|Type of medicine||Alpha-adrenergic agonist|
|Used for||Reducing withdrawal symptoms during opiate detoxification (such as heroin, morphine or dihydrocodeine detox)|
Treatment for opiate dependence involves replacing the opiate you have been using with a prescribed opiate. At the start of treatment, the main aim is to treat and prevent withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is the opiate that is usually prescribed, but another opiate called buprenorphine may also be used.
Lofexidine is a treatment which is used alongside (or sometimes instead of) methadone or buprenorphine. It helps to reduce withdrawal effects such as chills, sweating, stomach cramps, muscle pain, difficulties sleeping and runny nose.
Before taking lofexidine
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking lofexidine it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have a heart condition or have had a heart attack.
- If you have an unusually slow heartbeat, or low blood pressure.
- If you have kidney problems.
- If you have had a stroke or 'mini-stroke' (also known as a transient ischaemia attack or TIA).
- If you have ever had depression.
- If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
How to take lofexidine
- Lofexidine may be used as part of a detoxification programme in hospital or at home. Because each programme is tailored to meet a person's individual needs and no two detoxifications are exactly the same, it is important that you take lofexidine exactly as your doctor tells you to.
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about lofexidine and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
- Your doctor or drugs worker will tell you when and how often to take the tablets. It is likely that you will be asked to take four tablets over the course of the first day. Take your last dose of the day at bedtime, as this will help to reduce any problems you may have sleeping. Your dose may then be increased over the next few days. The maximum number of tablets you will be prescribed to take at any one time is four, and the maximum number during any one day is 12. You can take the tablets before or after meals.
- Keep your appointments with your doctor or clinic. Your pulse rate will need to be regularly monitored (especially in the first few days) to make sure you are taking a dose which helps your condition but avoids any unwanted symptoms such as a slow heartbeat.
- If you forget to take a dose, take one as soon as you remember and then continue as before. Do not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.
- It is usual to take lofexidine for around 7-10 days. Sometimes a course of treatment may be longer than this, so continue to take the tablets until you are told otherwise.
- You should not stop taking lofexidine suddenly, as this can cause your blood pressure to rise quickly which could be harmful. Your doctor will reduce your dose gradually over a couple of days to prevent this from happening.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Stay positive and relaxed, drink plenty of fluids, eat a light diet and use any support available to you, such as family and friends. It is important to note that lofexidine will not reduce cravings and will only help you deal with the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Use the additional support you will be offered from your drugs worker and self-help support groups to help you through cravings.
- Do not drink alcohol while you are on lofexidine because this can increase side-effects such as feeling sleepy or dizzy.
- Tell your drugs worker or doctor if you are feeling unwell. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe other medicines to help with the effects of withdrawal.
Can lofexidine cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.
|Very common lofexidine side-effects - these effect more than 1 in 10 people taking this medicine
||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling dizzy or sleepy||If you feel dizzy, sit down for a while until you feel better. It is important you do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol|
|Dry mouth and throat||Try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets|
|Slow heart rate||Your doctor will monitor you for this|
How to store lofexidine
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- Manufacturer's PIL, BritLofex® Tablets 0.2 mg; Britannia Pharmaceuticals Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated June 2010.
- British National Formulary; 64th Edition (Sep 2012) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Helen Huins