Clonidine blocks acute opiate-withdrawal symptoms

Lancet. 1978 Sep 16;2(8090):599-602. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(78)92823-4.


In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial, clonidine eliminated objective signs and subjective symptoms of opiate withdrawal for 240--360 min in eleven addicts in a hospital setting. In an open pilot study of the effects of clonidine on longer-term opiate abstinence and symptoms, the same patients did well while taking clonidine for one week. There was only one documented instance of heroin use, in a patient who did not take clonidine after hospital discharge. 6 weeks or more after the study, four patients were back on reduced doses of methadone, one was on tricyclic antidepressants, and seven were off of all opiates. All eleven patients were doing well. These data suggest that opiate withdrawal is due to increased neuronal activity in areas such as the locus coeruleus which are regulated by both alpha-2 adrenergic and opiate receptors.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Clonidine / administration & dosage
  • Clonidine / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Methadone / therapeutic use
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Patient Compliance
  • Placebos
  • Self-Assessment
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Time Factors


  • Placebos
  • Clonidine
  • Methadone