What is Guanfacine?

Guanfacine is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as part of a treatment plan that also includes behavioral health and educational measures. Unlike other drugs that are used to treat ADHD symptoms, Guanfacine is not a stimulant medication. Because it is not a stimulant medication, it is not a controlled substance and does not have a potential for abuse. It is a type of medication called an alpha-2A adrenergic receptor agonist. It works by affecting the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls attention span and impulsivity. It is also used to treat high blood pressure in adults. Guanfacine is an oral medication that comes in extended-release tablets and pill forms. Some brand names are:

  • Tenex – used for hypertension
  • Intuniv – extended-release tablet used for ADHD in children

Guanfacine Effects

When Guanfacine is used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it increases attention and decreases restlessness in adults and children who cannot concentrate for very long, are overactive, impulsive, or are easily distracted. Doctors will usually recommend those with attention deficit (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) start on a low dose of guanfacine and slowly build up to an effective dosage as to allow them to adjust to any side effects. It can take a few weeks for a person to feel its full effects. As with all medication used to treat ADHD, there are some adverse effects. Effects of Guanfacine include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Headaches
  • Sedation, which is temporary
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth

Signs of Guanfacine Abuse and Addiction

Unlike other stimulant medications, Guanfacine is not a controlled substance and does not have a risk of abuse or dependency. However, it does have several drug interactions including Concerta, Vyvanse, and Adderall, which do have a potential for abuse and dependence. Misuse of stimulant medications for the treatment of ADHD can cause serious adverse heart issues and also carry the risk of addiction. A

You should avoid using illegal drugs or drinking alcohol while on Guanfacine because it can reduce its benefits. Alcohol and some drugs, including prescription drugs like opioid medication, muscle relaxers, sleeping aids, or medications for depression, anxiety, or seizures, can increase drowsiness when mixed with Guanfacine. Drinking alcohol while on Guanfacine addiction will not only reduce your tolerance to alcohol, but it can also make Guanfacine stay in your body longer and lead to worse side effects from the drug. There is also a risk for people with kidney or liver disease, as this may cause Guanfacine to build up in the body and increase serious side effects.

Guanfacine Withdrawal Symptoms

Although Guanfacine does not have potential for abuse or dependence, there are risks to abruptly stopping the medication. Taking this medication over time acts on the prefrontal cortex of the brain to work properly, which can cause adverse side effects if you do not taper down the medication and allow the brain to get used to functioning without it. Some withdrawal symptoms from stopping Guanfacine abruptly include:

  • Tremors
  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Headaches
  • A rapid increase in blood pressure
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Change in eyesight
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures

Long-Term Side Effects of Guanfacine Abuse

Because Guanfacine is a non-stimulant medication, there is no risk for dependence or abuse. Taking this medication for an extended period of time (12 to 24 months) can cause similar adverse effects as short term use including:

  • Somnolence
  • Sedation
  • Fatigue
  • Slow heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness (due to lower blood pressure)
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Depression
  • Frequent urination

Guanfacine Addiction Treatment

There is a high risk of taking Guanfacine when drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs or some prescription medications. There is also a risk associated with increased adverse side effects in those with liver or kidney diseases, such as liver damage or cirrhosis from substance abuse disorder. If you find you cannot stop using drugs or alcohol while taking this medication, there is treatment available for substance abuse and addiction. Drug and alcohol rehab centers can help you with addiction treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, group therapy, and holistic treatments. Dual diagnosis programs are available to help treat mental health conditions that may be present along with substance abuse including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and depression.

If you or someone you love would like more information about how to enter substance abuse recovery or treatment for mental health conditions, DayBreak Treatment Solutions is available to answer any questions you may have.

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