What are the Most Common Uses for Clonidine Hydrochloride?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

There are many common uses for clonidine hydrochloride. Some of these are sanctioned by regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and others are still common but are considered off label. The sanctioned uses are to treat high blood pressure and to be given alone or with other medicines that address attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Off label treatments are greatly varied and the drug has been employed to treat profuse nighttime sweating (nocturnal hyperhidrosis) especially as associated with menopause, tumors of the adrenal glands, diarrhea that is caused by diabetes, Tourette syndrome, pain that affects the nerves, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder, and detox symptoms that arise from quitting drinking, smoking or opioid drug use.

Clonidine hydrochloride may be prescribed to help lower blood pressure.
Clonidine hydrochloride may be prescribed to help lower blood pressure.

Until 2010, the only approved use for clonidine hydrochloride was as a blood pressure medicine to reduce hypertension. Studies prior to that had shown the drug’s usefulness in addressing ADHD symptoms. Used with a stimulant, like methylphenidate hydrochloride, clonidine could help create relaxation and promote better sleep. Researchers also found that some sufferers of ADHD responded well to the medication alone, and it could help reduce symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and lack of concentration. In some cases, clonidine is the only medicine used to treat ADHD, and the FDA gave approval for this use in 2010.

Clonidine hydrochloride is sometimes prescribed off label to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Clonidine hydrochloride is sometimes prescribed off label to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This doesn’t mean the drug can’t be effective elsewhere, but it just hasn’t met the standards created by the FDA to approve a medicine for other uses. This isn’t unusual and there are many medications that are known best for their off label functions. The list of off label uses for clonidine hydrochloride is extensive and has to do with the basic action of the drug, which may treat a variety of conditions.

Clonidine hydrochloride can be used to treat profuse nighttime sweating.
Clonidine hydrochloride can be used to treat profuse nighttime sweating.

Clonidine is an alpha-two (a2) adrenergic receptor that acts on body chemicals like norepinephrine, epinephrine and acetylcholine. It is known for a variety of symptoms it may cause in the body, such as lowering blood pressure. More of these physical reactions to clonidine include calming of the gastrointestinal tract, reduction in insulin production, reduced release of acetylcholine and norepinephrine, and greater tendency for platelets to clump or aggregate. These are only a few of the actions of clonidine hydrochloride, but they begin to explain why the drug may be useful in so many different conditions.

Until a few years ago, the only approved use for clonidine hydrochloride was as an anti-hypertensive medication.
Until a few years ago, the only approved use for clonidine hydrochloride was as an anti-hypertensive medication.

Despite the fact that clonidine hydrochloride has a polyvalent treatment spectrum, it needs to be taken with due caution. Its ability to lower blood pressure can correspond to dangerously low heart rate or arrythmias. Mild side effects include dryness of the mouth and eyes, sexual dysfunction, stomach upset, headache, and sore joints or muscles. As with any medication, this drug is prescribed carefully and even if it treats a condition that is sanctioned or off label, it isn’t necessarily the right choice for all patients.

Hypertension is caused by large amounts of blood pumping heavily against the walls of the arteries, which may begin to narrow and weaken.
Hypertension is caused by large amounts of blood pumping heavily against the walls of the arteries, which may begin to narrow and weaken.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon283375

What is the right replacement for clonidine HCI? The side effects are too harsh to manage.

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