BACKGROUND The role of clonidine in the management of opioid-dependent individuals undergoing gradual detoxification.
METHOD A double-blind placebo-controlled trial was conducted on 86 voluntary in-patients (59 male, 27 female) aged 18-47 years, at a specialist drug-dependence treatment unit. Patients entered the trial when on 40 mg of methadone daily or less, and were randomised to receive incremental doses of clonidine (increasing from 0.2 mg daily to 1.2 mg daily) during a 14-day period of gradual methadone detoxification and for four weeks thereafter. Blood pressure was monitored and severity of opioid abstinence was assessed by questionnaire and by clinical examination.
RESULT Half the subjects were withdrawn or defaulted from the trial by the end of two weeks, those receiving clonidine earlier than those receiving dummy medication (9 of the former and only one of the latter because of systemic hypotension). Similar proportions of subjects completed detoxification in the two groups. In those who completed detoxification, clonidine did not significantly reduce either the symptoms or objective signs of opioid withdrawal.
CONCLUSIONS These findings suggest that clonidine has no place as an adjunct to a programme of gradual opioid detoxification.