Central-acting agents treat high blood pressure but come with side effects.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Central-acting agents lower your heart rate and reduce your blood pressure. They do this by blocking signals from your brain to your nervous system that speed up your heart and narrow your veins and arteries. As a result, your heart doesn't pump as hard and your blood flows more easily through your blood vessels.

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

In addition to high blood pressure, doctors prescribe central-acting agents to prevent, treat or improve symptoms in conditions, such as:

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

These medications can have strong side effects. They're often used in combination with other drugs if other medications haven't been effective at lowering your blood pressure. Side effects include:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness or sedation
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Impotence

You could experience a dangerous increase in blood pressure if you suddenly stop taking central-acting agents. Don't stop taking these medications without talking to your doctor.

Aug. 14, 2019