The Basics of Clonidine Rehabilitation

This guide was written to provide an overview of the clonidine rehabilitation process as well as to offer helpful resources for persons recovering from clonidine addiction.

Clonidine addiction rehabilitation usually begins with an orientation period that helps the individual adjust to the facility. During the orientation, the individual has an opportunity to meet with treatment staff and develop a personalized treatment plan that accounts for factors such as co-occurring disorders, addiction triggers, and chronic health conditions. Once a treatment plan has been developed, the individual goes through an initial detoxification period, which is when clonidine is cleared from the body. During the detoxification period, the individual is supervised by medical professionals to ensure the withdrawal is as comfortable as possible.

After completing the detoxification process, the individual receives a variety of services, including one-on-one counseling and group therapy. These services help the individual develop better coping skills and learn how to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, which can help clonidine users avoid relapse. Rehabilitation also provides a source of social support, which is critical for anyone recovering from clonidine addiction.

the four steps of rehab process

What Makes Clonidine Rehabilitation Difficult?

Although clonidine isn’t a controlled substance as described in the Controlled Substances Act, it does have some potential for abuse. As a result, clonidine misuse is a growing concern in the United States and abroad. In its 2019 World Drug Report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that the prevalence of past-year, non-medical use of tranquilizers was 2.2% of Americans aged 12 and older in 2017. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that another 0.2% of Americans aged 12 and older were current misusers of sedatives in 2016.

Recovery from clonidine addiction is often difficult because of the way clonidine works in the brain. To reduce blood pressure, clonidine activates alpha-2 receptors in the nervous system, relaxing the blood vessels and making it easier for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. When clonidine activates these receptors, it can have a sedative effect on the body. Clonidine also reduces anxiety and has a mild euphoric effect, which can cause cravings and make it difficult for users to stop taking the substance.

The Unique Struggle of Clonidine Addicts
  • produces a mild sense of euphoria, increasing the risk of dependence and addiction.
  • can produce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult to stop using the substance.
  • addiction can be difficult to overcome when the individual relies on clonidine to reduce anxiety.
  • blocks sympathetic activity in the brain, producing a pleasant sedative effect.

Clonidine Rehabilitation Statistics

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates in 2015:

  • 1,511,000 individuals twelve years of age and older — 0.6% of the population — were past-year misusers of sedatives; another 5,251,000 — 2.3% of the population — were past-year misusers of tranquilizers
  • 2,801 individuals 12 years of age and older in need of treatment enrolled in a rehabilitation program for prescription sedative abuse; another 14,217 enrolled in a rehabilitation program for prescription tranquilizer abuse.

Sedative Treatment Admissions by Gender

47.9% Male
52.1% Female

Demographics of Individuals Seeking Treatment for Sedative Addiction

According to a 2017 SAMHSA report that charts admissions to and discharges from publicly funded substance use treatment facilities, women are more likely to seek treatment for sedative abuse, which includes clonidine. The gender breakdown of treatment admissions for sedatives was 52.1% female and 47.9% male. While sedative addiction occurs in all age groups, the most common age group admitted to a treatment facility for sedative use was individuals aged 25 to 34, with 42 being the average age of all individuals from all age groups who are seeking rehabilitation.

Sedative Treatment Admissions Percentages by Age Group, 2017
Age at the Time of Treatment Admission Percentage of Sedative Treatment Admissions
12-17 6.3%
18-24 15.2%
25-34 25.6%
35-44 15.8%
45-54 10%
55-64 7.8%
65+ 19.7%

Clonidine Detoxification and Withdrawal Process

Long-term recovery from clonidine dependence involves a short-term process known as the initial detoxification period. The initial detoxification period is when clonidine leaves the user’s body; therefore, this process can produce uncomfortable withdrawal effects. Clonidine has a half-life of 12 to 16 hours, which means about half of the substance is eliminated from the body within this timeframe. The detoxification process is usually completed within 48 to 72 hours, but it may take longer in chronic users and people with kidney disease and other conditions that cause impaired kidney function.

Some users continue to experience withdrawal symptoms even after the initial detoxification process is complete. When symptoms persist for more than two weeks, they are called post-acute withdrawal symptoms. In chronic users, post-acute symptoms may persist for up to one year; however, the length of time depends on how long the individual has been using clonidine, how much clonidine the individual was using each day, and other factors.

Clonidine Withdrawal Symptoms

Body Mind
Short-Term Symptoms Increased heart rate
Significant increase in blood pressure
Heart palpitations
Long-Term Symptoms Tremors

Sources: Geyskes et al.

Clonidine withdrawal can cause rebound hypertension, a serious increase in blood pressure.

In people with high blood pressure, stopping clonidine suddenly can cause a complication known as rebound hypertension. This is when an individual’s blood pressure increases significantly beyond his or her normal baseline. Rebound hypertension is serious, as it increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other complications.

Clonidine withdrawal can be dangerous for users with pre-existing heart conditions.

A group of researchers conducted a study to determine how clonidine withdrawal affects the body. They discovered that stopping clonidine suddenly can cause heart palpitations and abnormal heart rhythms, both of which increase the risk of serious complications. These withdrawal symptoms are especially dangerous for people who have pre-existing heart conditions, as they increase the risk for stroke, congestive heart failure, and other heart problems.

In some users, clonidine withdrawal may cause hallucinations.

