Clonidine for ADHD: Is Clonidine effective?

clonidine for adhd
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman


Clonidine’s emerging role in ADHD management as an alternative for individuals with contraindications to stimulants. While stimulants like methylphenidate are conventional ADHD treatments, Clonidine stands out for those with coexisting sleep disorders or other sensitivities. Originating as an antihypertensive, Clonidine’s unique ability to modulate neurotransmitters makes it a promising option. It can help with being too active, impulsive behaviour, aggression, feeling too alert, and trouble sleeping. This blog explains how Clonidine works and discusses its benefits and possible side effects. If you or someone you know is dealing with ADHD and has other issues, Clonidine might be a helpful option for you.

How does clonidine work for ADHD? 

In children, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and/or inattention are signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The symptoms impact social, behavioral, emotional, intellectual, and cognitive functioning.

“ ADHD is not about knowing what to do, but doing what one knows,” 

Dr.Russell Barkley (Psychologist)
Dedicated to Education and Research on ADHD

Clonidine belongs to a group of drugs that relax blood vessels, helping blood flow and lower high blood pressure. Initially approved for hypertension, it later gained FDA approval in 2010 to treat ADHD in children.

Though it’s not fully understood how Clonidine eases ADHD symptoms, it’s believed to balance certain brain receptors, reducing hyperactivity and impulsivity. Acting on the noradrenergic system regulates the release of norepinephrine, a key neurotransmitter for attention and impulse control.

Clonidine’s effects on the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for planning and focus, promote a calm body and focused mind. It helps restore neurotransmitter balance in ADHD, calming hyperactivity, reducing impulsivity, and addressing challenges like sleep issues.

Considered when stimulants aren’t suitable, Clonidine offers a unique approach to ADHD management.

Who Can Take Clonidine for ADHD?

Adolescents and adults with ADHD who are at least six years old may be prescribed clonidine. It may be used to treat adult ADHD, while it is more frequently used for youngsters. Alpha-2-adrenergic agonists, such as extended-release clonidine, are typically saved for kids and teenagers who don’t react well to stimulant or selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor trials (like atomoxetine), who have unacceptably high side effects from these medications, or who have severe comorbid conditions. Less research has been done on the effectiveness of alpha-2-adrenergic agonists than on stimulants and atomoxetine, and their initial reaction may take up to two weeks (as opposed to 20 minutes to a few hours). The choice to administer clonidine for ADHD may be based on several variables, such as the patient’s reaction to prior therapies and the judgment of the clinician.

Giving your child clonidine

Your child’s physician will determine the appropriate dosage of clonidine for them. The medication label will provide the dosage. Make sure that the dosage of clonidine is always correct. Giving your child too much clonidine might be risky since it can impair their breathing and make them tired. Clonidine should be kept out of children’s reach in storage. If multiple people typically administer your child’s medication, make sure you communicate with each other and record the dosages administered to prevent inadvertent overdosing.

The RCH Pharmacy department produces an oral liquid for patients prescribed small doses and cannot swallow tablets. Clonidine may also be made in liquid form by compounding pharmacies; however, the concentration in these forms may differ from that in RCH liquid. To avoid dosage errors, patients should use the tablet form whenever feasible.

Clonidine is available as a patch, too. Before applying a fresh patch, permanently discard the previous one. After folding the used patch in half so that the adhesive sides face each other, store it in a bin out of the reach of kids and animals.

Are you worried about your child’s ADHD? Get a Clonidine refill within minutes. Consult a doctor!

How to Take Clonidine for ADHD?

Clonidine for ADHD is typically prescribed as an oral medication. Dosage and administration are based on the individual’s response to the medication, medical history, and other factors. Here are general guidelines on how clonidine for ADHD may be taken:

Forms of Clonidine

Immediate-Release Tablets

These are usually taken two or three times a day.

  • The tablets may be taken with or without food.
  • The initial dose is less and gradually increased under a doctor’s supervision.

Extended-Release Tablets

  • They are usually taken once daily in the morning or evening.
  • These are made to release the drug gradually over a longer time frame.
  • Extended-release formulations are often preferred to improve adherence and reduce the number of daily doses.


Initial Dose of clonidine

The starting dose is generally low, 0.1 extended-release Clonidine tablet, and is gradually increased. It’s common for healthcare providers to initiate treatment with a small dose and then adjust based on the individual’s response.

