Why is Clonidine Used During Drug and Alcohol Detox?

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Many people who struggle with addiction require treatment to overcome the condition. For most, detox is the first step in their recovery journey.

Detox can be an uncomfortable experience. It is often accompanied by severe physical and emotional symptoms that can keep people from completing the process. However, effective treatment and care can make it more likely that a person will be able to have a complete detox from substances.

Certain medications can keep the worst withdrawal symptoms at bay. One of these medications, Clonidine, is used to help people stay comfortable during detox. The more comfortable someone is during detox, the more likely they are to avoid relapse and complete their program.

Clonidine is a sedative and antihypertensive medication that is used to treat high blood pressure. It relaxes blood vessels thereby lowering blood pressure. However, some formulations of clonidine are used to treat ADHD and pain caused by cancer.[1] Due to the medication’s relaxing capabilities, clonidine can also be used during drug and alcohol detox.


Using Clonidine During Detox

After a period of substance abuse, people’s bodies can become dependent on the drug(s) they were abusing. This is one of the physical aspects of addiction, and it can be the toughest part to overcome.

Detox is the process of allowing your body to rid itself of toxins–including drugs and alcohol. While this is a natural process, detox is often very uncomfortable. As your body adjusts to the sudden absence of drugs or alcohol, you may experience intense and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These vary depending on the substance you abused, but withdrawal is generally uncomfortable. Some withdrawal symptoms can even be dangerous.

Clonidine is given to people in detox to help manage the discomfort of withdrawal. When people take clonidine during drug or alcohol detox, they often experience a calming effect. This happens as a result of the drug’s ability to relax blood vessels. People who take clonidine for withdrawal may have lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety.[2,3]

A more comfortable detox period means people will be more likely to get through this difficult period and have a safe, complete detox from the substances they abused.

How to Use Clonidine for Withdrawal Symptoms

Going through a medically supervised detox program gives people a better chance at a complete, safe detox when compared to going “cold turkey”. This is because when people are monitored and treated for their uncomfortable or dangerous withdrawal symptoms, they are more likely to stay comfortable during detox–and this makes it more likely that they will complete the program.

Clonidine is given to people during drug and alcohol detox to help manage the discomfort of withdrawal. It is given in two ways.


In tablet form, clonidine is usually given every few hours to stay ahead of people’s discomfort. People may begin taking it right away during detox and continue to take it until the peak of withdrawal is over. The medical staff can adjust and taper the medication as needed.


A convenient patch allows people to have a steady stream of clonidine without needing to take a pill every few hours.[4]

People are sometimes given clonidine during detox alongside other medications like buprenorphine that help manage other withdrawal symptoms. Taking clonidine can help people get through the hardest parts of detox so that they can complete the program and move on to an addiction treatment program.

Benefits of Using Clonidine for Opioid Withdrawal

The United States is in the midst of an opioid abuse crisis that will likely affect millions of people’s lives for generations. Treatment for opioid abuse is an essential part of saving lives and returning to a healthy, functioning country.

Detox from opioids can be brutal, and many people fail to achieve a complete detox because of the withdrawal symptoms they experience when they try to stop using them. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:[5]

opioid withdrawal symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Sweating
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Taking clonidine during drug or alcohol detox can help reduce some of these uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. It is especially effective at helping to reduce body aches, irritability, anxiety, and sweating.

Clonidine was originally studied as a treatment for ADHD. It is often effective at reducing impulsivity. This can help people complete a detox program by making it less likely that they will relapse impulsively.

Find a Drug and Alcohol Detox Program in New Jersey Today

If you or someone you love needs detox and addiction treatment, you are not alone. With the right treatment and ongoing support, anyone can recover from addiction. At New Jersey Addiction Interventions, we offer a range of programs designed to give people the skills and support they need every step of the way.

We believe that everyone should have access to the treatment they need. That’s why we make the process of getting help as easy as possible. From your first call to your last day in treatment, our skilled, caring professionals will support you and help you navigate each stage of recovery.

Addiction can feel lonely, but you are not alone. Don’t wait another day for the treatment you need and deserve. Call now to speak to our admissions counselors about getting started.


  1. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682243.html
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/492670
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4347092/
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a608049.html
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526012/

Medically Reviewed: December 28, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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