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  • Mixing Clonidine & Alcohol | Effects, Risks, & Use During Withdrawal

    Mixing Clonidine & Alcohol | Effects, Risks, & Use During Withdrawal

    Catapres, the brand name for clonidine, is a prescription drug commonly used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). Clonidine can also be helpful in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, including anxiety, restlessness, and sweating. 

    Although clonidine may ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it should never be mixed with alcohol

    As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, alcohol can reduce heart rate and breathing. Although clonidine is not a CNS depressant, it can enhance these side effects and may contribute to a potentially fatal overdose. 

    Effects Of Mixing Clonidine & Alcohol

    Clonidine is in a class of drugs known as central alpha-agonist hypotensive agents (antihypertensive). Drugs in this class stimulate alpha-2 receptors in the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. 

    When your body is under stress, the sympathetic nervous system might respond by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. Taking clonidine activates alpha-2 receptors, which decreases heart rate and relaxes blood vessels. 

    An extended-release version of clonidine, Kapvay, is sometimes used to treat symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

    Enhanced Effects Of Both Substances

    According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alcohol should not be used with clonidine. Taking clonidine while drinking can enhance the effects of alcohol and may cause serious side effects. 

    Alcohol may worsen the following side effects of clonidine:

    • sedation
    • weakness
    • dizziness
    • dry mouth
    • headache
    • nausea/vomiting
    • constipation

    In addition, clonidine may intensify the following effects of alcohol intoxication:

    • slurred speech
    • impaired coordination
    • drowsiness
    • lightheadedness
    • nausea/vomiting
    • headache
    • impaired judgment 
    • blackouts (memory loss)

    Risks Of Mixing Clonidine & Alcohol

    Clonidine is an FDA-approved drug and is generally safe when taken as prescribed. However, mixing clonidine with alcohol increases the risk of overdose and alcohol addiction

    Overdose

    Alcohol is a CNS depressant and drinking too much can slow heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. In addition, taking clonidine with alcohol can worsen these symptoms and may trigger a potentially fatal overdose. 

    Overdose symptoms may include:

    • difficulty breathing
    • confusion
    • fainting
    • drowsiness
    • cold skin
    • low blood pressure (hypotension)
    • low heart rate
    • seizures
    • loss of consciousness
    • coma
    • death

    If you notice signs of overdose, seek emergency medical care immediately. 

    Dependence & Addiction

    Substance abuse, including mixing alcohol with clonidine, increases the risk of developing alcohol dependence and addiction. When you become dependent on alcohol, your body and mind rely on it to function. 

    If you suddenly stop drinking, you are at risk of experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

    Untreated alcohol dependence can progress into alcoholism, which is a serious disease that results in a lack of control over alcohol consumption despite consequences. 

    A professional treatment program can help you address withdrawal symptoms and behaviors associated with addiction. 

    Is Clonidine Used During Alcohol Withdrawal?

    Alcohol withdrawal is a dangerous condition and symptoms can range from mild to severe. There are many risks associated with alcohol withdrawal, including seizures and delirium tremens (DTs)

    Although clonidine can be dangerous when combined with alcohol, it can alleviate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal may cause an overactive sympathetic nervous system, including rapid heart rate, sweating, anxiety, and restlessness. 

    Other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

    • shaking
    • fatigue
    • agitation
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • insomnia

    Clonidine Use In Detox Programs

    Clonidine is sometimes used in treatment facilities for both alcohol and opioid withdrawal symptoms. Due to its response on the sympathetic nervous system, it can help reduce mild symptoms. 

    It does not reduce the risk of seizures or DTs, which require stronger medications like benzodiazepines. In the case of severe alcohol withdrawal, clonidine may be used as a supplement. 

    During alcohol detox, clonidine is likely administered three times a day for the first few days of withdrawal. As symptoms begin to subside, clonidine may be tapered (slowly reduced) and discontinued. 

    During alcohol withdrawal, there is an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, relapse, and overdose. 

    Taking too much clonidine or mixing it with drugs that cause similar effects can have fatal consequences. A healthcare provider will carefully monitor vital signs to ensure heart rate, breathing, and pulse are in a healthy range.

    If you or a loved one would like more information about treating alcohol withdrawal, please contact Ark Behavioral Health to speak with a specialist.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2022 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Sources

    American Academy Of Family Physicians (AAFP) - Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
    Federal Bureau Of Prisons - Detoxification Of Chemically Dependent Inmates
    Food And Drug Administration (FDA) - Catapres (Clonidine Hydrochloride)
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Clonidine

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on October 20, 2022
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