Unlikely sources can cause substance use disorders. Drugs like heroin, cocaine, and alcohol are popular on the recreational drug scene, and some users have subsequent addiction issues. But several prescription medications can cause substance use disorders if they’re misused or used for too long. 

Oxazepam is a prescription drug used to treat anxiety and insomnia, but it’s also in a class of drugs that can cause addiction. The depressant medication is a useful treatment for some, and an alcohol-like recreational drug for others. However, oxazepam addiction is treatable. Learn more about oxazepam addiction and how it can be treated. 

What is Oxazepam?

Oxazepam is a prescription benzodiazepine medication. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. 

Benzodiazepines were introduced to the U.S. in the 1960s and became the most popular prescription in the world by the mid-1970s. Oxazepam is specifically used to anxiety and insomnia, but it may also be used to treat alcohol use disorders. 

Like alcohol, oxazepam is used to slow down the central nervous system by working with a chemical in the brain called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is designed to produce a calming effect, leading to rest and relaxation. 

Depressants like oxazepam bind to GABA receptors and increase its effectiveness. Benzodiazepines can cause sedation, relaxation, release of anxieties, and they can induce sleep. They can also cause some side effects like next-morning drowsiness, dizziness, headache, and memory impairment.

Oxazepam can cause an alcohol-like intoxication in people who use the drug recreationally or take high doses. Both drugs work in the brain in similar ways, which is why benzodiazepines are used to taper people off of alcohol dependence. However, it also means there is a potential for oxazepam misuse. 

Why is Oxazepam Misuse Dangerous?

Oxazepam is a useful medication for some people, but it can be a source of substance use problems for others. Like other depressants, benzodiazepines have a significant potential for misuse and chemical dependency. Just like alcohol, high doses of oxazepam can cause a euphoric, relaxing intoxication. In high enough doses, it can also cause physical and mental impairment, loss of consciousness, and respiratory depression. 

Two women discussing mental healthRespiratory depression is a symptom of an overdose, which can be fatal. Breathing may be slowed or stopped, leading to oxygen deprivation, coma, and death. Accidental overdose on benzodiazepines alone isn’t common, but it can happen to people who take a high enough dose. 

However, mixing drugs like oxazepam with other substances like alcohol or opioids can significantly increase the risk of an overdose. Mixing depressants can cause the substances to potentiate one another, leading to intensified effects. 

Benzodiazepines can also be dangerous during the withdrawal phase of recovery. If you become chemically dependent on oxazepam, your brain will adapt to the steady supply of the depressant. When you stop using it suddenly, your brain will become unbalanced, and your nervous system will become overactive. This can cause potentially dangerous complications like delirium tremens and seizures. 

Why Does Oxazepam Cause Addiction?

Addiction can be caused by any drug that has a euphoric effect, which can cause changes in the reward center of the brain. Addiction affects the brain’s reward center, causing it to treat drug use as an important life-sustaining activity. The reward center encourages you to repeat certain activities that release rewarding chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. 

Unfortunately, drugs like oxazepam can cause euphoric effects and a release of these feel-good chemicals. Your brain may have trouble telling the difference between healthy activities and drug use. When you develop an addiction, you’ll start to have cravings to use the drug in response to stress, boredom, and other negative emotions. 

Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug use, even if it’s causing harmful consequences. It usually coincides with chemical dependence, which is a change in your brain chemistry as it adapts to the presence of the drug. If you stop using, you’ll start to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, tremors, dizziness, insomnia, and discomfort. 

Oxazepam can cause potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including tonic-clonic seizures. These uncomfortable symptoms further encourage the continued use of the drug. Between withdrawal and powerful compulsions to use, it can be difficult to stop an addiction on your own. 

What is the Scope of Oxazepam Addiction?

Benzodiazepines were once the most frequently prescribed medication in the world, and drugs like oxazepam are still extremely popular. They are first like prescriptions for some of the most common issues. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of people don’t get the recommended amount of sleep they need. Anxiety is also the most common mental health issue in the United States. Most people who use oxazepam as directed do so without developing a substance use disorder. 

In some cases, consistent long-term use of the drug can lead to chemical dependence. Recreational use of a benzodiazepine significantly increases your risk of dependence and addiction.

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 5.4 million people misused benzodiazepines within the survey’s last year. Around 399,000 of these were adolescents in the 12-17 age group. About 4.5 percent of young adults between ages 18 and 25 misused benzos, and 3.5 million adults over age 26 misused the drug. 

Benzodiazepine overdose usually isn’t fatal, unless users mix the medication with other depressants or opioids. In the middle of the opioid epidemic, many fatal benzo overdoses involve heroin. Mixing alcohol and benzos is also common, and it can lead to a fatal overdose. 

How Can Oxazepam Addiction Be Treated?

If you become dependent or addicted to a benzodiazepine such as oxazepam, you may need treatment to safely facilitate lasting sobriety. Addiction may be a progressive disease, but it can be treated. Treatment involves multiple levels of care and a variety of therapy options. When you enter an addiction recovery program, you’ll complete the intake and assessment process. A facility uses this to help determine the best treatment course for your needs.

Since oxazepam is a depressant, medical detox might be necessary. Depressants can cause potentially dangerous symptoms during the withdrawal phase. For that reason, it’s important to go through this phase with the help of a medical professional. Detox is an inpatient program that involves 24-hour medically managed treatment. Your physician may have you complete a tapering period, or you could receive medications to help treat uncomfortable symptoms. 

After detox, you’ll move on to the next level of care for your needs. If you have severe medical, psychological, or social needs, you may go through inpatient treatment with medical monitoring or clinically managed treatment. When you can safely live on your own without jeopardizing your safety or recovery, an outpatient program might be the next setting for you. Intensive outpatient treatment involves more than nine hours of treatment per week.

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