Oxazepam Addiction Explained
Oxazepam – frequently known by any of numerous trade names (see below) – is a tranquilizer in the benzodiazepine class of drugs, which is a prescription-only medicine in the UK. As with other benzodiazepines, oxazepam is known to be habit-forming and oxazepam addiction is a growing problem in the UK and worldwide. Nevertheless – and despite the fact that compared with other faster-acting benzodiazepines the “high” offered by oxazepam is less appealing – alongside its medicinal uses it is also used recreationally.
What is Oxazepam Addiction?
With oxazepam addiction specifically, that behaviour is the consumption of oxazepam (driven by the compulsion rather than in accordance with any doctor’s instructions).
Trade Names for Oxazepam
Oxazepam is sold under a large number of trade names around the world, including Alepam, Alepan, Anoxa, Anxiolit, Comedormir, durazepam, Murelax, Nozepam, Oksazepam, Opamox, Ox-Pam, Oxa-CT, Oxabenz, Oxamin, Oxapam, Oxapax, Oxascand, Oxaze, Oxazépam, Oxazin, Oxepam, Praxiten, Purata, Selars, Serax, Serenal, Serepax, Seresta, Séresta, Serpax, Sobril, Tazepam, Vaben, and Youfei. It has the chemical formula C15H11ClN2O2.
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Oxazepam Combinations with Other Drugs
As well as being provided by itself, oxazepam is also combined with scopolamine in the drug Novalona and with alanine in Pausafrent T.
What is oxazepam used for?
Oxazepam is frequently prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and associated tension, agitation and irritability. It is also a common treatment for insomnia (though usually in cases where individuals struggle to stay asleep rather than to fall asleep initially), drug and alcohol withdrawal, and for certain side effects of depression. Less frequently, it is prescribed in cases of social phobia, premenstrual syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the UK, oxazepam is a class-C controlled substance, available by prescription only. Worldwide, its legal status varies from country to country, and in some locations it is banned completely.
How addictive is oxazepam?
Though not considered as potent as some other benzodiazepines, oxazepam is nevertheless known to be habit-forming, with anyone taking it regularly for more than four to six weeks exposing themselves to a significantly elevated risk of developing dependence and addiction.
Neurological mechanism of oxazepam dependence
Dependence develops when an individual takes oxazepam repeatedly for a prolonged period, and their system adjusts to the presence of oxazepam, eventually requiring it in order to function normally. If that person’s system is suddenly deprived of oxazepam (i.e., if they stop taking the drug), the abnormal functioning of brain and body may result, manifesting in a series of potentially unpleasant symptoms collectively known as withdrawal.
Routes of administration of oxazepam
Oxazepam is provided in tablet form for oral consumption.
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Oxazepam Dependence Versus Addiction
Dependence and addiction are often confused or conflated by the general public and the media – perhaps understandably so, since they are closely related. Addiction is a psychological phenomenon driving repeated behaviour, whilst dependence is a physical problem resulting from the affected individual’s system adjusting so as to become reliant upon a given substance (in this case, oxazepam) in order to achieve its normal functions. Whilst addiction and dependence can each manifest independently, they very frequently occur together.
Why People Abuse Oxazepam
Like other benzodiazepines, the consumption of oxazepam can produce very enjoyable sensations in anyone taking it – and in someone who has been prescribed the drug as a treatment for a certain disorder, the alleviation of that disorder can also be pleasurable.
Taking oxazepam repeatedly over time to achieve or sustain these pleasurable sensations can quickly cause dependence and addiction, at which point the affected person may need to consume oxazepam simply to feel normal rather than for any “high” which may result.
Causes of oxazepam addiction
The phenomenon of addiction is not yet completely understood, in terms of what factors fundamentally cause it, though it is accepted that both the environment and genetics have a role to play. Regardless, it is undeniable that anybody consuming oxazepam for longer than a few weeks – and/or in excess of the period specified by the prescribing physician – risks building up a dependence to the drug; meanwhile, psychological addiction can develop even more quickly.
Risk factors for oxazepam abuse
- Genetic: a family history of either addiction or mental health issues is known to be an important risk factor for oxazepam abuse and addiction.
