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Clonidine Side Effects

written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 12/31/2009

Clonidine is has several uses, some of which are not approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Learn about these uses, and about the most common clonidine side effects, in this guide.

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    Clonidine Description

    Clonidine relaxes the blood vessels, reducing heart rate and making it easier for blood to flow through the circulatory system. This drug decreases the levels of blood chemicals that narrow the blood vessels. Brand names for clonidine include Catapres, Duraclon, Catapres-TTS-1, Catapres-TTS-2, and Catapres-TTS-3. This drug is available in an oral tablet and a transdermal patch (this delivers the drug through the skin).

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    Uses

    Clonidine is FDA-approved for treating high blood pressure (hypertension). It has several other off-label uses. This drug is used for the relief of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, an opiate detox aid, and an anti-smoking aid. It is also used to treat diabetic diarrhea, Tourette’s syndrome, nerve pain, ulcerative colitis, adrenal gland tumors, menopausal flushing, and attention-deficit disorder (ADD).

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    Contraindications

    Researchers do not know if this drug is harmful to an unborn fetus. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while taking clonidine, tell your doctor. Use caution when taking clonidine if you have kidney disease, history of stroke or heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), heart disease, or coronary artery disease. If you’ve ever used the transdermal form of this drug, and had an allergic reaction, do not take oral clonidine.

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    Clonidine Side Effects

    Serious side effects of this drug include fast heartbeat, slow heart rate (< 60 beats per minute), shortness of breath, swelling, pounding heartbeat, confusion, fever, pale skin, decreased urinary output, hallucinations, rapid weight gain, and inability to urinate. Other side effects include dizziness, dry eyes, dry mouth, nausea, headache, vomiting, mild skin rash, nighttime urination, decreased libido, muscle pain, and joint pain.

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    Drug Interactions

    Cerner Multum reports that clonidine causes serious interactions with 17 other drugs. These drugs include doxepin, acetaminophen/propoxyphene, amoxapine, amitriptyline, clomipramine, nortriptyline, desipramine, and imipramine. Discuss your current list of medications with your doctor before taking clonidine to prevent serious drug interactions.

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    Alternatives

    If you cannot tolerate clonidine, discuss alternatives with your physician. If you have high blood pressure, you may be able to take a beta-blocker, diuretic, calcium channel blocker, ACE inhibitor, or other hypertension drug to reduce blood pressure levels. Other drugs can also be used to treat alcohol and opiate withdrawal and attention-deficit disorder.