Drugs seldom have multiple uses. One such drug – with so many uses – is clonidine. It is used for a range of medical conditions – namely, high blood pressure, flushing episodes during menopause or perimenopause stages, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), etc. As an extended application, this drug is also used for treating sleep disorders (insomnia), high levels of restlessness or anxiety as well as restless legs. The direct benefit of this drug is its ability to bring down high blood pressure. Does its use need to be tapered? It is essential to know more about how to discontinue the medication plan.

Clonidine helps activate a few receptors in your brain to reduce pressure build-up. These receptors have a direct impact on the vascular resistance at the periphery. Reduced pressure level becomes possible as the drug arrests a few brain chemicals (such as renin, norepinephrine, etc.) which have a bearing on the resistance levels built in blood vessels. In case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), clonidine controls the firing of PFC neurons; these are instrumental in the making of norepinephrine. As an outcome, there is marked change in attention and focus levels; also, there are no more needless movements or restlessness.

Within an hour from the time of administration, active ingredients of the drug get mixed into blood plasma. This drug may cause a few side effects such as dryness of mouth, weariness, migraines, drop in blood pressure level, etc. In some one-off cases, users have observed rashes on skin, difficulties to pass stools – i.e., constipation, a marked increase in anxiety level, etc. Most of these discomforts may disappear once your system gets used to the active ingredients of clonidine. But, if you see these discomforts to persist for long, you need to consult with your caregiver at the earliest possible time.

Safe use of clonidine

Your caregiver may start the medication plan with a lower dose, and may gradually increase it. It is taken orally either before or after a meal. The normal dosage plan involves intake of this drug twice within a 24-hour timespan. For some people, these two dosages may not be the same; in such cases, it is a safe practice to take the larger dose before you go to sleep. Your medication plan depends on several factors; key among them are your age, prior clinical conditions and how well your body responds to the first few dosages.

Those who already have conditions like arrhythmia (erratic heartbeats), abdominal conditions such as nausea, vomiting, post-menopausal flushing, migraines, etc., must tell their doctor about such pre-existing problems. This medicine is also available as an immediate release variant; each variant has unique active ingredients as well as its own mechanism of action. It is unsafe to take different variants of this drug during your medication plan. It is a good practice to talk to your caregiving team prior to starting your treatment plans.

Tapered dosages of clonidine – especially, at the end of your medication plan

It is extremely unsafe to abruptly stop using this drug. The odds of a few acute conditions are high when the dosages are discontinued all of a sudden. In some people, abrupt discontinuation led to strokes – triggered by high blood pressure level. These risks are more pronounced if you had been taking clonidine for long and / or in sizably large dosages; you may also see very adverse effects if you had been taking beta blockers. Beta blockers help reduce heart rate as well as lower cardiac strain or blood pressure levels.

Tapering the doses of clonidine in a slow manner is essential before you fully stop taking this med. So, never run out of this drug during the course of your treatment. For the same reason, never miss your doses; ensure to take all your doses as per your medication plan. It is dangerous to take other medicines which may contain the same active ingredients as clonidine. Always note that your caregiving team has prescribed this drug as its benefits far outstrip the risks of adverse side effects or other discomforts. In some one-off instances, clonidine may cause a few allergies; likely allergic reactions can include respiratory dysfunction, inflammation of facial parts, rashes on skin as well as acute spells of dizziness / drowsiness. Upon encountering any one or more of these side effects, it is a good practice to seek medical help as quickly as you possibly can.

It also becomes important to remember that the discomforts – listed above – are not a complete listing. So, if you develop any unknown allergies or side effects, seek clinical attention without delay. If you are a resident of the US, reach out to the helpline number of the food and drugs administration (FDA); you may also call 911 for emergency clinical support. The FDA maintains this helpdesk to record allergic reactions / side effects caused by drugs. Those who are residents of Canada must call a local poison control center or reach out to Health Canada.

Also, people living with medical conditions such as hypotension, strokes or renal disorders must tell their doctor about such prior ailments. Never consume alcohol or any other intoxicating substances while you are taking clonidine. Those who drink alcohol regularly are advised to limit or stop their drinking habit. As this drug and its active ingredients can make you dizzy, you are advised not to engage in driving or operate / work with heavy machines. Those who have had prior history of abuse of alcohol or had been addicted to substances like cannabis (marijuana) must tell their caregiver about such conditions.

Elderly people are more vulnerable to the side effects of clonidine. Hence, the dosage plans offered to elders are not as powerful as those administered onto younger adults. Women who are nursing a baby may need to keep away from clonidine as its active chemicals can get into mother’s milk. Babies who feed on such milk may develop withdrawal symptoms such as sleeplessness, loss of appetite, persistent crying, etc. Always talk to your doctor if you are breastfeeding or if you are pregnant.

In sum, it is not a good practice to discontinue the use of clonidine. An abrupt stop can result in very high blood pressure levels; these spells may lead to strokes or a cardiac arrest. As an added precaution, those who take beta blockers (drugs which ease cardiac strain by lowering your heart beats) may need to exercise more caution. It is strongly recommended to talk to your physician prior to stopping clonidine; needless to state, you must never discontinue this drug without taking the consent of your caregiving team.

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