Psychopharmacology and Clinical Application of Guanfacine and Clonidine for ADHD – What’s the Difference?

Posted on:March 20, 2022
Last Updated: March 15, 2024
Time to read: 7 minutes

Psychostimulants are first-line treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, some patients may be resistant to stimulant treatments, experience severe side effects from them, or may not tolerate stimulants due to pre-existing health conditions like heart disease. In these cases, one alternative pharmacological treatment for ADHD is alpha-2 agonists.

Alpha-2 agonists are a class of non-stimulant ADHD medication that work by activating alpha-2 adrenergic receptors in the brain and other parts of the body. Guanfacine and clonidine are both α2-adrenoreceptor agonists that have been clinically shown to be effective in managing both the core symptoms and associated comorbidities of the disorder. Both clonidine and guanfacine stimulate Alpha-2 adrenergic receptors pre and post-synaptically. Guanfacine and clonidine for ADHD can also be valuable as monotherapy or augmentation agents.

In this article, we’ll explore the pharmacological properties of guanfacine and clonidine, their notable differences, and how their respective uses in the treatment of ADHD can lead to better outcomes for those affected by the disorder. To better understand the role of guanfacine and clonidine for ADHD, let’s start with a quick discussion on the neurobiology of ADHD.