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Clonidine & Alcohol

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What is Clonidine?

Clonidine (also known by its brand name Catapres) is a prescription antihypertensive blood pressure medication that treats hypertension. It works by decreasing certain chemicals in the blood, which causes the blood vessels to relax and the heart to beat more easily.

It is also prescribed for anxiety disorders, pain disorders, panic attacks, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Healthcare providers sometimes prescribe clonidine for people recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction.

Clonidine

What is Clonidine Used For?

Clonidine is used to treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • ADHD
  • Cravings for opioid drugs
  • Menopause symptoms
  • Smoking cessation
  • Tourette syndrome
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How Does Clonidine Make You Feel?

Clonidine should not have a drastic effect on how you feel when used as directed. Some people experience side effects, especially when they first begin using the medication. Speak to your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Hives or other skin reactions

Side Effects of Clonidine 

Clonidine is FDA-approved and considered safe. However, like all medications, the use of it poses a risk of side effects. The most severe that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Severe hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Syncope
  • Slowing of the heart leading to abnormal heart rhythms
  • Swelling of the lips and airway
  • Depression

Less severe and common side effects that tend to dissipate with time as your body adjusts to the drug include:

  • Constipation (common)
  • Decreased sexual ability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dry, itching, or burning eyes
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Rash or skin irritation (Sign of an allergic reaction)
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Clonidine for Alcohol Withdrawal

Clonidine eases the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and is occasionally used in addiction treatment. One study showed that patients in rehab who were given clonidine recovered approximately a day faster from their withdrawal symptoms than those not given the drug. It was shown to be especially effective for easing withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Tension
  • Depression

Participants of the study given clonidine experienced no significant side effects and no sleep disturbances occurred. 

Clonidine is also effective for easing the symptoms of opiate withdrawal, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Cramping

Clonidine can help reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

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Can You Drink Alcohol on Clonidine?

Clonidine amplifies the effects of alcohol use and other drugs and has a number of negative interactions. It boosts the intensity of a high and lengthens the time it lasts. For this reason, people abuse clonidine by mixing it with other substances, most frequently alcohol. Doing so produces a zombie-like effect that some use as a sleep aid. 

Mixing clonidine with alcohol is risky and results in:

  • Dizziness
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Hallucinations
  • Dangerous blood pressure shifts
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Coma
  • Death

Healthcare providers recommend that people using clonidine limit their intake of alcohol. Research shows that abusing clonidine and alcohol for extended periods leads to liver damage. 

Using clonidine with alcohol increases the risk of overdose. Symptoms of a clonidine overdose include:

  • Hypotension
  • Bradycardia
  • Hypothermia
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Respiratory depression
  • Confusion
  • Irritability 
  • Decrease in reflexes
  • Dysrhythmias
  • Apnea
  • Coma

Overdose symptoms tend to occur within 30 minutes to two hours after taking clonidine but occur sooner when alcohol plays a role in the overdose.

Can You Get Addicted to Alcohol and Clonidine?

Yes. Most clonidine addictions involve alcohol. The medication is rarely abused on its own. Those already struggling with substance abuse or alcohol abuse are at risk of addiction if clonidine is introduced. Make sure you discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider and get all of the drug information you need to make an informed decision before using clonidine.

People addicted to clonidine and alcohol experience alcohol addiction withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the combination of drugs. These include:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Seizures

Someone who abruptly stops using clonidine (after abusing it long-term) may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Hypertension
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid mood changes
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Anxiety

Detoxing and recovering from an alcohol and clonidine addiction requires medical supervision. The process is dangerous and withdrawal puts someone at risk for serious side effects. It’s important to gradually wean someone off of the substances to reduce the risk of serious complications. Patients often receive a combination of medication to ease withdrawal symptoms and therapy to cope with their addiction.

Common Questions and Answers

Can I have a glass of wine or a beer with clonidine?

You should not mix clonidine with any type of alcohol. Alcohol intensifies the effects of the mediation and creates a risk of overdose. Because both beer and other types of alcohol and clonidine depress the central nervous system (CNS), using the two together can result in a serious adverse reaction.

The combination of these substances can lead to increased drowsiness, sedation, and faintness. Long-term use is extremely harmful to your health and can lead to addiction.

How much clonidine is lethal?

Taking too much clonidine at once can lead to a drop in heart rate and blood pressure. There is a high risk for overdose.

Is clonidine similar to Xanax?

Xanax and clonidine belong to two different drug classes. However, they can both be prescribed to treat anxiety.

How long does clonidine last?

The effects of clonidine last for three to seven hours after taking the medication.

How long does it take for clonidine to work?

Clonidine is rapidly absorbed and tends to reach its peak effectiveness within one to four hours. There is typically a decrease in blood pressure within 30 to 60 minutes.

Updated on March 28, 2022
9 sources cited
  1. Björkqvist, S. E. “Clonidine in Alcohol Withdrawal.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, vol. 52, no. 4, 1 Oct. 1975, pp. 256–263, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1103576/#:~:text=Clonidine%20in%20alcohol%20withdrawal.%20It%20is%20suggested%20that, 10.1111/j.1600-0447.1975.tb00041.x. Accessed 27 Sept. 2020.
  2. “Clonidine: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” Medlineplus.Gov, Dec. 2019, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682243.html
  3. Baumgartner GR, Rowen RC. Clonidine vs Chlordiazepoxide in the Management of Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. Arch Intern Med. 1987;147:1223–1226. doi:10.1001/archinte.1987.00370070037005 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/608496
  4. RH;, Robinson BJ;Robinson GM;Maling TJ;Johnson. “Is Clonidine Useful in the Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal?” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1989, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2646983/.
  5. Baumgartner GR, Rowen RC. Transdermal clonidine versus chlordiazepoxide in alcohol withdrawal: a randomized, controlled clinical trial. Southern Medical Journal. 1991 Mar;84:312-321. DOI: 10.1097/00007611-199103000-00006. https://europepmc.org/article/med/2000517
  6. Wilkins, A.J., Jenkins, W.J. & Steiner, J.A. Efficacy of clonidine in treatment of alcohol withdrawal state. Psychopharmacology 81, 78–80 . https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00439278 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00439278
  7. Yam, P. C. Ip, et al. “CLONIDINE IN THE TREATMENT OF ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL IN THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT.” British Journal of Anaesthesia, Elsevier, 13 Dec. 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0007091217467924.
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