Catapres (Clonidine)


By Tammy Preston, MS

Brand Name: Catapres® (KAT-uh-press)

Generic Name: clonidine (KLAHN-eh-deen) hydrochloride (HCL for short)

Manufacturer: Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

What Is Catapres®?

Catapres® is the brand name for an anti-hypertensive medication FDA approved for the treatment of mild to moderate high blood pressure. Its generic equivalent is called clonidine hydrochloride. Although not FDA indicated for the treatment adult ADHD, Catapres® (clonidine hydrochloride) is generally well accepted as an alternative to the use of stimulants in treating adult ADHD.

Catapres® Dosage

Catapres® is available in doses of 0.1 mg (colored tan), 0.2 mg (colored orange) and 0.3 mg (colored peach). An extended-release trans-dermal skin patch, called Catapres-TSS® (the generic is called clonidine transdermal) is an alternative to taking the drug orally. A trans-dermal patch is medication in an adhesive patch that sticks to your skin and is slowly released into your system. This is a convenient delivery system that can be applied just once weekly. The trans-dermal delivery method appears to help reduce some of the common minor side effects, such a dry mouth and fatigue.

How Does Catapres® Work?

It is unclear exactly how this blood-pressure reducing medication works in treating adult ADHD. It is known to reduce activity of the sympathetic nervous sytem; the signals in your body that rev you up and stimulate activity [1], and Catapres® (clonidine HCL) has been shown to have a calming effect on certain areas of the brain.

How Long Does It Take for Catapres® to Work?

The time required for Catapres® to have a therapeutic effect on adult ADHD may be different for each individual. But, as a guideline, it may take two or three weeks.

Is Catapres® Effective for Adult ADHD?

While this agent may be beneficial in children and adolescents, particularly those with significant hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, the benefits in adults are less clear. It seems to work best in decreasing hyperactivity, but does not as consistently appear to improve distractibility (as stimulants are known to do) [1]. Together, you and your doctor can determine if Catapres® (clonidine hydrochloride) is a good option for treating your symptoms.

Catapres® Side Effects

Sedation is the most universal adverse effect of Catapres® (clonidine hydrochloride). Other common side effects include: constipation, dizziness, dry eyes, dry mouth, and decreased heart rate. Less frequently, patients may experience headache, burning eyes, anxiety, sleep disorders, skin rash, hives, swelling, itching, and sexual dysfunctions. In rare cases, hallucinations, depression, psychosis, heart rhythm disorders, urination at night, and nausea have been reported. After a few weeks of treatment, minor side effects usually diminish considerably.

Catapres® Precautions

Take as Directed to Avoid Withdrawal
It is very important that you take Catapres® (clonidine HCL) as directed and do not stop your medication suddenly without consulting your physician. Sudden discontinuation can result in possible serious, and even fatal, withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms can include nervousness, agitation, headache, tremor, and rapid increase in blood pressure. Serious complications of sudden withdrawal, such as hypertensive encephalopathy, cerebrovascular accidents and death, are less common, but have been reported.

When discontinuing therapy with Catapres® (clonidine HCL), your physician will probably reduce your dose gradually over the course of a few days to avoid the symptoms and dangers of withdrawal.

Keep It Cool!
Hot weather and fever can significantly lower blood pressure. If you cannot avoid the heat or eliminate fever, contact your doctor. You may need to have your current dose of Catapres® (clonidine hydrochloride) adjusted.

Pregnancy Category C
As a category C medication, Catapres® may be harmful to an unborn baby. This drug can also pass into breast milk and may be harmful to your baby if you nurse. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while you are being treated for adult ADHD.

Total Treatment of ADHD
Catapres®, or any medication used to treat ADHD, should be used as a part of a total treatment program. Comprehensive treatment of the adult ADHD often includes education, support groups, regular doctor appointments and therapy or counseling.

Catapres® Withdrawal
Catapres® should not suddently be stopped but instead dosage should be gradually tapered, otherwise hypertension (high blood pressure) can result.

1. Searight R. et al (2000). Adult ADHD: Evaluation and Treatment in Family Medicine. American Family Physician, Vol 62 (9).
2. Medicine Net:
3. RxList:


  1. I find clonidine helpful with the hyperactive aspects of ADHD and reducing anxiety. But I think I still need a stimulant of some kind to help with attention.

  2. Catapres worked for me for a while but after a few weeks it stopped working. I agree with Spencer – it make me sleepy.

  3. I’ve been taking it for a day, and already have notice quite the sedating effect. It looks like its just going to work with hyperactivity. It calms my distractions a little bit but I see future in this medication. keep toying with it. theres hope kids. DO NOT TURN TO STREET DRUGS!!!

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