Synthesized in 1961 and brought to the market four years later, oxazepam provides short-term relief of anxiety. It also treats agitation, irritability, and tension.
Compared to highly potent benzodiazepines like Valium, Klonopin, and Halcion, oxazepam is weaker and shorter-acting.
These attributes lend this oxazepam a veneer of safeness, a low-level benzodiazepine incapable of producing harmful effects when abused.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Compared to those other benzos, oxazepam may be the equivalent of a coral snake compared to its powerful chemical cousins, which are akin to the king cobra and viper, far deadlier versions of the same species. However, a snake is still a snake. While oxazepam may not be the most potent drug in its class, it is still capable of inducing addiction.
Read on to learn about the array of harmful effects of oxazepam addiction and available treatment options.
How Oxazepam Works
Like other benzodiazepines, oxazepam works by enhancing the effects of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), the neurotransmitter responsible for inhibiting the central nervous system (CNS). This action generates calm and sedation in a user.
Oxazepam is intended to be a short-term medication to relieve symptoms of anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. As an older medication, oxazepam is mostly available in generic form and comes as an oral capsule. The recommended dose is 10-30 mg (milligrams) by mouth, three to four times daily as needed, according to MedicineNet.
MedlinePlus.gov states that oxazepam can cause side effects, including:
- Upset stomach
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty urinating
- Frequent urination
- Restlessness or excitement
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Changes in sex drive or ability
Serious side effects from oxazepam may occur, such as:
- Shuffling walk
- Severe skin rash
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Persistent tremor or inability to sit still
The side effects of oxazepam are only the beginning. The drug’s manifold dangers become apparent when you use it for longer than the intended period or at higher-than-recommended doses.
The Signs of Oxazepam Addiction
Before someone develops an addiction to any substance, they will have first exhibited dependence. Dependence occurs when the body gets used to the presence of a drug. Once that drug exits the system, they begin to endure disturbances in the form of withdrawal symptoms.
Along with alcohol, benzodiazepines are capable of producing life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. For benzodiazepines, those life-threatening effects appear as seizures. Though this effect is rare with oxazepam, it can still occur.
According to Drugs.com, oxazepam withdrawal symptoms include:
- Abdominal and muscle cramps
- Low mood
- Seizures (rare)
It’s worth noting that rebound effects like insomnia and anxiety can occur once someone enters withdrawal.
However, dependence blooms into addiction when someone prioritizes oxazepam over everything else in their lives. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing disorder marked by compulsive drug seeking, persistent use despite adverse consequences, and long-lasting changes to the brain.
Drug addiction can also present itself through the following and behaviors and signs, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Over time, needing more oxazepam
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Not meeting obligations and work or school responsibilities
- Doing things to get oxazepam you normally wouldn’t
- Driving or doing other risky activities under the influence
- Feeling that you have to use oxazepam regularly
- Having intense urges for it
- Taking larger amounts of oxazepam over a longer period
- Making certain that you have a supply of the drug
- Spending money on oxazepam, even though you can’t afford it
- Continuing to use oxazepam despite consequences
- Spending a good deal of time getting and using oxazepam
- Failing in your attempts to stop using oxazepam
How Professional Treatment Can Help
Because benzodiazepines are dangerous in withdrawal, professional treatment is highly recommended.
Instead of going through a cold-turkey detox on your own, where you leave yourself susceptible to several harmful effects, professional treatment can offer you a structured, medically supervised detox, psychosocial treatment, and education necessary to help you realize sustained recovery.
Treatment starts with medical detox. During this process, a team of doctors, nurses, and other staff members will remove the oxazepam and other toxins from the body and treat your withdrawal symptoms. This allows for a safe and comfortable withdrawal process that minimizes the threat of symptoms. Detox also provides you mental and physical stabilization.
After detox, the actual mental and emotional aspects of the addiction are addressed through either residential or outpatient treatment, depending on the severity of your case. Residential treatment offers the most intensive level of care. In a residential program, you live onsite at the treatment facility and receive a full-time slate of therapy and care.
What’s more, residential care features evidence-based approaches that include:
- Behavioral therapy
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
- Life skills training
- Motivational interviewing
Clients can also receive comprehensive therapy and care on a part-time basis through an intensive outpatient program (IOP), which is designed for clients with less severe cases of benzodiazepine abuse.
Proven approaches, such as individual, family, group, and behavioral therapies, are offered at this level.
Once you have completed your treatment program, you can receive ongoing support through a 12-step or SMART Recovery® (Self-Management and Recovery Training) program. Because substance addiction is a lifelong battle, both programs are designed to equip you with the tools necessary to avoid relapse and achieve lasting recovery.
How Dangerous Is Oxazepam?
While oxazepam remains a less potent benzodiazepine, it can still produce ruinous overdose effects that resemble acute alcohol intoxication. Coma is also possible. What’s more, the use of oxazepam with alcohol or other sedative medications can result in death.
MedlinePlus.gov states that the following overdose symptoms are associated with oxazepam:
- Blurred or double vision
- Rapid side-to-side eye movement
- Slowed or stopped breathing
- Decreased alertness, or even coma
- Weakness, uncoordinated movement, a staggering gait
- Confusion, slurred speech
- Drowsiness, tiredness, fainting
If you or a loved one is in the throes of an overdose, please call 911. Overdose can lead to permanent damage or death.
Oxazepam Addiction Statistics
- From 2005 to 2011, an estimated 943,032 emergency department (ED) visits involved benzodiazepines alone or in combination with opioid pain relievers or alcohol, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of benzodiazepine-involved overdose deaths among women ages 30 to 64 spiked from 0.54 per 100,000 in 1999 to 5.02 per 100,000 in 2017.