcohol simultaneously, their blood chemistry changes and blood pressure may drop dramatically. People can lose consciousness in severe instances. It is also conceivable that someone who consumes these two medications together will have seizures.

Those who abuse both alcohol and clonidine for an extended length of time may develop liver issues. Alcohol metabolizes in the liver and causes liver damage on its own, according to research (19), while those using the medication experienced moderate temporary abnormalities in LFTs.

Since alcohol and clonidine are legal, they are simpler to get than opioids and illegal medications. Clonidine is not a prohibited drug, and its street value is not high. Clonidine has a comparatively lower risk for abuse; doctors are more likely to approve a prescription. (20)

Precautions

Inform your health care provider if you plan to get pregnant, so they can appropriately manage your prescriptions. Clonidine usage in pregnant women has not been studied thoroughly. There was no indication of prenatal damage in animal investigations. However, caution is suggested during breastfeeding since clonidine passes into breast milk.

In animal experiments, clonidine has also been found to affect female and male fertility. Consult your doctor if you are pregnant, nursing, or intending to become pregnant. (21) They can assist you in evaluating the benefits and drawbacks of continuing to take clonidine and draw a conclusion.

Clonidine might make you feel dizzy or sleepy, especially when you first start taking it. When you drive, operate equipment, or engage in other tasks that might be harmful if you are not conscious, be sure you know how you respond to the drug.

Moreover, while using this medicine, avoid consuming alcohol or using illicit substances. They may reduce the medication’s advantages, exacerbate your illness, and raise side effects such as sedation.

Final Thoughts

For anxiety therapy, there are a variety of pharmacological choices. If you want to help someone with anxiety or get rid of it, you must explore all of the possibilities and monitor the progress in terms of how the individual reacts to it. The past medical history is also crucial in determining which drug to use. Finally, the solution with the fewest adverse effects and the highest benefits should be considered.

While clonidine is not often recommended as a first-line treatment for anxiety, it can be beneficial for certain patients when used alone or in combination with other medications or therapies. Consult your doctor if you are interested in using clonidine to treat your anxiety. They will assist you in determining whether or not it is the best option for you.

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