The medication clonidine reduces the physical stress response in the human body by working to block epinephrine, a chemical involved in fight or flight responses. It is prescribed for several physical and mental health conditions, including anxiety, panic disorder, insomnia, and high blood pressure. The use of clonidine for anxiety works to prevent the physical responses to anxiety, such as a racing heart and elevated blood pressure, rather than relying on its ability to stop anxious thoughts.
Other drugs exist to treat anxiety and panic disorders, but many mental health professionals prefer to use clonidine for treating anxiety. Unlike the benzodiazepines, another class of medications used for anxiety, there is little risk of addiction when using it. Studies investigating the efficacy of this medication as an anxiety treatment found that it was far superior to placebo treatments, which indicates that it has a real effect in treating this mental disorder. Clonidine decreased attacks of anxiety for most people studied, but in some cases, it made the anxiety symptoms even worse.
When people are given clonidine for anxiety, it is usually in an oral tablet form. More severe cases of anxiety could result in a person wearing a patch with this medication, however, allowing it to slowly absorb through the skin over time. In hospital settings, this medication is available in an injectable form for treating acute anxiety attacks.
Patients taking clonidine for anxiety should be aware of its potential side effects, usually limited to fairly harmless phenomena like dry mouth, itchiness and dry skin. Some patients may experience headaches, nausea, and problems sleeping. Sometimes, however, more severe side effects can occur, which can require medical assistance, such as a heart rate lower than 60 beats per minute, confusions or hallucinations. Fever, light-headedness, shortness of breath, or problems urinating are also cause for concern.
More than one medication may be prescribed for anxiety, and anxiety often occurs alongside other disorders. Therefore, people taking clonidine for anxiety should be aware of potential drug interactions. Benzodiazepines and other depressant drugs, including alcohol, as well as opiate painkillers, can intensify drowsiness and other effects of clonidine, and can potentially be lethal when combined in large doses. Beta blockers, another class of medications used for anxiety and high blood pressure, may also intensify the effects of clonidine, and can be dangerous when combined. Other medications affecting similar bodily systems to clonidine, such as digitalis and some antidepressants, may also be a risky combination.