Using Clonidine For Alcohol Withdrawal

Clonidine is an anti-seizure and anti-anxiety medication that has been tested to alleviate the cravings and other side effects that stem from opioid or alcohol abuse. It has been shown to be effective in treating acute alcohol withdrawal by decreasing blood pressure and heart rate.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Clonidine is a medication that falls into the antihypertensive and anti-convulsant drug class due to its sedative effects on the nervous system.

It is usually prescribed for treating high blood pressure and heart rate, which can help with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

However, it has seen increasing use and prevalence as a medication that can treat alcohol dependence by alleviating many of the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms That Clonidine Helps Alleviate

Clonidine can help treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms by mitigating many of the withdrawal symptoms that can make early alcohol abstinence so difficult.


One of the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is tremors, which can stem from an imbalance of stress chemicals and hormones in the brain.

These tremors are also a commonly known symptom of delirium tremens (DTs), which is one of the most life-threatening side effects of ceasing alcohol consumption.

This disorder can cause shaking, confusion, tremors, irritability, heat flashes, and nausea.

Mild Depression

Mild depression is another symptom of substance abuse that clonidine can help treat by blocking chemicals in the brain which trigger the sympathetic nervous system.

Now, the intervention of clonidine on the locus coeruleus does not necessarily affect the release of neurotransmitter proteins and hormones directly.

However, the anti-anxiety effect of the medication can help clients to remain in a state of calm, which is generally absent due to the effects of alcohol-induced chemical imbalances.


One of the aggravating but nonlethal symptoms of quitting substance use during the treatment of alcohol withdrawal is heat flashes and breakout sweats.

Clonidine can help to reduce the chemical imbalance in the brain which regulates body temperature, hormonal release, appetite, blood pressure, and more.

How Clonidine Is Used For Alcohol Withdrawal

Clonidine is used in a number of ways to help people detox from alcohol use and can be ingested in many forms, the most common of which are extended-release capsules.

Transdermal Patch

Clonidine patches are administered onto the least-hairy part of the skin so there is no blockage or interruption in the release of the medication.

These patches, usually placed on the chest or upper arm, release the medication over the course of 48 hours before an entirely stable state is reached.

Most healthcare clinicians recommend that clonidine patches be worn for up to two weeks, but can be worn longer upon medical advice if withdrawal symptoms continue to persist.

Extended-Release Tablets

The most common treatment option for clonidine is extended-release tablets or pills.

These tablets are usually prescribed every few hours on the first day, with dosages being adjusted over the following days as blood pressure continues to be monitored.

The signs of alcohol withdrawal should lessen over the course of a week. At this time, adjunctive medications may be used as replacements to taper off the use of clonidine.

Injectable Form

The injectable form of clonidine is not often used for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms but has been shown to be effective in abnormally severe cases.

Most often, injectable clonidine is used alongside opioid medication to help ease the pain of cancer treatment, as using the two together produces a highly addictive but powerful effect.

Side Effects Of Using Clonidine For Alcohol Withdrawal

As with many other medications, clonidine can produce many unwanted side effects.

If you or a loved one experiences any of these side effects as a result of using clonidine, call 911 immediately and seek the advice of a medical professional.

Some of these side effects include:

  • headache
  • weakness
  • constipation
  • vomiting
  • irregular heartbeat
  • hives

Treatment Programs For Alcohol Use Disorder

Fortunately, there are a number of recovery services available to help people who are seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Some of these programs and methods include:

  • inpatient programs
  • detoxification services
  • psychiatry and other mental health services
  • residential treatment
  • therapy and counseling
  • benzodiazepine medications, such as diazepam and chlordiazepoxide
  • outpatient treatment programs

Find Alcohol Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

Are you ready to detox from alcohol, overcome alcohol withdrawal, and learn to manage an alcohol addiction?
Give our helpline a call today to discuss enrollment at a Bedrock Recovery Center, or to learn more about our alcohol treatment options.

  1. National Library of Medicine (NLM)
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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