What Are the Signs of a Clonidine Overdose?

During hospitalization, fluid and electrolyte replacement is typically necessary.
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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A clonidine overdose is a medical emergency, and symptoms normally develop within two hours of exposure to an overdose of this drug. Some of the most common signs of an overdose of clonidine include blood pressure changes, drowsiness, or an overall feeling of weakness. The heart rate may decrease, the skin may begin to feel cold, and loss of consciousness may occur. A severe overdose may result in seizures, heart damage, or even death. A patient with a suspected clonidine overdose should be transferred to the nearest medical facility as quickly as possible in order to prevent possible life-threatening complications.

Blood pressure changes are often one of the first signs of a clonidine overdose. Elevated blood pressure changes may cause symptoms such as blurred vision, headache, or confusion. Anxiety, chest pain, and shortness of breath may also occur as a result of severe high blood pressure. Signs of lowered blood pressure levels may include drowsiness, shallow breathing, or a slowed heart rate. A person with extremely low blood pressure levels may feel cold or pass out suddenly.

Weakness and drowsiness may occur in those suffering from a clonidine overdose, even if no blood pressure changes occur. Normal reflexes may be absent after an overdose, and the patient may become agitated or experience severe mood swings. It may become difficult for the affected person to focus or concentrate, causing difficulty trying to explain the symptoms or to carry on a coherent conversation.

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Seizures or convulsions may develop as a result of an overdose of clonidine. This can sometimes lead to a potentially fatal type of seizure known as status epilepticus, a condition that requires immediate medical attention. In severe cases, the patient may briefly lose consciousness or even go into a coma. Without proper treatment, a clonidine overdose can be fatal. During a seizure, the ability to breathe is compromised, so a prolonged seizure can lead to permanent brain damage or death.

Treatment for a clonidine overdose normally requires the use of a medical procedure known as a gastric lavage to pump the medication from the body. Activated charcoal may be given to absorb the medication that cannot be removed through gastric lavage. A small catheter known as an IV is usually inserted into a vein so that any necessary fluids and medications can be introduced directly into the bloodstream. In the most extreme cases, supportive care, such as oxygen therapy, may be needed until the patient's condition is stabilized.

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Discuss this Article

wavy58
Post 4

I had no idea that an overdose of clonidine could actually raise your blood pressure and make you anxious. I know that it is used to treat both anxiety and high blood pressure, so this is a strange reaction to have.

I would expect a person to get weak and sleepy instead of going into a panic. I suppose that every person reacts differently, though.

orangey03
Post 3

My mother took too much clonidine when her blood pressure got high. The doctor had told her that she could take it whenever her pressure got above 160 in order to lower it, but she took too much at once.

She got very drowsy and could not walk straight. Suddenly, she collapsed to the ground.

My dad was there to catch her before she hit, and off to the hospital they went. It was a very scary time, because I was afraid she would stop breathing on the way there.

giddion
Post 2

@Perdido – No, I don't think anyone would actually munch on charcoal. My aunt is a nurse, and she keeps a bag of powdered activated charcoal in her cupboard in case of emergencies.

She lives with my grandmother, who has overdosed on clonidine before. So, it makes sense that she keeps the charcoal powder around. She mixes it with water so that my grandmother can drink it.

Perdido
Post 1

I've heard of people using activated charcoal when someone has overdosed or somehow poisoned themselves with something. I'm very curious about this. Does the person have to actually chew on a lump of charcoal, or is there a better way to take it?

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