Clonidine, sold under the brand names Catapres and Kapvay, is a prescription sedative and antihypertensive. Generally found in either pill or patch form, it is often prescribed for high blood pressure or ADHD. Clonidine’s side effects are rarely severe, but it can interfere negatively with other drugs . Because of the way clonidine affects the body, combining it with other drugs or medications can be potentially harmful. Alcohol is one of the most common drugs people consume simultaneously with clonidine. This combination is not only dangerous, it is also potentially addictive.
What Is Clonidine?
Clonidine is primarily an antihypertensive, which means it can treat high blood pressure. However, clonidine is used to treat a wide variety of other symptoms and disorders as well. It is also a sedative drug, which means it can be used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and similar disorders. The prescription relaxes the blood vessels and lowers heart rate, and allows blood to flow more freely in the body. It helps with ADHD because it calms the body, making it a potential candidate to treat the overactivity common in ADHD patients.
People also sometimes take clonidine for sleep and anxiety. While it isn’t approved to treat insomnia (lack of the ability to sleep), clonidine’s relaxation effect can still help some people get to sleep quicker. Its calming effect can also soothe anxiety attacks. Sometimes, doctors even prescribe clonidine to treat the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
What Are Common Side Effects of Clonidine?
When people take clonidine as directed by a doctor, its effects are rarely dangerous or life-threatening. However, it can cause negative side effects. These include:
- Dry mouth
- Upper abdominal pain
There are also sometimes more serious side effects:
- Irregular heartbeat or blood pressure
- Fainting/passing out
- Poor balance
- Difficulty breathing
The risk of these is much higher when people combine clonidine with other drugs such as alcohol. Though a clonidine overdose is rarely deadly on its own, the presence of another substance can increase the chances of serious health problems and death. If you think you or someone around you may be experiencing an overdose, call emergency services immediately.
Clonidine and Alcohol
Clonidine by itself is generally safe when taken as directed, and the side effects are rarely serious. However, it can become dangerous when mixed with other drugs, especially alcohol. Medical experts advise against drinking alcohol while taking clonidine in order to avoid accidental overdose. Clonidine is a sedative, which slows down brain processes and other body functions. Alcohol, a depressant, has a similar effect on the body.
For some individuals, this is the desired effect. People may take clonidine and alcohol together to enhance their sedative properties. This is a form of polysubstance abuse (combining two or more drugs for recreational reasons). Clonidine and alcohol can become addictive, as well as the combination of clonidine with other drugs. Some other drugs that don’t mix well with clonidine include opioids, tricyclic antidepressants, and heart medications.
Combining alcohol and clonidine does not just enhance the effects; it will also amplify the negative aspects of both substances. Clonidine and alcohol can cause light-headedness, drowsiness, and haziness. Other complications might include irregular heartbeat, rapid drops in blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, and even death. Additionally, a toxic overdose is not the only risk. Sedation and dizziness can be more dangerous than they seem, causing someone to faint and injure themselves or be suddenly unfit to drive.
Is Clonidine Addictive By Itself?
While addiction to Clonidine on its own is uncommon, dependence can occur. It usually manifests when a person takes the drug long-term or abuses their prescription. No specific studies have yet tested clonidine’s addictive potential, but the drugs that Clonidine is closely related to — sedatives — ranked above LSD and ecstasy in addictiveness. Since it can be obtained relatively easily over-the-counter, and the side effects can also be desirable, it is easy to imagine how someone could develop a dependence on the drug.
Long-term misuse can have drastic effects on users, and it can even be harmful to suddenly stop taking it. When used unchecked, clonidine can cause problems such as low blood pressure, low heart rate, and withdrawal symptoms. Quickly quitting clonidine can lead to similar complications: spikes in blood pressure, agitation, tremors, and headaches. The best way to avoid dependence on clonidine is to follow the recommended dose exactly, check in regularly with a doctor, and avoid taking clonidine in combination with other drugs, especially alcohol.
Getting Help for Clonidine and Alcohol Dependence
While clonidine itself is not highly addictive, combining it with other drugs or medications can lead to dependence. Alcohol, opioids, some antidepressants, and heart medications can all have unsafe interactions with clonidine, and many of these combinations are addictive. Gaining sobriety is a difficult journey, but getting professional assistance can be the first step. Talking to a medical professional can help identify root problems and give you direction as you work to overcome addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or substance abuse of any kind, contact us so we can help you on your journey to recovery.