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Clonidine Abuse Symptoms | Signs & Dangers to Watch For

Symptoms of clonidine abuse include irritability, mood swings, sleep issues, taking more of the drug than prescribed or taking it without a prescription, and mixing clonidine with other substances.

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Clonidine is a medication typically prescribed for high blood pressure, but this drug is also prescribed for certain psychiatric conditions, such as these:

  • ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Tourette syndrome

Clonidine is also used to treat certain disorders related to anxiety. As a result, clonidine does have a potential for abuse, although the drug is considered less likely to be abused than other drugs like benzodiazepines and opioids.

Common Signs & Symptoms of Clonidine Abuse

Clonidine abuse reveals itself in similar ways as other forms of drug abuse tend to. For instance, a person who abuses Clonidine might engage in drug-seeking behavior, which includes doctor shopping, stealing the drug from other people with prescriptions, or even forging prescriptions in order to get more of the drug.

When a person is abusing Clonidine, they might exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

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  • A desire to quit without following through
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Combining clonidine with other drugs or alcohol
  • Using clonidine outside of prescription guidelines
  • Using clonidine without a prescription
  • Inability to fulfill work obligations
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Self-isolating behaviors
  • Antisocial behavior

What Are the Dangers of Abusing Clonidine?

The dangers of misusing Clonidine can be broken down into immediate dangers (short-term dangers) as well as long-term dangers. Some dangers of using clonidine are applicable to those who abuse the drug and even to those who use it to treat conditions such as ADHD and PTSD

Short-term dangers and consequences of clonidine use include poor motor skills, which can affect a person’s ability to operate a vehicle or any sort of machinery, which puts the individual at risk of experiencing an injury. Clonidine use can result in drowsiness, digestive problems (such as constipation), and dizziness or disorientation.

Long-term dangers of using and abusing Clonidine include the following:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Cardiovascular problems 
  • Heart palpitations
  • Artery blockages
  • Congestive heart failure

Other dangers and consequences of Clonidine use and abuse include insomnia and other sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and hallucinations. 

Some of the long-term dangers of using Clonidine mentioned above can be permanent and irreversible. If you or a friend or family member is abusing Clonidine, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible to avoid such dangers.

Physical, Mental & Emotional Effects

Clonidine abuse can have a variety of physical and psychological effects. Perhaps most pressingly, abusing Clonidine can cause an overdose, which results in the following symptoms:

  • Irregular heart rate
  • Tremors or shivering
  • Fainting
  • Lethargy
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Coma

Physical Effects of Clonidine Abuse

Abusing clonidine affects the body and the brain. Physical symptoms of clonidine abuse include poor motor skills, slower heart rate, central nervous system depression, excessive drowsiness, constipation, increased tolerance, and additional undesirable physical symptoms.

Mental & Emotional Effects of Clonidine Abuse

Clonidine abuse results in many mental and emotional or behavioral effects, which include irritability and mood swings, antisocial behavior, drug-seeking behavior, nervousness, paranoia, depression, and suicidal thoughts, among additional symptoms.

An individual who abuses clonidine might even seem like a totally different person to those who knew them before the abuse occurred.

Ways to Recognize Clonidine Addiction

Clonidine addiction is less likely to happen than it is with other drugs, but it can still occur, especially if the drug is used for pain relief or insomnia.

Clonidine addiction symptoms include irregular sleep patterns, noticeable drowsiness, antisocial behavior, and drug-seeking behavior. It is often the case that someone who abuses clonidine will seek alternative means for acquiring the drug, which can manifest as doctor shopping, forging prescriptions, stealing the drug from friends or family members, or acquiring the drug illicitly on the streets from drug dealers.

Those who are addicted to clonidine will often put themselves in precarious situations and settings in order to self-medicate. As the person slips further and further into addiction, they will build up a tolerance to the drug and require higher doses to get a similar desired effect, which can lead to an overdose.

Clonidine addiction will also result in heavy withdrawal symptoms when an individual does not have access to the drug.

Clonidine Withdrawal Symptoms 

Clonidine withdrawal symptoms and severity will depend on how the drug has been used prior to discontinuation of use. 

If clonidine withdrawal symptoms are left untreated, death can potentially occur

Clonidine withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches or body aches
  • Agitation or mood swings
  • Nervous or paranoid behavior
  • Respiratory problems
  • Central nervous system problems
  • Coma

In severe cases, withdrawal symptoms can result in a medical emergency. If clonidine withdrawal symptoms are left untreated, death can potentially occur.

What to Do if Someone You Know Experiences an Overdose

When someone you know experiences a clonidine overdose, it’s important to act fast. Call 911 immediately. During an overdose, medical intervention is necessary.

While waiting for emergency responders, remain on the scene and try to keep the person engaged with you. Follow any instructions given to you by the emergency responder.

Clonidine Addiction Treatment

Although Clonidine might seem like a less harsh drug when compared to medications like opioids and benzodiazepines, treatment is still needed to address substance abuse. Physical detox is often the first step, and this is best done under the supervision of a medical professional who can address and treat negative withdrawal symptoms. 

Therapy and comprehensive drug rehab will generally be the next step. Rehab programs offer inpatient and outpatient programs, depending on each individual’s needs. Treatment should be tailored to each person in rehab, and it will often not follow a linear path. 

Aftercare is crucial once a formal treatment program is completed. The most vulnerable time for release is often immediately following completion of a program, but relapse risk can be significantly mitigated with the right support.

Updated May 10, 2024
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