Clonidine Withdrawal Symptoms & Their Treatment

Last Updated: March 16, 2020

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Clonidine withdrawal occurs when the medication is discontinued. Clonidine withdrawal symptoms vary by their severity from patient to patient. That is why patients are advised to seek medical advice and assistance before deciding to stop using the drug, as these withdrawal symptoms may adversely interfere with the daily activities.

How Clonidine Withdrawal May Happen

The clonidine withdrawal is a result of stopping taking the drug, both gradual or sudden. Each of these cases is accompanied by the different levels of clonidine withdrawal symptoms severity. Moreover, the Catapres side effects during medication therapy can be intensified after stopping the drug.

Nonetheless, the severity of these symptoms varies widely depending on a number of factors. Apart from the duration of use and dosage amount taken, factors such as general physical health, social support, and general psychological health determine how the symptoms will manifest. Clonidine withdrawals can get severe due to the risk of hypertensive crisis where the patient’s lowered blood pressure is instantaneously increased because of the drug cessation.

symptoms of withdrawal

Clonidine Withdrawal Symptoms

The most common among the symptoms of clonidine withdrawal is the rise in the blood pressure of a patient. This is thought to be the case considering Catapres classification as an alpha-agonist hypotensive. It is approved by the FDA for the management of high blood pressure; however, Catapres for anxiety is one of its off-label uses.

The other common clonidine withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • psychological problems such as depression or anxiety
  • feeling nervous or agitated
  • dizziness
  • shivering
  • nausea or vomiting
  • chronic migraines
  • difficulty concentrating
  • increased heart rate

How Long Does Clonidine Withdrawal Last?

The symptoms vary in intensity and duration from one patient to another. However, on average the clonidine withdrawal duration may last several weeks with the symptoms increasing in severity throughout the first week of detoxification. In addition, the first symptoms are experienced after about half a day (12 hours) from the last dose. Detoxification programs should only be done under the supervision of medical professionals and normally involve inpatient treatments aiming for managing clonidine withdrawal most effectively.

withdrawal treatment

Clonidine Withdrawal Treatment

Any withdrawal treatment program begins with a medical examination to determine the current state of a patient. The detoxification process involves lowering the dosage amount until the patient is no longer at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. There are inpatient and outpatient services to facilitate recovery. These centers often provide substance abuse prevention and treatment options as well. The detoxification process as such can be based on a medical or holistic approach. Medical detox provides the patient with medication to assist in managing clonidine withdrawal. Holistic detox involves getting rid of toxins in a natural way, without medications. Holistic detox processes to manage clonidine withdrawal included the following:

  • eating a balanced and healthy diet;
  • physical activities, including yoga and general workout sessions;
  • getting enough sleep;
  • spending time outside to meditate or take nature walks.

In addition to detoxification programs, clonidine withdrawal syndrome treatment also involves behavioral therapies, community support programs, and support groups. It has been observed that patients who only undergo detox programs are more likely to relapse. Apart from the physiological consequences of drug abuse, there are also behavioral triggers.

Why Is Clonidine Self-Detox Dangerous?

Self-detox of Catapres is dangerous because it may result in death due to the side effects of clonidine withdrawal although such an outcome is not that common.

The matter is that soon after stopping the medication, the patient’s blood pressure may increase to dangerously high levels. Additionally, there is a risk of rupture of blood vessels in the brain, causing bleeding into the brain. In this case, a patient may lose consciousness and even dead without timely medical help.

How To Safely Stop Taking Clonidine

For patients who decide to stop taking the drug for any reason, there are two possible scenarios: stopping clonidine abruptly or tapering the dosage amount gradually. While the first option poses many risks and developing uncomfortable states, clonidine tapering is more preferable in the medical community, especially if the medicine is used for a long time.

Gradual discontinuation of the drug includes a clonidine tapering schedule that is developed by a doctor. In each case, the schedule depends on many factors, including but not limited to the current dosage amount and how long the patient has taken the drug. The advantage of tapering off the drug is the relief of the symptoms smoothly, maintaining a better quality of life for the patient.

Page Sources

  1. Withdrawal symptoms and the rebound effect. Australian Department of Health.
  2. Clonidine. MedlinePlus. 2017.

Published on: March 16th, 2020

Updated on: March 16th, 2020

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


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