List of Research for Catapres (Clonidine) Use in Autism

Clonidine Autism Treatment Research List

2008 Research

Use of Clonidine in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Open-label, retrospective study
  • Included 19 children with autism spectrum disorder
  • Focused on efficacy of clonidine in treating insomnia, hyperactivity, inattention, mood disorder, and aggressive behaviors

1994 Research

Use of Clonidine for Behavioral Control in an Adult Patient with Autism

  • A case study
  • Describes the experience of a 26-year old autistic woman with occasional aggressive behavior on clonidine
  • Briefly discusses a possible mechanism of action of clonidine for controlling aggression

1992 Research

Clonidine Treatment of Hyperactive and Impulsive Children with Autistic Disorder

  • Placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study
  • Included 8 male children with autistic disorder
  • Focused on efficacy of clonidine in treating inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity

A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of the Efficacy of Transdermal Clonidine in Autism

  • Double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study
  • Included 9 males with autism
  • Focused on efficacy of clonidine in treating stereotyped body movements, self-stimulation, hypervigilence, and hyperactivity


Additional Resources:

Autism Research: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of the Efficacy of Transdermal Clonidine in Autism

Clonidine Research:

Efficacy and Safety of Transdermal Clonidine Study in Autistic Children
Research Studies Safety and Efficacy of Clonidine Patch to Treat Autism Behaviors

Research conducted prior to this study had shown that clonidine was effective in treating hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  However, little to no research had been performed to study the effectiveness of clonidine in treating hyperactivity, hypervigilence, self-stimulation, and stereotyped body movements in autism.  This study focused on the safety and efficacy of transdermal clonidine (i.e. a clonidine patch) in treating those behaviors in autism.  The findings were published in an article titled A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of the Efficacy of Transdermal Clonidine in Autism.

The study utilized a double-blind, placebo-crossover design.  A total of 9 individuals with autism participated in the study.  Their ages ranged from 5 to 33 years.  The study group received 0.005 mg/kg/day of clonidine via a transdermal patch while the control group received a placebo patch.

The trial consisted of two phases, each lasting 4 weeks.  During phase 1 some of the participants received the clonidine patch while the remaining individuals received placebo.  A 2 week washout period then occurred in which none of the participants received clonidine.  During phase 2 those that had received placebo during phase 1 received clonidine and vice versa.

During each phase the participants were assessed on a weekly basis by parents and every other week by clinicians.

Clonidine Benefits:

The research demonstrated that treatment with clonidine resulted in significant improvements in responses determined by feelings/emotions, sensory responses, and social relationship to people as rated by the Ritvo-Freeman Real Life Rating Scale.  The researchers also reported significant improvements in severity of autism and overall global improvement as rated by the Clinical Global Improvement (CGI).  A global rating scale performed by patients also showed significant improvements with clonidine treatment compared to placebo.

Clonidine Side Effects:

Many patients reported feeling sedated and fatigued during the first 2 weeks of therapy with clonidine.

The researchers state that their findings suggest clonidine may be effective in decreasing hyperactivity, hypervigilence, self-stimulation, and stereotyped body movements in autism.  They also suggest that clonidine may improve social relationships in some individuals with autism.  Finally, they recommend that larger studies utilizing clonidine be conducted to determine the best dosing for optimal response in treating behaviors associated with autism.

The article was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in March 1992.

Additional Information:

Autism Research: Clonidine Treatment of Hyperactive and Impulsive Children with Autistic Disorder

Clonidine Research:

Research Involving Use of Clonidine for Impulsivity and Hyperactivity in Autism

Impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity often accompany an autism diagnosis.  These issues may prevent a child with autism from receiving the maximum benefit from behavior and educational interventions.  This study attempted to determine the effectiveness of clonidine for impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity in children with autism.  The findings were published in an article titled Clonidine Treatment of Hyperactive and Impulsive Children with Autistic Disorder.

The study included 8 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  Each participant experienced impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity symptoms at a rate higher than normal for their age.  The study utilized a placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover design using clonidine as the treatment.  Teachers, parents, and clinicians rated different behaviors/symptoms observed in this study.

Clonidine Benefits:

The study found that hyperactivity, inappropriate speech, irritability, and stereotypy occurred less frequently during clonidine treatment according to teacher ratings utilizing the Aberrant Behavior Checklist.  The teacher ratings showed no significant improvements in attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity behaviors with clonidine use.  However, they did note an improvement in oppositional behavior during treatment with clonidine.

Parental ratings using the Conners Abbreviated Parent-Teacher Questionnaire showed significant improvement during treatment with clonidine.  The Conners Abbreviated Parent-Teacher Questionnaire includes areas of focus such as fidgeting, inattentiveness, excitability, impulsivity, restlessness, crying frequently and/or easily, quick mood changes, and temper outbursts.

However, clinician ratings failed to show any significant changes in behavior during treatment with clonidine versus treatment with placebo.  The clinicians assessed the treatment and placebo groups with several scales/tools including Clinical Global Impression, Anger and Speech Deviance factors, Children’s Psychiatric Rating Scale Autism, etc.

From these findings, the researchers state that clonidine showed moderate benefit for the short-term treatment of irritability and hyperactivity in some autistic children.

Clonidine Side Effects:

Clonidine side effects experienced during the study included increased drowsiness and decreased activity levels.

The article was published in October 1992 in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Additional Information: