Mayo Clinic Health Library

Central-acting agents

Updated: 01-09-2019

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

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. Which one is best for you depends on your health and the condition being treated.

Examples of central-acting agents include:

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

Uses for central-acting agents

Doctors prescribe central-acting agents to prevent, treat or improve symptoms in conditions, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Hot flashes
  • Drug withdrawal
  • Tourette syndrome

Side effects and cautions

These medications can have strong side effects, so they aren't commonly used. Side effects include:

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

Abruptly stopping use of some central-acting agents can cause a sudden, dangerous increase in blood pressure. Don't stop taking these medications without talking to your doctor.