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Clonidine Withdrawal & Detox | Symptoms & Timelines

Clonidine withdrawal symptoms include delirium, nausea, vomiting, confusion, mood swings, and hallucinations. Most often, clonidine withdrawal takes about a week or two, but a tapered approach to withdrawal is generally recommended.

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Clonidine is a medication that is prescribed for a variety of conditions and generally is not considered highly addictive when used on its own. However, clonidine itself can result in withdrawal if dependence occurs.

When an individual experiences clonidine withdrawal, this is a key indicator of psychological dependence or addiction. In cases of clonidine abuse, it’s crucial to go through physical detoxification as a first step toward recovery. 

What Is Clonidine Withdrawal?

Clonidine withdrawal occurs once a person has developed dependence on the drug. Although clonidine is not considered a primary abuse drug, it is often used in conjunction with other prescription medications, illicit drugs, or alcohol.

If the drug is abused regularly, clonidine withdrawal can occur, which yields a variety of unpleasant and undesirable symptoms. Withdrawal can also occur even after the drug is used as prescribed for a long period. Doctors will often recommend their patients taper use when they are stopping the medication.

Clonidine withdrawal symptoms can be so unpleasant that individuals may continue using and abusing the drug in order to avoid withdrawal. 

What Causes Clonidine Withdrawal?

As an individual uses clonidine, whether it’s under prescribed guidelines or recreationally, the body becomes accustomed to having the drug in its symptom. This causes an adaptation to the drug’s presence as “normal.” When use stops suddenly, the body is thrown into a state of disarray.

This is why when discontinuing use, withdrawal symptoms will most likely occur. These symptoms can be mitigated by slowly lowering your dose of the medication rather than suddenly stopping use.

Common Clonidine Withdrawal Symptoms

Clonidine withdrawal can result in serious side effects that may require medical intervention. Clonidine rebound can also occur as a result of a hypertensive crisis (also called rebound hypertension). 

Additional clonidine withdrawal symptoms include irritability and mood swings, nausea, vomiting, delirium, and hallucinations. 

What Determines the Intensity of Withdrawal Symptoms? 

The strongest factor that will determine the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and their duration is the length of clonidine use as well as the average dose. The longer the individual has used clonidine and the higher the normal dose, the more intense the withdrawal symptoms will be.

Additional factors that affect the intensity of withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Age
  • BMI (Body mass index)
  • Using clonidine in combination with alcohol
  • Using it in combination with other prescription medications
  • Using clonidine in combination with illicit drugs

How Long Does Withdrawal Last? 

Clonidine withdrawal will generally start to set in around 12 hours after the last dose is taken. For the first week, Clonidine withdrawal symptoms can start to increase in severity. At around two weeks, withdrawal symptoms will generally start to subside. Certain withdrawal symptoms, such as moodiness and cravings for clonidine, can last weeks or months after discontinuing use. 

If clonidine has been used outside of prescribed guidelines or in conjunction with other substances, withdrawal symptoms tend to be more severe and last longer when compared to people who only use clonidine.

Clonidine Withdrawal Timeline

Each person’s withdrawal timeline will be somewhat different depending on the factors described above. This is an average timeline to give you an idea of what to expect:

First 12-24 Hours

For those who have developed a tolerance and dependence, clonidine withdrawal symptoms will start to appear within the first 12 hours after stopping use. Early withdrawal symptoms generally include insomnia, body aches, headaches, and nausea.

The First Week

During the first seven days, withdrawal symptoms will begin to get more severe. Additional side effects, such as tremors, delirium, and hallucinations can start to occur. 

Irregular sleep patterns are a hallmark of the first week of withdrawal. Mood swings and irritability are also common. Cravings for the drug are often experienced during this stage of withdrawal as well.

Two Weeks

Individuals going through withdrawal can generally take comfort in the fact that undesirable symptoms will begin to subside at around the two-week mark. However, certain symptoms can last weeks or even months after discontinuing use, such as depression and cravings.

Detoxing From Clonidine

Medical professionals and drug addiction treatment experts generally do not recommend quitting clonidine by yourself at home. Instead, medical detox or a supervised tapering schedule is the recommended means of stopping use of the drug.

Tapering off clonidine usually takes around eight weeks. Your doctor will prescribe decreasing doses of the drug until you are no longer taking any at all. This allows withdrawal symptoms to be controlled. If symptoms become strong, the tapering schedule will generally be adjusted and the dose you are taking will be temporarily raised.

If you’ve been abusing clonidine or any other substances, therapy will be the core of your addiction treatment, and this is needed in order to recover. While detox is an essential part of the full recovery process, it doesn’t actually treat the underlying issues that led you to abuse clonidine.

Updated May 10, 2024
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