Titration of clonidine

Up until the intended therapeutic effect is obtained or side effects become an issue, the dosage may be gradually increased. The dose should be titrated to response in increments of 0.1 mg weekly (maximum 0.4 mg/day). Usually, this procedure is carried out under strict medical supervision.

Maintenance Dose of clonidine

Once an effective dose is determined, this is the regular ongoing dose.

Discontinuation of clonidine

Clonidine withdrawal needs to be tapered to avoid a blood pressure rebound.

Every individual is unique. Considering Clonidine for ADHD? Consult a doctor

How well does clonidine work in children and adolescents?

The effectiveness of clonidine can vary among individuals, and it may work well for some while not being as effective for others. It’s essential to consider the following points:

Symptom Relief

Clonidine may provide symptom relief for some children and adolescents with ADHD. It is often considered when other medications, such as stimulants, are not well-tolerated or are contraindicated.

Comorbid Conditions

Clonidine might be particularly useful when ADHD coexists with other conditions, such as tic disorders, insomnia, or oppositional defiant disorder. It can address both ADHD symptoms and symptoms related to the comorbid condition.

Individual Response

Like many medications, clonidine responses can vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience significant improvement in ADHD symptoms, while others may not respond as well.

Side Effects

 It’s essential to watch for any potential side effects of clonidine, particularly in young patients. Low blood pressure, exhaustion, and drowsiness are typical adverse effects. The medical professional will carefully balance the dangers and potential benefits.

Monitoring and Adjustments

Medical experts usually start with a low dose and titrate it gradually to determine the ideal therapeutic dose. Maintaining the safety and continued efficacy of the medicine requires routine monitoring and follow-up visits.

Parents, guardians, and healthcare providers must maintain open communication and discuss any concerns, changes in symptoms, or side effects. Before prescribing clonidine, healthcare providers often consider other FDA-approved treatments for ADHD, especially stimulant medications, which are considered first-line treatments due to their well-established efficacy.

Ultimately, the decision to use clonidine or any other medication for ADHD in children and adolescents should be made based on a thorough evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional, taking into account the individual’s specific circumstances and medical history.

ADHD can be challenging. Consult now to get a refill

Comparison with other ADHD medications

Clonidine is not typically considered a first-line treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stimulant medications, such as methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin) and amphetamines (e.g., Adderall), are often recommended as the initial pharmacological interventions for ADHD due to their well-established efficacy.

Here’s a brief comparison of clonidine with other ADHD medications:

Stimulant Medications

Mechanism of Action

Neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine are released into the brain in higher concentrations in response to stimulants, which are thought to help focus and attention.


Stimulant medications are generally considered highly effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. They often provide a rapid onset of action.

Common Medications

Examples include methylphenidate-based medications (Ritalin, Concerta) and amphetamine-based medications (Adderall, Vyvanse).

Non-Stimulant Medications


The non-stimulant clonidine stimulates the brain’s alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, inhibiting the release of several neurotransmitters.


Another non-stimulant medication, guanfacine (Intuniv), is also used in the treatment of ADHD. It has a mechanism of action similar to clonidine but primarily targets alpha-2 receptors.


Onset of Action

Stimulant medications often have a quicker onset of action than non-stimulant medications like clonidine.


Stimulant medications are generally more effective in reducing ADHD symptoms for a broader range of individuals. Non-stimulants may be considered when stimulants are not well-tolerated or are contraindicated.

Side Effects

Stimulant and non-stimulant medications can have side effects. Stimulants may cause increased heart rate, insomnia, and appetite suppression, while clonidine may cause drowsiness and low blood pressure.

AspectStimulant MedicationsClonidineGuanfacine 
Mechanism of ActionRelease dopamine and norepinephrineStimulates alpha-2 adrenergic receptorsNon-stimulant effectiveness may vary
EffectivenessHighly effective, rapid onset of actionNon-stimulant, effectiveness may varyNon-stimulant effectiveness may vary
Common MedicationsMethylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta), Amphetamines (Adderall, Vyvanse)ClonidineGuanfacine (Intuniv)
Onset of ActionQuick onsetSlower onset compared to stimulantsSlower onset compared to stimulants
EfficacyGenerally more effective for a broader range of individualsConsidered when stimulants are not well-tolerated or contraindicatedConsidered when stimulants are not well-tolerated or contraindicated
Side EffectsIncreased heart rate, insomnia, appetite suppressionDrowsiness, low blood pressureDrowsiness, low blood pressure

What are the precautions when taking Clonidine?