Bestha and Madaan published a case report describing the care of a 53-year-old man who had been in an automobile accident. While recovering from the accident, the man started taking clonidine to treat the symptoms of posttraumatic stress syndrome. Although the clonidine was effective for treating PTSD and improving the quality of his sleep, the man started having auditory hallucinations. These hallucinations went away as soon as the man stopped taking clonidine.

Clonidine Detoxification Medications

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has not approved any medications specifically for clonidine detoxification and withdrawal; however, medications may be given to ease withdrawal symptoms and make the detoxification process safer. For example, if an individual experiences a significant increase in blood pressure after discontinuing clonidine, other antihypertensive medications can be used to reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of serious complications. Medications may also be given to control withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and nausea.

For more information about withdrawal, read our guide on clonidine addiction.

Treatment for Clonidine Addiction

Because there are no FDA-approved medications specifically for treating clonidine addiction, clonidine rehabilitation usually focuses on the delivery of behavioral therapies in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Behavioral therapies can help clonidine users develop appropriate coping mechanisms and build supportive relationships, both of which can reduce the risk of relapse.

Rehabilitation Settings

Within either an inpatient or outpatient setting, treatments such as detoxification services, behavioral therapies, and medication-assisted treatments are offered for varying lengths of time.

Inpatient treatment involves living full time (including overnight) at a treatment facility for a set period of time. Outpatient treatment involves scheduled appointments at a facility in which you are free to come and go. Within each category, there are several distinctions.

Clonidine Treatment Programs
Setting Type of Treatment Description Duration Time Commitment
Inpatient Short-Term Residential Intensive treatment, sometimes in a hospital setting. Therapies offered are extensive. Medication-assisted treatment is available to those who qualify. 14-30 days Hours Per Day:


Days Per Week:


Long-Term Residential Intensive treatment in a non-hospital setting, most often a therapeutic community with other patients. Therapies offered are extensive. Medication-assisted treatment is available to those who qualify. 3-12 months Hours Per Day:


Days Per Week:


Partial Hospitalization Intensive treatment in a hospital setting. Patients do not stay overnight. Considered inpatient due to the hospital setting. Extensive services are provided and require a near full-time commitment every week. Medication-assisted treatment is available to those who qualify. 14-30 days Hours Per Day:


Days Per Week:


Outpatient Intensive Day Treatment Extensive services of an inpatient program but patients return home each day following treatment. After completion, patients often transition to less intensive counseling. Therapies offered are extensive. Medication-assisted treatment is available to those who qualify. 3-4 months Hours Per Day:


Days Per Week:


Counseling Both individual counseling and group counseling focus on short-term behavioral goals to develop coping strategies. Therapies offered are moderate. Medication-assisted treatment is not available. As long as desired Hours Per Day:


Days Per Week:


Support Groups Self-help groups center on maintaining abstinence after another form of treatment. Typically meet one day a week for 1-2 hours. As long as desired Hours Per Day:


Days Per Week:


Behavioral and Medication-Assisted Therapies

Behavioral therapy for substance addiction seeks to identify and manage addictive behaviors that lead to use and prevent relapse. Behavioral therapy is based on the concept that all behavior is learned and, thus, unhealthy behavior can be changed through learning coping skills and increasing awareness of negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to substance abuse.

Behavioral Therapies for Clonidine Addiction
Type of Therapy Definition
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Further reading:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people with substance use disorders overcome negative thoughts, correct harmful thinking patterns, and develop the coping skills they need to recover from clonidine addiction and avoid relapse in the future.

CBT is used to help clonidine users identify situations in which they have a high risk of relapsing, eliminate or mitigate life stressors that can increase the risk of relapse, and develop better coping skills, all of which can help overcome clonidine addiction. Modeling of appropriate behaviors is an important aspect of treatment with CBT.

Rational Recovery

Rational Recovery is a self-help movement that has been suggested as an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. The main difference between Rational Recovery and AA is that AA has a spiritual focus while RR has a cognitive focus. Thus, RR can help clonidine users identify deficits in their ability to cope with stressful situations.

Rational Recovery uses an approach known as the addictive voice recognition technique (AVRT). One of the main benefits of AVRT is that it can be used by anyone struggling with addiction, regardless of the substance used or the existence of stressful life circumstances.

12-Step Facilitation Therapy

Twelve-step facilitation therapy aims to keep users engaged in 12-step programs, which involve attending regular meetings, acknowledging that addiction is a lifelong disease that can’t be cured, and recognizing the importance of a higher power in recovering from addiction and avoiding relapse.

Although the benefits of 12-step facilitation are not as well-established as the benefits of participating in 12-step programs, several studies have shown that 12-step facilitation therapy can keep users engaged in the recovery process.

How to Find Help

Finding a Rehabilitation Center for Clonidine Addiction

When searching for a rehabilitation center for clonidine addiction, it’s important to look for a facility that offers medically managed detoxification. With supportive medications and oversight by trained professionals, the detoxification process can be made safer and more comfortable for the user.

Although no medications have been approved specifically for the treatment of clonidine addiction, behavioral therapies have shown promise. Choosing a facility that offers CBT, Rational Recovery, or 12-step facilitation can help the user avoid relapse.

Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services are available, but for heavy users of clonidine, the structured environment of an inpatient facility may offer the best chance of recovery because it provides more support and a more intensive therapeutic environment.

Our Directory

Our directory of rehab programs includes a comprehensive list of available treatment centers and programs as provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In the directory, you will find tools to filter the programs by setting, price, and location.