Clonidine is a medication that has been used off label for ADHD symptoms for years. Off label means that the medication is not approved by the FDA for the indication of treating ADHD. Clonidine is an alpha agonist, not a stimulant and it is not a controlled substance. It is FDA approved for treating hypertension and lowers blood pressure. It is the side effects of clonidine that make it helpful in treating ADHD in some cases. It can have a calming and often sedating effect and has been demonstrated to help with impulse control. Because it can be sedating it can be used before bedtime to help patients with ADHD sleep.
Kapvay is a brand name product that contains clonidine in a long acting preparation that IS approved by the FDA for ADHD as a single therapy or in combination with stimulants. It can be very helpful with hyperactive and impulsive symptoms and is sometimes used to help keep stimulant doses a little lower. For some patients the combination of Kapvay and a stimulant is better than either one alone.
Another alpha agonist that is used in a similar way is guanfacine. It also has a long acting version that is FDA approved for ADHD, Intuniv. These medications are in the same family but some patients respond much better to one than the other.
Sometimes neither medication has any effect at all on symptoms.
Side effects are generally mild and may include somnolence, light headed feeling and abdominal pain.
Changing the time of day that the medications are used can usually fix side effects which tend to improve in the first 2 weeks.