Clonidine contains special warnings and precautions, although it is generally considered safe and effective when used as indicated. Certain circumstances can call for quick medical intervention or unique care.

Warnings and precautions for taking clonidine include:

Decreased blood pressure and heart rate

Slow heart rate and low blood pressure are two side effects of clonidine. This modification may cause significant adverse effects if you have specific heart issues. Discuss with your doctor the need to monitor your blood pressure when taking clonidine.

Heart conditions

Clonidine should be used with caution in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions, such as heart rhythm disorders or a history of heart attacks. It is essential to discuss your medical history with your healthcare provider to ensure clonidine is appropriate for you.

Central nervous system depression

Clonidine may make you sleepy or less able to think clearly. It also has soothing properties. It is essential to exercise caution when operating machinery or other tasks requiring mental focus until you have a clear understanding of how clonidine affects you.


If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you and your healthcare practitioner must talk about the use of ADHD drugs, including clonidine. Regarding possible hazards and advantages, they might offer advice.

Pediatric use

Clonidine use in children and adolescents requires careful monitoring and adjustment of dosage. It should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare provider experienced in treating pediatric patients with ADHD, and it is only approved for children aged six years and older.

Are you concerned about the side effects of clonidine? Consult now

How long do I have to take Clonidine for ADHD? 

This is contingent upon the nature of your symptoms, their frequency, and the duration of your problems. The duration of clonidine use varies throughout individuals. It’s important to reevaluate whether you require medicine periodically. While some people benefit from medicine for many years, others only need it during specific periods, such as when they are in school. Once you have been taking clonidine regularly, stopping abruptly could be harmful. 

Suppose you and your physician decide to discontinue taking clonidine. In that case, your physician will review how to properly reduce the dosage over time to avoid a sudden spike in blood pressure and other side effects as your body gets used to not having it. Don’t abruptly stop taking this medication without first talking to your doctor. 

When should I see a doctor?

Inform your physician or pharmacist if you: 

  • Have any allergies
  • Have you ever had a drug response
  • Raynaud’s disease is a circulation disorder characterized by discoloration of fingers, toes, or other areas
  • Diabetes
  • kidney disease
  • Heart conditions
  • Psychiatric conditions like depression or bipolar disorder
  • Miss a period, are pregnant (or intend to become pregnant), or are nursing a baby. Inform your doctor if you become pregnant while taking clonidine
  • Use alcohol or illegal drugs, as these substances may interfere with the effectiveness of clonidine and cause drowsiness. 

FAQs about Clonidine for ADHD

Can other medicines be given at the same time as Clonidine for ADHD?

Yes, other ADHD medications, such as stimulants (e.g., methylphenidate, amphetamines), may be prescribed alongside clonidine in some instances. The combination of drugs is determined based on individual response and treatment goals. 

Can I stop giving my child Clonidine suddenly?

No, it is not advised to stop taking clonidine suddenly for ADHD. Anxiety and elevated blood pressure are two withdrawal symptoms that may occur from discontinuing the drug abruptly. 

How does Clonidine compare to stimulant medications for ADHD?

As a non-stimulant alternative for treating ADHD, clonidine is helpful for patients who cannot take stimulants because of another medical condition, don’t completely recover from the symptoms when taking stimulants, or have significant adverse effects.

Can Clonidine be used as a standalone treatment for ADHD?

As a non-stimulant, clonidine is regarded by doctors as a second-line treatment for ADHD. Therefore, if a patient is unable to take stimulants or does not respond well to them, they may suggest clonidine as a treatment for their ADHD symptoms.

How long does it take Clonidine to work?

It is recommended to administer extended-release clonidine twice a day, either in equal doses or with the greater dose given right before bed. The activity lasts for a minimum of 10 to 12 hours. 

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Connor, DANIEL F., KENNETH E. Fletcher, and JAMES M. Swanson. “A meta-analysis of clonidine for symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 38.12 (1999): 1551-1559.
  • Ming, Xue, et al. “Safety and efficacy of clonidine and clonidine extended-release in the treatment of children and adolescents with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders.” Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics (2011): 105-112.
  • Kollins, Scott H., et al. “Clonidine extended-release tablets as add-on therapy to psychostimulants in children and adolescents with ADHD.” Pediatrics 127.6 (2011): e1406-e1413.
  • Van Der Meere, Jaap, Boudewijn Gunning, and Nanke Stemerdink. “The effect of methylphenidate and clonidine on response inhibition and state regulation in children with ADHD.” The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines 40.2 (1999): 291-298.

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