One of the reasons why heroin addicts find it so difficult to break away from their habit is fear of withdrawal symptoms. These unpleasant side-effects of the detoxification process include:
* Restless leg syndrome
* Agitation and anxiety
* Inability to sleep
* Muscle aches
* Abdominal cramping
* Nausea and vomiting
* Cold flashes
The unpleasant symptoms associated with withdrawals are an obstacle to recovery so anything that will make the process easier is of value. A medication called Clonidine has proved successful in the treatment of these symptoms.
Clonidine belongs to a class of drugs known as central alpha agonists. It is commonly used for treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension). It is also classified as a sympatholytic drug because it inhibits Postganglionic nerve fibers, and thus alters the functioning of the sympathetic nervous system – this is the part of the nervous system that it responsible for fight of flight response.
The current medical uses of Clonidine include:
* Treatment of high blood pressure. It does this by relaxing the blood vessels so there is less pressure.
* Opioid detoxification.
* It can help people deal with alcohol, narcotic, or nicotine withdrawals.
* It can effective in the treatment of restless leg syndrome.
* It can be used as an anesthetic when treating animals.
* It is sometimes given as a pre-med before surgery to help relax the individual.
* It may help eliminate the tics associated with Tourette syndrome.
* It is good for treating neuralgia type pain – this is pain due to stimulation of pain receptors in one or more nerves.
* It has proved effective in treating the night sweats.
* It can stop hot or cold flushes.
* It has been used in the treatment of a number of psychiatric disorder including post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorders.
* It can be used in the treatment of abnormally rapid pulse (tachycardia).
* It can also be an effective treatment for insomnia.
* It has been used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
* It provides some relief for menopausal symptoms.
* It can be used to treat chronic facial redness (Rosacea)
Clonidine can be prescribed for the treatment of heroin withdrawals. This drug does not claim to eliminate all these unpleasant effects, but it can eradicate many of the most unpleasant ones. It has a number of effects which make these withdrawals easier to deal with including:
* It combats the sympathetic nervous system response to heroin withdrawal thus making things easier for the individual.
* It helps to prevent restless leg syndrome. This is a common uncomfortable symptom in withdrawal (some would say the worst symptom of withdrawals), and it means that people are unable to get comfortable – they feel like they have to keep moving their limbs.
* It is also common for people who are going through withdrawals to complain of a pounding heart. This unpleasant sensation can also be eradicated by Clonidine.
* It can help people relax and sleep better at nighttime.
* Some users claim that it makes them feel more at ease with the process of heroin withdrawals. It makes the process easier and so the individual is more likely to see their detox all the way through.
There are a number of side effects associated with Clonidine including:
* It can sometimes cause low blood pressure (hypotension).
* It can lead to constipation.
* Users of this drug can experience drowsiness.
* Some people complain of a dry mouth. This experience of a dry mouth is common, but it can be relieved by drinking water or chewing gum (preferably sugarless).
* It can cause people to experience lightheadedness and dizziness.
Rare side effects include:
* An allergic reaction to the drug.
* Irregular heart beat.
* Mood changes – including symptoms of depression.
* Cold hands or feet
* Rashes on the body
* Swelling on the body
* Breathing problems
People should not stop using this drug without being advised to by a doctor – even if they have unpleasant symptoms. Those on the drug are also advised to ensure that they have an ample supply so that they do not miss doses. If people are vomiting and unable to take their medication they will need to inform their doctor right away. It is dangerous to stop using Clonidine abruptly because it can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms including:
* Nervousness and agitation
* It could lead to a rapid increase in blood pressure, and this would be dangerous.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are usually not prescribed this drug.
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