Clonidine & Alcohol

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).

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

clonidine

What is Clonidine Used For?

Clonidine is used to treat:

  • High blood pressure
  • ADHD
  • Cravings for opioid drugs
  • Menopause symptoms
  • Smoking cessation

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:

  • Swelling in the legs or feet
  • 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)

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

Despite clonidine’s effectiveness in relieving many symptoms of withdrawal, it has not been shown to reduce opiate cravings. 

Can You Drink Alcohol on Clonidine?

Clonidine amplifies the effects of alcohol use and other drugs. 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.

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 a decrease in blood pressure within 30 to 60 minutes.

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 mediation. Speak to your doctor if you experience any of the following:

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

Can you drink 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.

Resources

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.

“Clonidine: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” Medlineplus.Gov, Dec. 2019, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682243.html

Updated on: October 15, 2020
Author
Alcohol Rehab Help Writing Staff
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice. For more information read out about us.

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