- Environmental: anyone having experienced trauma and/or serious life difficulties such as bereavement or unemployment; who has a peer group abusing oxazepam; or who takes oxazepam for longer or in greater quantities than recommended, is much more likely than the average to go on to develop an oxazepam addiction.
Like other benzodiazepines, oxazepam is frequently used in the treatment of various mental health issues; therefore, it is relatively frequently found in cases of dual diagnosis (whereby substance abuse disorders and other mental disorders cooccur). Dual diagnosis typically makes addiction treatment significantly more complicated, often requiring specialist care.
Research into the long-term impact of benzodiazepine consumption on the brain is ongoing (though of course its capacity to cause dependence is extremely well established). Some studies suggest that brain damage may typically result from extended periods of benzodiazepine consumption; certain behavioural and other psychological changes are known to result from such consumption, and this could be the result of actual neurological damage.
Relationship between Oxazepam and Other Substances/Contraindications
Oxazepam should not be taken by anyone suffering from myasthenia gravis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and any other serious pulmonary condition, and severe hepatic disease. Special precautions should be taken when prescribing oxazepam to the elderly, children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, substance-dependent individuals, and anyone suffering from a comorbid psychiatric disorder. Oxazepam is known to interact potentially problematically with various antidepressants (especially SSRIs such as paroxetine, sertraline and fluoxetine, and multiple reuptake inhibitors including duloxetine, venlafaxine and bupropion), opioids, alcohol, some antipsychotics, and sedative antihistamines.
Health Risks with Oxazepam Addiction
Alongside the negative impact on physical and mental health of addiction generally, long-term oxazepam abuse specifically poses a number of health risks, discussed below.
Effects of Oxazepam Use and Abuse
Many of the desired effects of oxazepam (ie, its sedative, antianxiety and muscle relaxant properties) can also be extremely problematic when unwanted. Some common adverse effects of oxazepam use include (but are not limited to):
- memory impairment
- paradoxical excitement
- anterograde amnesia
Oxazepam Abuse Signs and Symptoms
Because of the stigma surrounding addiction and substance abuse, and the shame many addicts feel (as well as risks to their personal and professional lives), it can be very difficult to identify instances thereof: affected individuals often go to great lengths to conceal their situations.
However, some signs which may indicate the abuse of oxazepam include: regular intoxication (with symptoms such as slurred speech, impaired motor control and drowsiness);
increased levels of intoxication when consuming alcohol or other substances of abuse; being preoccupied with obtaining and taking oxazepam; “doctor shopping” (visiting multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions); the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use; and long-term symptoms including cognitive impairment, anxiety, insomnia and depression.
Oxazepam Overdose Explained
Although oxazepam overdoses are comparatively rare, they are nevertheless a danger for anyone who consumes more than the recommended quantity of the drug. Symptoms of an oxazepam overdose (which, if witnessed in anyone known to have taken oxazepam, should prompt an immediate call to the emergency services) include:
- respiratory depression
- excessive somnolence
- altered consciousness
- central nervous system depression
- occasionally cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity
- deep coma
Cost of Oxazepam Addiction to Families and Society
Addiction to any substance can be devastating for family, and oxazepam is no exception despite its legal status:
family members are forced to witness the damage which addiction can do to a loved one, and to feel their own pain (which may be enhanced by feelings of betrayal or having been deceived). Addiction is a factor in thousands of divorces each year. Meanwhile, the social cost of oxazepam addiction includes millions of pounds in NHS spending, and time spent by police and social welfare in addressing the damage done by addicted individuals.
Seeing someone you love afflicted with addiction can be hugely distressing, and it is understandable that you would want to take action; however, you run the risk of making the situation worse if you act unadvisedly. Get in touch with an addiction specialist to discuss your situation; they will be able to advise you on what and what not to do.
Like other benzodiazepines, oxazepam is a popular drug of choice for teens and young people thanks to its comparatively low cost and relative ubiquity. If a young person close to you is abusing or addicted to oxazepam, contact an addiction specialist immediately to discuss what you might do to help.
What to Do If You Need Help to Detox
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is extremely dangerous and can be fatal; if you are addicted to oxazepam it is vital that you do not attempt to detox independently. Speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist about the dangers of benzodiazepine withdrawal and to discuss getting the correct medical assistance for detox.
