Your blood rushes towards the arterial walls at a certain level of pressure; this is known as the blood pressure. This pressure can increase due to many reasons. A persistently high level of pressure is not good for your health and overall wellbeing. Such high levels can give way to health risks such as strokes, cardiac arrests or other heart related problems. The key issue here is a hypertensive condition may not show up through symptoms or characteristic signs. The best way to detect the condition is to measure your blood pressure in a routine manner. Hypertension becomes a medical condition taking a fairly long period of time. Obese people or those with diabetes may witness added risks. Among the drugs commonly used to treat hypertension, clonidine is widely prescribed. Apart from hypertension, this drug can also treat signs associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This drug may however trigger a few side effects. Knowledge of clonidine’s side effects can help you stay prepared as well as take needful precautions to allay some of its adverse effects.
Clonidine is used for a wide range of medical conditions such as hypertension (i.e., high blood pressure), attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), flushing among women – especially those who have reached menopause as well as to treat withdrawal syndrome. It is also used for muscular stiffness and diarrhea. The key benefit of clonidine is its ability to bring down blood pressure level; this drug is often administered to those living with a condition called resistant-hypertension. Clonidine essentially controls a few substances that help regulate blood pressure; these substances include aldosterone, renin, etc. For instance, renin influences the quantum of extracellular items such as lymph, interstitial fluid as well as plasma. Thus, the extent to which blood vessels can narrow or widen is determined by the presence of renin in the system. Clonidine works on the nerve-cells in your brain and helps reduce vascular-resistance. Thus, the drug enables your blood to circulate more freely and in a streamlined manner.
Though clonidine is used in the case management of ADHD, the outcomes are not full-fledged. Also, the side effects this drug can trigger can be quite adverse among people with ADHD. As an extended use, this drug is also administered to treat sudden stoppage or withdrawal of habit-forming drugs. Such drugs include alcohol, opioid medicines, nicotine, tranquilizers like benzodiazepines, etc. Here again, this drug’s ability to bring down pressure levels comes to greater use; clonidine helps minimize more common withdrawal signs showing up in the form of rapid heartbeats, hypertension, etc.
Side effects of clonidine
The most common side effects of clonidine include low level of blood pressure (i.e., hypotension), dryness of mouth, drowsiness, feeling dizzy, difficulties to pass stool, etc. Other equally common side effects are weariness, fatigue, headaches (this however may depend on the dosage taken), feeling sleepy, skin conditions if the medicine is administered in a transdermal way, postural low-pressure (pressure levels may fall when you sit or stand), etc. These are however observed only over a short term. These effects may soon disappear as your body gets used to this drug. Persistent spells of these side effects are not a healthy sign; in such instances, you need to talk to your treating doctor about it as promptly as possible.
Your doctor may suggest a few approaches to reduce discomforts such as drowsiness or being lightheaded. You are advised to rise very slowly from a sleeping posture or from a sitting position. In general, whenever there is a change in posture or position, it is a good practice to do such changes gradually and very slowly. In case you experience dryness of mouth, consume water or a substitute for saliva. You may also chew a gum or suck onto a hardboiled, sugar candy.
Some of the modestly common side effects of clonidine are increase in stress levels, feeling anxious, difficulties to pass stools, change in bodyweight, abdominal discomforts such as nausea along with vomiting, male impotence, drowsiness, feeling dizzy, etc. A few rare side effects of this drug are hallucinations, itchiness, erratic heartbeats (often, lesser than normal number of beats per minute), tingling, numbness, chills, prickly feeling, etc. In some rare instances, poor flow of blood to the end of your arteries (arterioles) has been reported; people have complained of their finger tips and toes tuning blue. As soon as flow resumes to these arterioles, it may cause pain along with reddening of the tips of fingers or toes.
Serious side effects of clonidine
In extremely remote cases, people have experienced a few adverse side effects such as dryness of nasal pathways, loss of hair, a marked increase in glucose levels in blood, enlargement of breasts (either one of them or both breasts) of men, etc. In some very rare instances, ventricular blocks have been observed upon taking clonidine for a fairly longer duration. If you experience acute side effects such as mood shifts (including depression), being in an irritated frame of mind, passing out, erratic heartbeats, etc., you need to seek medical help immediately.
