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Central-acting agents

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 4, 2021.

Central-acting agents lower heart rate and reduce blood pressure. The medicine blocks signals from the brain to the nervous system that increase the heart rate and narrow blood vessels. As a result, the heart doesn't pump as hard and blood flows more easily through the body's veins and arteries.

Examples of central-acting agents

Central-acting agents are also called central adrenergic inhibitors, central alpha agonists and central agonists.

Several central-acting agents are available. The best one for you depends on your health and the condition being treated.

Examples of central-acting agents include:

  • Clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay)
  • Guanfacine (Intuniv)
  • Methyldopa

When central-acting agents are used

Central-acting agents are often prescribed in combination with other drugs if other medications haven't helped lower blood pressure.

The medicine may also be used to prevent, treat or improve signs and symptoms of other heath conditions, such as:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Drug withdrawal, such as from opioid pain medications
  • Hot flashes in menopause
  • Tourette syndrome

Side effects

Central-acting agents can have strong side effects. Possible side effects include:

  • Slow heart rate
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Impotence

Suddenly stopping a central-acting agent can cause a dangerous increase in blood pressure. Don't stop taking these medications without talking to your doctor.

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