As noted above, withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be fatal, and is usually considered to be one of the most arduous forms of withdrawal; unfortunately, if you have developed a dependence to oxazepam and wish to stop taking the drug, withdrawal may be unavoidable. Fortunately, however, some of the worst withdrawal symptoms may be addressed medicinally.
Symptoms of withdrawal
Each case of oxazepam withdrawal is unique, but some of the more frequently encountered withdrawal symptoms include:
- adominal and muscle cramps
- inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
Duration of withdrawal
Again, each instance of oxazepam withdrawal is a unique case, and some may last much longer than others. Usually, withdrawal will last between a fortnight and a month, with acute withdrawal setting in approximately two or three days after the last dose and typically lasting for around a week. In some cases, the affected individual will develop protracted (or post-acute) withdrawal syndrome, whereby certain withdrawal symptoms may go on to last months or even years.
Why You should Contact a Professional for Detox
As discussed above, withdrawal from any benzodiazepine can be dangerous or even fatal, and oxazepam is no exception.
It is imperative that you do not try to go through detox by yourself: contact your GP and/or an addiction specialist about the dangers of benzodiazepine detox, your situation specifically and what medical assistance might be available to you.
Oxazepam Addiction Treatment
Fortunately, there are now numerous public and private options for oxazepam addiction treatment across the UK. Addiction treatment is usually split into two phases: detoxification and withdrawal (carried out under expert supervision); and therapy.
Therapy for Oxazepam Addiction
Therapy underpins all addiction treatment. Although a period of detoxification removes substances of abuse from an individual’s system and hence addresses the immediate challenge of physical dependence, the longer-term and deep-seated psychological issues which led to substance abuse and addiction in the first place can only be addressed by therapy, which can provide patients with psychological defence mechanisms against relapse as well as giving them an understanding of what led to addiction and the behaviours which need to be managed in order to avoid going back to it. Addiction therapy comes in a great many formats and methodologies, and is provided in both one-to-one and group settings.
Oxazepam Abuse Detox Process
Each treatment facility may have its own take on the detoxification process, and what works for one patient may not be appropriate for another (for example, some patients may be required to taper down before beginning detox; others may be unable to receive certain medications during detox).
If you are thinking about going through oxazepam detox, for your own benefit it is worth speaking with your doctor about exactly what to expect and what will be expected of you, so no unpleasant surprises will have the potential to derail you from your detoxification and the start of your recovery.
Possible complications in oxazepam rehab
Because of the dangers associated with detoxification from oxazepam, you must be totally candid with the doctors at any rehab facility you may be considering, so as to minimise the risk of deadly complications during your stay: be upfront about the extent and duration of your addiction, and any other health issues – physical or mental – that you may have.
Oxazepam Relapse Prevention
Avoiding relapse is fundamental to a successful recovery (although if you do relapse you should not despair: it does not mean that you have failed and that you will automatically revert to addiction), but is an ongoing process that requires constant dedication.
Therapy like that provided in rehab will give you psychological defence mechanisms and avoidance tools which will be useful for the rest of your life; meanwhile, attending self-help groups and engaging in counselling can also help, especially during the first year or two of your recovery from addiction.
Oxazepam Addiction Statistics
- Over 12 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines are issued each year in the UK.
- In 2016 over 400 people died in England and Wales as a result of benzodiazepine abuse.
- More than 250,000 Britons have currently been taking benzodiazepines for a period exceeding that which was advised by their doctors.
- According to a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, almost 8% of Britons have misused benzodiazepines at some point in their lives.
- Over 40% of people taking oxazepam for over six weeks will become addicted.
Ready to get Help for Your Addiction?
If you are suffering from an addiction to oxazepam, you need to get help urgently – but only you can take that step: if you are unable or unwilling to ask for help, no treatment will work.
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If you are able to acknowledge your condition and reach out for help, don’t waste any more time. Many facilities across the UK have great expertise in treating addiction. Speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist today to find out which such facilities may be most appropriate for you.
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Addiction is a terrible and terrifying condition. Take back control of your life and begin the journey back to happiness by calling your GP and/or an addiction specialist today.
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