Oxazepam (Serax) Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options
Although not as common as Valium or Xanax, oxazepam (brand name Serax) can be just as addictive when not taken as directed. Prolonged use of oxazepam can cause severe symptoms of withdrawal, which may require a medically supervised detox program.
Oxazepam was first prescribed in 1965 but has since been replaced by other benzodiazepines deemed more effective. Yet, oxazepam still has the potential for abuse and can cause tolerance, dependence and addiction. Treatment for oxazepam addiction is underresearched, but is likely best served by inpatient treatment programs that provide 24-hour care and supervision to monitor symptoms, provide support and motivate engagement in treatment.
What Is Oxazepam?
Oxazepam belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines, which slow down brain activity to cause feelings of calm and relaxation. Another name for oxazepam is Serax, which is typically prescribed to treat anxiety. Serax is also prescribed to relieve anxiety caused by alcohol withdrawal.
The medication is directed to be taken 3-4 times daily via oral administration. Oxazepam dosage is typically available in 10, 15 and 30mg capsules and tablets. Due to the sedating effects of oxazepam, the medication is sometimes is abused. Oxazepam abuse occurs when a person takes more than directed, takes it in ways other than directed or takes it for long periods of time.
Oxazepam is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which slows things down in the brain to produce relaxing effects. While this function is effective for treating anxiety, the feeling can be addicting. After taking oxazepam for awhile, the body is likely to become used to the relaxing effects, which will be less intense. This is called tolerance, which means the person will have to take more and more of the drug to achieve an oxazepam high.
Tolerance is a sign of oxazepam abuse, which can have damaging consequences, especially if the person is pregnant, has a history of mental illness or uses opioid medications. To avoid the risks of misuse, pay attention to the various signs and symptoms of oxazepam abuse and addiction.
Signs And Symptoms Of Oxazepam Abuse And Addiction
When someone is addicted to oxazepam, they may frequently attempt to obtain a prescription. Benzodiazepines are routinely prescribed to treat various issues, and people may go from doctor to doctor in search of more. This is called “doctor-shopping,” and the person may lie about it or worry about getting the next dose.
Taking oxazepam turns into addiction when the person experiences intense drug cravings, struggles to control taking it and continues to use it despite harmful consequences. They may experience problems at work or school, favor finding or taking oxazepam over their favorite activities and allow relationships to deteriorate.
An oxazepam high can cause effects like disorientation, slurred speech, sleepiness and a lack of coordination. Repeated use of oxazepam can result in an increase of side effects. Common oxazepam side effects may include:
- changes in appetite
- changes in sex drive or ability
More serious side effects can include an inability to sit still (shaking), skin rash, fever, irregular heartbeat and slow breathing. Misusing oxazepam can be dangerous and may result in severe health consequences.
The Dangers Of Oxazepam Addiction
The sedating effects of oxazepam can lead to accidents or injuries. Mixing oxazepam with alcohol increases sedation, adding to the risk of injury when driving or performing other activities that require alertness. Using alcohol with oxazepam also increases the risk of experiencing life-threatening side effects like unusual dizziness, lightheadedness, extreme sleepiness and difficulty breathing.
Mixing oxazepam with opioids, like Percocet or Norco, also increases the risk of life-threatening side effects. Overdose is common when people mix opioids with benzodiazepines, which can result in death.
An oxazepam overdose can also occur when a person takes too much, either on purpose or by accident. Benzodiazepines are some of the most used medications in cases of attempted suicide. Symptoms of oxazepam overdose can include:
- decreased alertness
- double vision
- fainting, drowsiness
- slowed breathing
- uncoordinated movement
- unresponsiveness (coma)
If a person shows any signs of overdose, 9-1-1 should be called immediately. Most people usually recover with proper treatment, but experiencing slowed breathing or coma for a long period of time can result in permanent disability. Although there are dangers associated with oxazepam abuse, it can be difficult to stop without assistance.
Oxazepam Withdrawal And Detox
Oxazepam use, like other benzodiazepines, is likely to cause physical dependence, which means stopping use causes uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. Oxazepam is a short-acting benzodiazepine, which means withdrawal usually begins 1-2 days after the last dose. Symptoms may continue for 2-4 weeks, and can include:
- agitation and irritability
- muscle aches and pains
- poor concentration and memory
When people are prescribed oxazepam, it’s not recommended to stop dosage without first consulting a doctor. To avoid withdrawal, doctors will gradually decrease dosage to lessen dependence. Similarly, those suffering from severe oxazepam withdrawal may also benefit from a medically supervised detox program.
Medically supervised detox programs take place in hospitals or rehab centers and allow staff to administer medications to alleviate unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal. These programs also provide safety and comfort, ensure support and supervision and help prepare a person for addiction treatment.
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Treatment For Oxazepam Abuse And Addiction
For people addicted to benzodiazepines, it’s recommended to begin treatment with a medically supervised detox program because symptoms of withdrawal can be severe. While these programs are crucial to recovery, a detox program is not treatment for addiction.
Behavioral therapy is the most common form of addiction treatment and works to change a person’s thinking and attitudes towards drugs. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, teaches patients coping skills to deal with stressful situations that often lead to drug use. Behavioral therapy has shown to be successful in helping people discontinue benzodiazepine use.
Research on treating oxazepam addiction is limited, but inpatient rehab programs can provide all the resources necessary to overcome addiction and live a balanced life. Within inpatient rehab programs, patients will live away from home and receive around-the-clock medical care and supervision. Because benzodiazepine abuse is typically associated with polydrug use or abusing more than one substance, inpatient treatment can be an effective option because staff can address multiple addictions and other issues of mental health.
Contact us today for more information on treating oxazepam abuse and addiction.
National Institute on Drug Abuse—How can prescription drug addiction be treated?
National Institute on Drug Abuse: For Teens—Prescription Depressant Medications
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus—Oxazepam, Oxazepam overdose
World Health Organization—Withdrawal Management for Benzodiazepine Dependence