Clonidine hydrochloride was administered to ten patients in an inpatient setting after abrupt discontinuation of chronic methadone hydrochloride administration. Clonidine produced a rapid and statistically significant decrease in opiate withdrawal signs and symptoms. Clonidine administration for 14 days enabled all patients to be successfully detoxified from chronic opiate administration. In all patients studied, clonidine was a safe and effective nonopiate treatment of opiate withdrawal that suppressed the affect, signs, and symptoms of opiate withdrawal. These data support the hypothesis that the α2-adrenergic agonist, clonidine, has substantial antiwithdrawal effect by replacing opiate-mediated inhibition with α2-mediated inhibition of brain noradrenergic activity.
(JAMA 243:343-346, 1980)