Can clonidine be used to treat anxiety?

This blog post will explore whether Clonidine can be used to treat anxiety. 

We will also briefly discuss what Clonidine is, what it is used for, how it works, and the dosage for the drug. We will also explore the potential side effects and the reviews for Clonidine by users. 

Can clonidine be used to treat anxiety?

Yes, Clonidine can be used to treat anxiety disorders however, it is primarily a drug that is used to treat high blood pressure. 

The drug itself has not been approved to be a primary pharmacological treatment for anxiety however it may be prescribed “off-label” like in countries like Canada to treat anxiety in children and adolescents. 

The drug has also been approved by the FDA to be used to treat ADHD in the US however, it has not been approved to be used to treat anxiety however, doctors might have prescribed it off-label to treat anxiety because of how it impacts symptoms of the disorder. 

In a study conducted to examine the effects of Clonidine on Anxiety disorder by Hoehn-Saric et al on 23 patients with both General anxiety disorder and Panic disorder, the results found that the effect of the drug on anxiety related symptoms was significant. 

The drug was effective in decreasing symptoms of panic attacks and other psychological symptoms however, physical symptoms of anxiety were not affected. 

However, the study also observed that the conditions of 17% of the participants increased or became worse which was attributed to the side effects of the drug which could be one of the reasons why the drug has not yet been approved for the treatment of anxiety disorders in various countries. 

What is Clonidine?

Clonidine or known by it’s brand names such as Catapres, Kapvay, Nexiclon XR is a drug that is used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) that can damage the blood vessels of the brain, heart, and kidneys, resulting in a stroke, heart failure, or kidney failure. 

Clonidine belongs to a class of medicines called antihypertensives that works by signalling the brain to make some changes to nerve impulses so as to relax blood vessels which in turn lowers the blood pressure. 

The drug does not cure high blood pressure but it is effective in helping people manage their blood pressure. 

What is clonidine used for?

The drug Clonidine along with its primary use to treat high blood pressure and hypertension also has other uses because the benefits of the drugs for reducing certain symptoms tend to outweigh the side effects and so it has been prescribed off-label for other conditions. 

The uses for Clonidine in children and Adolescents include:

• Tic disorders 

• Sleep difficulties

• Anxiety disorders

The drug also has various off-label uses such as being used for anxiety and recently the extended release form of the drug has been approved for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when used together with Adderall or Ritalin. 

The immediate-release formulations of clonidine are typically used to treat hypertension and also off-label for withdrawal from alcohol, nicotine, and opioid drugs and also help maintain abstinence in addiction recovery. 

How does clonidine work?

The way that Clonidine works is that it reduces the stimulation of the brain by stabilising the release and activity of the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) called norepinephrine. 

This neurotransmitter is what influences our body’s state of arousal when under stress or when stimulated by influencing the blood pressure and heart rate of the body.

When the drug is administered, it can thus reduce blood pressure as well as other symptoms of arousal that is typically associated with anxiety, stress, withdrawal, and hyperactivity. 

When will clonidine start working?

Clonidine’s effect on blood pressure and anxiety begin to occur about 30-60 minutes after the first dose. 

It’s maximum effects on the individual and can be observed in about 2-4 hours while for ADHD it might take them a week or two to see the full benefits of the drug.

The positive effects of Clonidine will typically be observed after two weeks and It may take 2 to 4 months to see the full benefits of the medication. 

Usually when you administer the immediate releasing drug, the effects of the drugs such drowsiness and sedation appear within a few minutes to an hour even after the first dose. 

And other far reaching effects appear after weeks of use. It is to be mentioned that this drug might not be effective for everyone.

However one should not discontinue the use of the drug if the effects are not felt immediately, instead one should observe their symptoms for a week and consult with a doctor soon if there are no improvements during the first well. 

How long do I have to take clonidine?

The duration underwhihc you will have to be treated with the drug depends on your symptoms, the intensity, severity, length, and frequency of the symptoms that you experience. 

The time you need to take the drug will depend on the evaluation of your doctors and your response to the drug. It might take you weeks to see improvements or even months. 

However the side effects on your body might also affect the doctor’s decision as to whether you need to be taken off the drug and switched to a different one. 

It is important that you do not abruptly stop taking the drug without consulting your doctor and you must be weaned off the drug if they recommend stopping treatment. The best thing you can do is consult your doctor about how long you need to take the drug. 

What is the dosage for Clonidine?

The dose of this medicine will be different for different people so it is important that you follow your doctor or the information provided on the label for use. 

The average dosages include:

For attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):

For Teenagers and children 6 years of age and older the dosage starts at 0.1 milligram (mg) once a day, given at bedtime. As for children who are younger than 6 years, the dosage will be determined by the doctor. 

For high blood pressure:

In adults, the first dosage starts at 0.17 milligram (mg) or 2 millilitre (mL) once a day usually around nighttime while the use and dose for children must be determined by the doctor for each individual case.

In the case that the individual misses a dose of this medicine, it is advisable that they take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for their next dose, they should skip the missed dose and should not double the dose. 

In case multiple doses have been missed, the individual must meet their doctor right away or as soon as they remember as their blood pressure would have gone up to alarming levels. 

What are the side effects of Clonidine?