Effects of withdrawal of clonidine
The usual dosage level of clonidine is two times each day. It is administered once in the mornings and later in the evening times. If there is a difference in the dosage levels, the larger dosage-form is taken before your bedtimes. Such an intake can avert risks of several side effects. The doses can however be taken before or after a meal.
You are advised to take the drug as per the prescription plan given by your treating physician. A sudden discontinuation of this drug may lead to relapse of high blood pressure. As a result, your doctor may recommend a gradual reduction of the dosage levels. The effects of withdrawing clonidine are directly linked to the strength and duration of your dosage plan. When the discomforts due to withdrawal of clonidine are moderate and not so severe, your treating doctor may consider re-administering the drug to you. However, if the signs are acute, urgent remedies are required; for instance, beta or alpha blocking medications are used. In most cases though, beta blocking drugs may not be used in a stand-alone manner as it can trigger several other side effects.
Allergies and hypersensitivity associated with the intake of clonidine
People with known allergies or hypersensitivity to clonidine as well as to any of its active or inactive ingredients are advised to tell about such conditions to their doctor and pharmacist. This information needs to be shared ahead of starting a course of this drug or similar medications. In some people, this drug may trigger allergic reactions such as inflammation, severe spell of drowsiness, respiratory problems, itchiness, rashes or discoloration of skin.
Risks of a likely overdose of clonidine
If you have accidentally missed a dose, and if your next dose of clonidine is coming-up soon, never take this medication two times. It is recommended to skip the forgotten dose. Talk to your pharmacist if you have a missed quite a few doses; this may require rescheduling the entire dosage plan. In the event of taking an overdose, you may experience signs such as a severe episode of drowsiness, slowdown or erratic heartbeats, respiratory problems like slowing down of breathing cycles, convulsions or fits, passing out, etc.
If you are living in Canada, you are advised to get in touch either with Health Canada or a poison control center located in the province where you live. On the other hand, if you are a resident of the US, you need to contact 911 immediately or get in touch with a local poison control without further delay.
Above all, you need to remember that the discomforts as well as allergies listed here do not form an entire set of side effects. It is possible that clonidine may develop newer side effects. When you experience such new or unlisted discomforts, you need to inform your doctor at the soonest possible time.
Precautions for safer intake of clonidine
The doses administered – i.e., both in terms of strength and frequency – depend on your underlying medical condition. It may also be influenced by the nature of your body’s response to this drug. It is highly recommended to take clonidine at the same timeslots every day; this can increase the efficacy of this medication. The treating physician may advise you to take this drug for a fairly long term. This is a good practice because hypertension may neither show up as an illness nor can make you unwell. Its silent presence is the main reason why you are advised to take it without a break.
Changes in lifestyle and doses of clonidine
Intake of clonidine over a very long time can decrease the efficiency levels of this drug. Your physician may recommend an alternative dosing pattern or may altogether change the medicines. It is hence very important to tell your doctor when you witness no reduction in your blood pressure levels. Over a period of time, changes you may make to your habits, diet and lifestyle. Some of the positive changes include keeping away from fatty or oily foods, fried food products as well as leading an active lifestyle with a regular workout regimen. Such healthy changes can enhance the efficacy of clonidine. In such circumstances, you are advised to talk to your physician. Needful alterations to your doses will be recommended; in some cases, the doctor may prescribe medications of a lower strength.
Interactions of clonidine with other drugs
Medications you are currently taking can work with other drugs consumed during the same time. Such a practice can adversely impact of the working of most of the co-administered medicines. In order to avoid such risks, you are advised to keep a list of all the drugs you currently take. While compiling this list, make sure to include over the counter (OTC) drugs, herbal supplements, dietary aids, prescription medicines, etc.
As clonidine can lead to dizziness as well as a feeling of drowsiness, you need to keep away from intoxicating items such as alcohol, cannabis or marijuana. It is also a safer practice to stay cautious of medications taken to reduce stress levels or those used to induce sleep; in general, keep away from drugs like diazepam, zolpidem, alprazolam, etc.
