Clonidine, a blood pressure medication, is sometimes prescribed during the early stages of recovery from opiate or alcohol addiction. The medication doesn’t eliminate the cravings for the drug of choice but, used as prescribed, it can significantly reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Those symptoms can include itching, anxiety, increased heart rate, shaking, nausea, and more. Though Clonidine is not classified as a narcotic and is helpful in combatting addiction, there can be dangerous consequences if you mix it with alcohol.

What is Clonidine?

Originally used to treat high blood pressure, the medical community found that Clonidine, also sold as Kapvav and Catapres, is useful in other treatment areas.


Research indicates that this medication can be useful in the treatment of ADHD. It can reduce impulsivity while increasing the person’s ability to focus. This is because the drug relaxes a part of the brain that controls those functions. In addition, it reduces the heart rate, which can help control anxiety.

Other off label uses for this medication include:

  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Hot Flashes
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Alcohol Withdrawal
  • Opiate Withdrawal

While most medications for the treatment of opiate withdrawal are either partial or full opioid agonists, and therefore classified as narcotics, Clonidine is not an opioid agonist. It is commonly prescribed by doctors for early recovery symptoms from opiate addiction and alcoholism.

If your doctor prescribes Clonidine to get you past the first few days of opiate withdrawal, you will probably only get a three-day supply. This is because some people with substance abuse disorder attempt to get high on Clonidine, which can create severe health issues.

Common Side Effects of Clonidine

There are typical side effects related to the use of Clonidine, and then there are specific side effects when Clonidine is used with narcotics, alcohol, or both.

Typical side effects can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite
  • Dry eyes
  • Constipation
  • Nightmares and/or insomnia

Some of the side effects of Clonidine explain why someone with a substance abuse disorder might mix it with alcohol or other drugs. These include:

Mixed with Opioids

  • Longer high – in some cases, combining Clonidine with alcohol or other drugs will increase the length of time that the high lasts.
  • More powerful high – The effects of opioids, when used with Clonidine, are typically increased and require less of the drug to achieve the effect.

Mixed with Alcohol

  • Numbing feeling – Clonidine already produces a down or numbed feeling. When alcohol, which causes a similar effect, is mixed with it, these numb, zombie-like emotions are increased. Some people have reported hallucinations as a side effect of combining the medication with alcohol. Others said that lightheaded dizziness is achieved.

It is commonly reported that mixing Clonidine with any drug, especially an opioid or alcohol increases the high.

Possible Interactions of Alcohol and Clonidine

The fallout from mixing alcohol and Clonidine is not worth the risk. In addition to the numb feelings it creates, there are also the health risks, some less serious than others, with the worst case including the risk of death.

The possible consequences include:

  • Fainting – which can create potential for injuries
  • Liver Damage – in some cases, irreversible damage which can lead to death
  • Changes in Heart Rate – heart arrhythmias can become life threatening

In high enough doses, Clonidine mixed with alcohol can also cause:

  • Stroke
  • Heart Attack
  • Sudden Cardiac Death

Alcohol and Clonidine Addiction

Clonidine is not a typical street drug. It has little monetary street value due to it not being classified as a narcotic. In addition, Clonidine by itself is not a popular high, though people with substance abuse disorders have been known to take large doses (which can be fatal) in the effort to improve their regular high.

The biggest issue with Clonidine and addiction is when it is combined with alcohol or other drugs. Because this medication as well as alcohol are easily obtained, increase a user’s “experience”, and does not risk a scheduled narcotic criminal charge if you are caught, people can and do get addicted to the combination of alcohol/narcotics and Clonidine.

There are several key signs that one is using alcohol or drugs together with Clonidine. They include:

  • Slurred speech – also happens with alcohol alone, but may be intensified
  • Delayed reactions – having to overthink before answering questions/slow physical reactions
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constant or overwhelming drowsiness (nodding off, etc.)
  • Confusion – Unable to state where they are, birthdate, or what they had for their most recent meal are examples of confusion - but any inability to be alert and coherent about surroundings, etc. applies


The potential for serious health risks when withdrawing from a combined Clonidine and alcohol addiction makes it important to seek medical help before stopping. A doctor will typically wean the patient off the Clonidine with a safe, tiered process. At the same time, he will encourage the patient to begin treatment for their alcohol addiction. This might include inpatient rehabilitation, intensive outpatient programs, regular recovery meetings, individual or group counseling, medication assisted therapies, or a combination of all of these.

In some cases, the doctor will admit the patient for a few days to a hospital to have the weaning off alcohol and Clonidine medically supervised. Upon discharge, the patient will be provided with a list of substance abuse providers in the area.