Side effects of the drugs include:

  • Mental depression
  • swelling of the feet and lower legs
  • Anxiety
  • dilated neck veins
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • fever
  • holding false beliefs that cannot be changed by fact
  • itching, scaling, severe redness, soreness, or swelling of the skin
  • large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
  • lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
  • problems in urination or increase in the amount of urine
  • restlessness
  • Hallucinations
  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in the chest
  • tingling or pain in the fingers or toes when exposed to cold
  • trouble with sleeping
  • unusual excitement, nervousness, or restlessness
  • vivid dreams or nightmares
  • weight gain
  • wheezing

Other side effects also include:

  • Constipation
  • dry, itching, or burning eyes
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • hair loss or thinning of the hair
  • leg cramps
  • loss in sexual ability, desire, drive, or performance
  • muscle or joint pain
  • pale skin
  • swelling of the breasts or breast soreness in both females and males
  • weakness

Is Clonidine Addictive?

No, Clonidine is not an addictive drug and is not considered a drug with high potential for addiction or potential abuse however there is a possibility that the drug has been used and misused with other substances. 

In the case that this particular drug is misused could be because of people who have used the drug to manage withdrawal symptoms from other drugs and later continued the misuse of the drug for its ability to combine the effects of intoxication with other substances. 

What are the reviews for Clonidine?

According to various users of Clonidine for anxiety on Drugs.com, the drug has an average rating of 7.1 out of 10 from a total of 70 ratings.

Out of this population,  61% of reviewers reported positive experiences, while 24% reported a negative experience with the drug compared with other 142 medications for the treatment of anxiety.

Katherine, a user of Clonidine for the past 1 month wrote on drugs.com,

“I have been dealing with anxiety for about 10 years now with the occasional panic attack. In the last 9 months my anxiety has been so severe that I’m anxious every second of the day and panic when I have to leave the house. It’s made it hard to function and hold down a job. I recently got a new job and I was having extreme anxiety to the point of feeling suicidal because I felt like I could not continue living with the severity of my anxiety. I was on 6 different medications and not getting any relief. Finally my doctor prescribed clonidine 0.1 three weeks a day. For the first time in 9 months I finally felt better. My doctor upped. My dose to 4 times a day and now I’m feeling better than ever! I’m able to function and work again. This is a miracle drug to me. I’m finally living my life again. I would highly recommend trying this drug if you have severe anxiety like me.”

Another user AG, described her experience as something that is life-saving as she wrote, 

“I am pretty sure this drug is going to save my life. I have tried everything for anxiety. Benzos, buspirone, ssris, snris, beta blockers. I almost gave up then I thought I would try one more. I got horrible med side effects so I started with 1/4 a .1 mg and within 20 minutes I was more normal than I have felt in years. I tried a higher dose the next day but was too tired so for now I will stick to the small dose. 3 days in and I feel like my life has already changed. I can focus at work, I’m happy, I have more energy, no anxiety. beautiful!”

Chiccamae who was on the drug as a young child and put back on it, wrote of their experience:

“I was on clonidine from the age of 8-14. I didn’t want to take pills for the rest of my life so I stopped taking all my meds, half of which I didn’t even know what I was taking them for. About a month ago I started having really bad anxiety attacks. I felt like I was living completely out of my body, I felt awful and wanted to die if I’m being completely honest. After dealing with having them 1-2 times a week I called and got into counselling and requested to be put on medication. The psychiatrist called me a week after and recommend I take clonidine again and I recommend anybody with anxiety to try this medicine I was on it for 6 years and it really made a difference even the first day I started taking it again”

Conclusion

This blog post has explored whether Clonidine can be used to treat anxiety. 

We have also briefly discussed what Clonidine is, what it is used for, how it works, and the dosage for the drug. We have also explored the potential side effects and the reviews for Clonidine by users. 

FAQ related to clonidine for anxiety

How long does it take clonidine to work for anxiety?

Clonidine’s effect on blood pressure and anxiety begin to occur about 30-60 minutes after the first dose. 

It’s maximum effects on the individual and can be observed in about 2-4 hours while for ADHD it might take them a week or two to see the full benefits of the drug.

Does clonidine calm you down?

Clonidine’s sedative side-effects are used by doctors to help individuals cope with anxiety related symptoms as it brings about a calming effect. 

Can clonidine help with panic attacks?

Clonidine has been observed in a study to show a decrease of anxiety attacks symptoms and “psychic” symptoms related to anxiety. 

Can clonidine worsen anxiety?

One of the side effects of Clonidine is increased anxiety since the central nervous system can also be adversely affected by use of clonidine. 

Clonidine can bring about anxiety, hallucinations, depression, and sleep disorders as a side effect though the cause of which is still not clearly known. 

References

Clonidine (Oral Route). MayoClinic. Retrieved on 5th January 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/clonidine-oral-route/proper-use/drg-20063252

Close.L. Is Clonidine Use Dangerous? Can it Be Abused? OxfordTreatmentCenter. June 17, 2020. Retrieved on 5th January 2022. https://oxfordtreatment.com/addiction-treatment/detox/clonidine/

Hoehn-Saric R, Merchant AF, Keyser ML, Smith NVK. Effects of Clonidine on Anxiety Disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1981;38(11):1278–1282. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1981.01780360094011

User Reviews for Clonidine to treat Anxiety. Drugs.com. Retrieved on 5th January 2022. https://www.drugs.com/comments/clonidine/for-anxiety.html

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