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How Effective Is Clonidine for Anxiety?

By S. Berger
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The medication clonidine reduces the physical stress response in the human body by working to block epinephrine, a chemical involved in fight or flight responses. It is prescribed for several physical and mental health conditions, including anxiety, panic disorder, insomnia, and high blood pressure. The use of clonidine for anxiety works to prevent the physical responses to anxiety, such as a racing heart and elevated blood pressure, rather than relying on its ability to stop anxious thoughts.

Other drugs exist to treat anxiety and panic disorders, but many mental health professionals prefer to use clonidine for treating anxiety. Unlike the benzodiazepines, another class of medications used for anxiety, there is little risk of addiction when using it. Studies investigating the efficacy of this medication as an anxiety treatment found that it was far superior to placebo treatments, which indicates that it has a real effect in treating this mental disorder. Clonidine decreased attacks of anxiety for most people studied, but in some cases, it made the anxiety symptoms even worse.

When people are given clonidine for anxiety, it is usually in an oral tablet form. More severe cases of anxiety could result in a person wearing a patch with this medication, however, allowing it to slowly absorb through the skin over time. In hospital settings, this medication is available in an injectable form for treating acute anxiety attacks.

Patients taking clonidine for anxiety should be aware of its potential side effects, usually limited to fairly harmless phenomena like dry mouth, itchiness and dry skin. Some patients may experience headaches, nausea, and problems sleeping. Sometimes, however, more severe side effects can occur, which can require medical assistance, such as a heart rate lower than 60 beats per minute, confusions or hallucinations. Fever, light-headedness, shortness of breath, or problems urinating are also cause for concern.

More than one medication may be prescribed for anxiety, and anxiety often occurs alongside other disorders. Therefore, people taking clonidine for anxiety should be aware of potential drug interactions. Benzodiazepines and other depressant drugs, including alcohol, as well as opiate painkillers, can intensify drowsiness and other effects of clonidine, and can potentially be lethal when combined in large doses. Beta blockers, another class of medications used for anxiety and high blood pressure, may also intensify the effects of clonidine, and can be dangerous when combined. Other medications affecting similar bodily systems to clonidine, such as digitalis and some antidepressants, may also be a risky combination.

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Discussion Comments

By anon969905 — On Sep 14, 2014

I am looking for an answer (probably have to ask my doctor.) Do people use clonidine while still tapering? My concern is increased respiratory depression.

By OeKc05 — On Dec 21, 2012

How well does clonidine work for treating panic attacks? Can I get relief right away if I take one as I feel a panic attack coming on, or will it be too late by then?

By feasting — On Dec 20, 2012

My mother suffered from both anxiety and high blood pressure, so clonidine was ideal for her. The doctor told her only to take it when her blood pressure became dangerously high, though.

I think that part of her anxiety stems from anticipating a jump in blood pressure. She went through a period where her pressure would spike for no reason at all, and now, she has a habit of checking it several times a day.

If the top number goes above 150, she takes a clonidine. It makes her very sleepy, and she usually has to take a nap after a pill.

By fify — On Dec 20, 2012

I have used clonidine as well and I think it's an effective drug for anxiety but it's not most commonly used for this. Its main purpose is to lower high blood pressure, so it works best for people who experience this symptoms due to their anxiety.

Otherwise, it can cause a lot of dizziness, nausea and fatigue because it reduces blood pressure. I wouldn't recommend it for people who don't have higher than normal blood pressure. The side-effects will probably be too much.

It worked for me because my anxiety was raising my blood pressure.

By ddljohn — On Dec 20, 2012

@ysmina-- Yea, it can be. I was prescribed clonidine while withdrawing from an anti-depressive that had a lot of withdrawal symptoms. Even though I was slowly tapering down the medication, it caused anxiety, migraines and insomnia. So my doctor prescribed me clonidine to help me withdraw.

This is a good drug for withdrawal because it doesn't cause addiction. I could stop the clonidine as soon as I withdrew from the other drug and I didn't have any problems.

By ysmina — On Dec 19, 2012

Can clonidine also be used for reducing anxiety related to withdrawing from other medications?

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