ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a mental illness that affects at least 4% of American adults and millions of children. Common symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, difficulty in concentrating, and impulsive behaviors. Fortunately, ADHD is manageable with professional intervention through therapy and medication. One of the medications that doctors prescribe for ADHD is clonidine.
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Read on to find out all you need to know about clonidine for ADHD.
What Is Clonidine?
Clonidine is a generic name of a type of medication known as alpha-adrenergic agonists used to treat hypertension. However, it is also effective as a second-line treatment for ADHD. Usually, ADHD medications come in two categories, stimulants and non-stimulants. Stimulants always act as first-line treatments as they are more effective in alleviating ADHD symptoms compared to non-stimulants.
Although clonidine falls under the non-stimulant category, it doesn’t mean it is ineffective for ADHD. In a stimulant vs. non-stimulant scenario, second-line treatments are ideal for individuals who don’t experience adequate relief from taking stimulants or suffer from severe side effects. Lastly, they are ideal for people who cannot take stimulant ADHD treatments due to health reasons such as heart conditions.
Treatments like clonidine are best combined with stimulants as they help manage impulsivity, severe sleep disorders and regulate emotions. Stimulants, on the other hand, help you maintain focus and minimize distractibility.
Who Can Take Clonidine?
So who can take clonidine? Clonidine for ADHD is appropriate for patients between 6 and 18 years. Your doctor will advise you on your suitability for the treatment after evaluating your health status and considering other factors such as age. As such, it is advisable to consult your doctor if you have any questions about the medication.
How Does Clonidine Help ADHD?
Understanding how clonidine works can help you appreciate its effectiveness in managing ADHD. Clonidine works to calm patients with ADHD by affecting the part of the brain responsible for functions like organization and planning, and utilization of information. Doing so keeps you calm, which counters impulsivity, aggressiveness, and distractibility associated with ADHD.
How Long Does Clonidine Take to Work?
If you are taking clonidine for ADHD, you can expect to start seeing improvements after several days of using the drug. Note that your body takes between 20 and 60 minutes to absorb the medicine when taking orally.
How Much Clonidine Should I Take for ADHD?
Clonidine is available in three forms:
- Tablets for taking orally
- Transdermal patches that you place on your skin
- Liquid form for oral administration
Note that the amount of clonidine you should take depends on factors like age, the severity of your ADHD, whether you have other health conditions, and your reaction to the first dose.
Children between 6 and 18 years can take 0.1 mg of clonidine daily at first. However, your doctor may increase your dosage whenever necessary. There is no exact and safe dosage established for children below six years and adults.
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Directions on How to Take Clonidine
Following are the directions to take Clonidine:
- You can take clonidine either in the morning or before bedtime. If you are taking a higher dose, it is advisable to take your medication before bedtime.
- You can take clonidine with or without food.
- Never crush or cut extended-release clonidine tablets before taking them. Instead, swallow them whole.
- For liquid forms, shake well before use.
- If you miss your dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, if you have less than 6 hours to your next dose, you can skip the dose you missed and take your regular dose to prevent doubling.
It is always advisable to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking any medication to get the best results. Stick to the brand your doctor prescribes as different brands work differently.
Pros and Cons of Clonidine
Clonidine for ADHD has its benefits and downsides. Read on for the pros and cons of clonidine for ADHD.
Pros of Clonidine
- Besides managing ADHD, clonidine is also effective for treating hypertension and Tourette Syndrome.
- Clonidine is effective in reducing ADHD symptoms, such as hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity in children.
- Clonidine can help with insomnia when taken with stimulants for ADHD.
- It has a low risk of abuse and dependence, making it ideal for individuals with a history of addiction.
- It has no impact on appetite. Since stimulants are usually appetite suppressants, they may cause more problems for underweight patients.
- It helps with anxiety which is usually common in people with ADHD.
Cons of Clonidine
Despite its numerous benefits, clonidine has the following disadvantages.
- Clonidine only works for the forms of ADHD characterized by aggressiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. It may not be effective for ADHD with inattentive presentations and symptoms.
- There is little research regarding clonidine’s effects on adults as it is currently approved for children and teenagers.
- Since it is a second-line treatment, clonidine is not as effective as stimulants.
- It may lower your focus and result in a brain fog as you try to get used to the treatment.
- While it helps with insomnia, some people may feel fatigued during the day, which may interfere with productivity.
- It can lead to withdrawal reactions if you stop taking the medication abruptly.
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Side Effects of Clonidine
Clonidine side effects usually differ from one person to another. Usually, they occur in the early stages of using the medication and usually go away with time. Below are common side effects of clonidine:
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed when you stand
- Low blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Irregular heart rate
- Vomiting and nausea
- Erectile dysfunctions
Clonidine may also cause serious side effects, although they are rare. If you experience any of the following side effects, contact your doctor immediately as they may point to a more critical reaction.
- Irregular heartbeat or slow heart rate
- Breathing problems or difficulty when swallowing
- Rash, hives, or swelling anywhere in the body
Note that the above is not a complete list of side effects of clonidine. As such, be on the lookout for any bothersome effects when taking the drug and consult your doctor.
Precautions When Taking Clonidine
There are certain precautions when taking this medicine like avoiding alcohol when taking clonidine for ADHD. You should also inform your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breastfeeding as the medicine may be unsafe for unborn babies. It also affects the composition and production of breast milk.
Clonidine interacts with some types of medications such as antidepressants, opioids, as well as medicines that affect your heart rate. Therefore, inform your doctor if you are under any medication so they can offer alternatives in case of possible interactions. Doing so protects you from adverse complications from drug combinations.
You should also disclose any health conditions and allergies you may have to your doctor as they may affect how you use the medicine. Also, store the medicine away from direct sunlight and heat and keep it away from moist areas. Lastly, don’t stop using the medicine abruptly as it causes severe withdrawal reactions. Instead, talk to your doctor so they can gradually reduce your dose and help you taper off.
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