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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Clonidine

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

[posted 09/15/2000]
Question: My nearly 17 year old son was diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and mild Tourette's Syndrome (his problems began at about age 4). To help control his aggression and impulsivity, his doctor prescribed Clonidine. I give it to him only when his behavior is out of control, and generally 0.05mg is sufficient to calm him. He also sleeps better at night, which was a problem for him. I am concerned about long-term side effects. I have also read that suddenly stopping the medication can be dangerous and since I give it to him on an as-needed-basis (as indicated by the doctor), I'm concerned this may be a problem. I would greatly appreciate any information you may have for me. Thank you.

Answer: Usually there is no withdrawal syndrome unless one has been on the medication regularly for over a month. He will experience some sleepiness, constipation etc. the days he takes the medication, but there are no obvious long term side effects.

Clonidine & Autism [posted 10/2/98]
Question: I was performing a lookup on Clonidine because I was wondering what this wonder drug does besides its old remedy for high blood pressure. I have an 8 year old High-functioning Autistic daughter who has been taking Clonidine for the past year. I feel blessed to have found something to calm her down to where she is not extremely violent anymore. She is finally sleeping at night and mom is finally getting rest. The symptoms that the drug has helped in are the following: concentration, self control, awareness, and comprehension. Since being on the medication, which is 1mg, at bedtime, she is no longer the disruptive child in her class, her speech therapy is progressing, she is now on the honor roll system at school, and is achieving and progressing with all her educational goals. For reference, I was told, from her psychiatrist that specializes in Austism, that the drug would assist in correcting chemical inbalances in the brain to where my daughter would be more manageable. Its true, she is a different child and she is very much more aware of her own limitations.

Answer:Haven't seen it used for this;but, if it works, terrific because autism is hard to treat. Generally, this drug causes somnulence as a side effect, maybe why she is sleeping better. It is a central alpha agonist.

Novoclonidine [posted 7/24/98]
Question: What is Novoclonidine, and what is its side effects?

Answer: Novoclonidine, one of the drugs that start with NOVO are usually types of insulin, which this is not. Clonidine is a drug which was initially used to treat blood pressure. It is now used for many different indications including drug withdrawals, pain control, etc. (also blood pressure control). I am not aware that NOVO makes this drug generically, however.

Clonidine Side Effects [posted 7/24/98]
Question: My son has been prescribed a dosage of 1 mg of clonidine 1 time per day. What are the possible side effects of this drug?

Answer: Clonidine was originally a blood pressure pill due to its ability to affect different receptors in the brain. However, it was found to be very effective when used for any drug withdrawal whether it be nicotine, heroin, estrogen, etc. Side effects include constipation, dry mouth, fatigue, drowsiness etc.

Clonidine and ADHD
Question: My son (who has just turned 7 years old) has been diagnosed with ADHD and has been on Ritalin since December, 1996. His doctor has now changed his medication to Dexedrine 5mg. As he has a real problem with insomnia, it has been suggested that he also take Clonidine. What is Clonidine, and how would it work with the Dexedrine? Also, what are the side effects of Clonidine?

Answer: Clonidine is a central alpha blocker initially used to treat hypertension. However, it was found to have many other effects. It causes sedation and is useful in blocking the addictive cravings of alcohol, nicotine, and narcotic withdrawal. Its use in this situation sounds mainly sedative without using an additional addictive drug.

Question: My 7 year old grandson, diagnosed as ADD, takes 25 mg Dexedrine every morning and 5 mg Dexedrine at 2:30 p.m. His doctor also has prescribed 0.1 mg clonidine at bedtime. He seems to be responding very well to this medication. In fact his impulsive behavior has completely disappeared. Recently I noticed his mother administer his 0.1 mg Clonidine at 5:30 p.m. (before his baseball game). After the game at 6:30 p.m. he complained of feeling strange and having a headache. it concerned me that the Clonidine was given to him so early in the evening and also before an activity that requires much exercise. Should I be concerned?

Answer: Clonidine is an alpha blocker and has sedative effects. This is the reason for the bedtime dosing is to avoid the insomnia with the other two drugs, as well as being effective on alpha receptors. I doubt that 3-4 hours dosing difference makes a big difference.

Question: We have a five-year old grandson who had brain damage (left hemisphere) at birth. He can't talk, but has been in a very good preschool since he was two years old. He is getting speech therapy and other kinds of help. For the past few months he has had behavior problems, probably related to his lack of communication problems. He is also difficult to understand and he does not respond to discipline of any kind. We can't understand why he turns over lamps, throws his dinner plate, pulls hair, or bites. He does all these things with a smile and with no particular aggression involved. We took him to a doctor who wants to give him clonidine, which is blood pressure medicine. I don't understand how this will help him. What does it have to do with his behavior problems? Should he be taking something else, or anything at all?

Answer: Clonidine is a centrally acting alpha-blocker. As such, it has several activities other than blood pressure. It is often used in drug withdrawals to block the side effects of withdrawal and seems useful in treating withdrawal from most drugs: nicotine, heroin, estrogen, etc. It can also cause mild sedation. I suspect the physician is seeking some of the central activity of this drug.
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