It is also not considered safe to take clonidine along with drugs belonging to the phenothiazine genre – such as chlorpromazine, etc. Not stopping with these medicines, a few cold medications or cough suppressants may also induce drowsiness. Always check with your pharmacist and your treating doctor about intake of such drugs along with your ongoing dosage of clonidine.
You may need to take added precautions if your treatment plan includes anticonvulsants of the barbiturate genre such as pentobarbital, phenobarbital or other muscle relaxing drugs, opioid-based pain relievers (like hydrocodone, morphine or oxycodone), a few types of antihistamines – especially, diphenhydramine, cetirizine, etc. You may run the risk of rising your blood pressure levels if you take clonidine with antidepressants – especially of the tricyclic genre (TCAs); a few of the TCAs to be avoided are doxepin, nortriptyline, clomipramine, etc. Added caution is needed when you take clonidine along with a few cardiac medications; this co-administration can slow-down your heartbeats. Such drugs include beta blocking drugs, calcium channel blocking medications such as verapamil, etc. It is also not recommended to take clonidine along with digoxin.
It is recommended to take additional care when you take this drug with anti-hypertensive medications such as angiotensin-converting-enzymes (ACE) inhibiting drugs, water pills or diuretics, angiotensin receptor blocking medications like valsartan and other medicines of similar genre.
Prior medical conditions and intake of clonidine
It is a good practice to tell your doctor and pharmacist about your medical history and your family’s clinical history. Prior conditions such as renal dysfunction, cardiac problems like erratic functioning of heart, internal blocks in the chambers – especially, ventricles, etc. need to be shared in advance with your medical team. If you are engaged in work activities that may require a high level of nimbleness, you are advised to tell your doctor about doing such work. In general, it is not advised to operate heavy machinery or perform activities like driving, soon after taking a dose of clonidine. It is for the same reason you are also advised not to take intoxicating substances or drugs; such usage can lead to accidental falls or fainting at your workplace. It can also lead to disastrous results if you faint while working with heavy machinery or while driving.
Other important safety measures associated with the consumption of clonidine
As this drug can result in drying of eyes, those wearing contact lens need to wet their eyes with eye-drops periodically. Also, if you are planning to undergo a surgery, it is a good practice to tell your surgeon about the intake of clonidine. Similarly, your dentist needs to know about your medication plan involving clonidine prior to planning a dental procedure. As the risks of side effects can be harmful, women who are already pregnant are required to exert needful caution. This drug is used only when it is essential for pregnant women. Those planning to become pregnant need to tell their treating doctor about their plans.
This drug is known to pass through breastmilk; hence, nursing mothers need to inform their doctor about it. As your baby may develop a few adverse signs, your doctor may prescribe a few other safer alternatives to clonidine. Among all types of people who take clonidine, older people are more likely to develop side effects such as being lightheaded or drowsy. Owing to the increased level of dizziness, elderly people may fall or faint under the influence of clonidine. Hence, added precautions are needed when this drug is administered to elders or old people.
Storage and disposal of clonidine
The drug may lose its efficacy if it is not stored in a proper manner. The best way to store clonidine is to keep it at ambient temperature (i.e., room-level temperature). It needs to be kept at a place well-protected from a direct exposure to moisture or sunlight. Hence, it is not recommended to store the drug in your bathrooms or toilets. Some people have the habit of disposing unused drugs in their toilets. A few people may get rid of unused pills through the drain. You need to talk to your pharmacist to know the safer ways of disposing clonidine. It is also a good practice to take the services of a waste management agency near your home. It is also very important to store it out of reach of pets as well as children.
It is considered a good practice to keep a watch over your blood pressure levels on a periodic basis. This can help you keep a tab over pressure levels as well as assess the efficacy of doses of clonidine. You may need to learn how to check your pulse rate (rate at which your heart beats) as well as your blood pressure. Once you have learned the ways to check the readings, you may need to share the readings with your treating physician in a regular manner.
In sum, the most common side effects of clonidine are hypotension, feeling dizzy, dryness of mouth, drowsiness, constipation, etc. You may also notice other discomforts like headaches, postural low-pressure, feeling sleepy, drowsiness, a few skin conditions, etc. These may disappear as soon as your body becomes used to clonidine. However, if these side effects continue for a longer time, it is highly recommended to talk to your treating physician as well as your pharmacist on an emergency basis.