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Guanfacine Addiction & Treatment

What is Guanfacine?

Guanfacine is an FDA approved prescription medication with clinical efficacy to treat adolescents aged six to 17 who struggle with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This ADHD medical drug medication helps individuals who struggle with: 

  • Attention to detail
  • A short attention span
  • Following directions or instructions
  • Trouble organizing
  • Memory and remembering things
  • Sitting still or being still
  • Impulsive behavior

While Guanfacine is used to treat ADHD in children, a current study fox et al shows it’s also used and enables significant increases in children and adults with blood pressure problems. Unlike typical attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) prescription meds such Adderall, Guanfacine is not a stimulant medication. Instead, it’s believed to work by affecting the receptors in the part of the brain that lead to strengthening working memory, reducing distraction, and improving attention and impulse control, known as the prefrontal cortex or prefrontal cortical. Typically, this prescription drug is taken as a tablet by mouth over consecutive days. Other brand names include Intuniv and Tenex.

Guanfacine Effects

Like any medication, there are Guanfacine effects, even when taken as prescribed by a doctor. Tell your doctor right away if you experience any of these effects of Guanfacine: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Mental illness or mood changes

When taken in combination with other drugs or alcohol, previous studies fox et al show the risk of experiencing side effects of taking Guanfacine drastically increases. Side effects may be more intense if you have a history of any of the following conditions: 

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Fainting
  • Blood pressure problems 
  • Heart disease
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of mood disorders
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Substance use disorders
  • Alcohol craving or alcohol seeking
  • Stress drug craving
  • Cocaine seeking

Signs of Guanfacine Abuse and Addiction

There are multiple comparisons of Guanfacine and Adderall XR and in Guanfacine vs Adderall, previous studies show that taking Guanfacine does not carry a high risk of chemical dependency or physical dependency. However, this prescription drug can still have dangerous side effects if abused or taken in combination with illicit drugs or alcohol. Combining the Guanfacine medication with alcohol can intensify sedative and blood pressure lowering effects, which may increase the risk of overdose, drug abuse, or injury. 

If you or a loved one exhibits signs of overdose, call 911 immediately and seek medical attention. Overdose symptoms could include: 

  • Unconsciousness 
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Severe dizziness
  • Slowed heartbeat 
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Sluggishness
  • Respiratory depression
  • Bradycardia
  • Hypotension

Guanfacine Withdrawal Symptoms

Consult with your doctor before stopping the doses of Guanfacine. When discontinuing Guanfacine use, patients should work with a health care provider to gradually taper the level of medication by no more than 1mg every three to seven days. If abruptly discontinued, this prescription drug can cause drug abuse withdrawal symptoms, such as: 

  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Rapid increase in blood pressure

Long Term Side Effects of Guanfacine Abuse

Although studies fox et al indicated Guanfacine effects can be positive for those who struggle with ADHD or blood pressure problems, if taken for a long period of time, this prescription drug can damage the blood vessels of the brain, heart, and kidneys. As a result, those who take the FDA approved Guanfacine over time are at an increased risk for a stroke, heart attack or heart failure, or kidney failure, according to IBM Micromedex. 

Guanfacine Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, there are treatment programs available to help on your road to recovery. Studies indicated individuals may become addicted to Guanfacine if they are at a higher risk of developing addiction. Those who are prone to addiction include those with a: 

  • Family or personal history of addiction
  • Family or personal history of dependent individuals
  • Family or personal history of cocaine dependence
  • Family or personal history of drug alcohol abuse and substance use or stress drug craving
  • Family or personal history of mental health issues like depression and anxiety

Dependent individuals or substance abusers with an addiction to Guanfacine should consider seeking help from a treatment center where there are options for Guanfacine treatment, like with inpatient treatment or intensive outpatient treatment. The first step towards recovery is detoxing from the drug. Side effects of detox may include: 

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Intense cravings
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Restlessness


Depending on the individual, Guanfacine treatment can include medically assisted treatment (MAT) in conjunction with a variety of types of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy, music therapy, and more.