How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Oxazepam belongs to the class of medications called benzodiazepines. It is used for the short-term relief of the symptoms of excessive anxiety and may also be used to control symptoms such as agitation, caused by alcohol withdrawal. Oxazepam works by slowing down the speed that messages travel along the nerves in the brain (central nervous system).

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

This medication is available as 10 mg, 15 mg, and 30 mg tablets.

How should I use this medication?

The recommended starting dose for adults ranges from 10 mg to 15 mg taken 3 or 4 times daily. It is important that the dose be individualized to your specific needs to avoid excessive sedation or motor impairment. Your doctor can increase the dose to as high as 30 mg 3 to 4 times daily, if necessary.

Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.

This medication is normally used for a short period of time or as an "as required" medication. It may be habit-forming when taken for long periods of time. If you have been taking this medication regularly for a long period of time (i.e., more than one month), do not stop taking the medication without first speaking with your doctor.

If this medication is stopped suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, nervousness, sleep problems, agitation, vomiting, restlessness, confusion, and seizures. A gradual reduction in dose is recommended when stopping this medication to avoid withdrawal effects.

It is important to take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember and continue with your regular schedule. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Store this medication at room temperature, protect it from light and moisture, and keep it out of the reach of children.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not take oxazepam if you:

  • are allergic to oxazepam or any ingredients of the medication
  • are allergic to any other benzodiazepines
  • have acute narrow-angle glaucoma

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • abdominal or stomach cramps or pain
  • blurred vision or other changes in vision
  • changes in sexual desire or ability
  • clumsiness or unsteadiness
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • false sense of well-being
  • headache
  • increased thirst
  • increased watering of mouth
  • muscle spasm
  • nausea
  • problems with urination
  • sensation of spinning (vertigo)
  • skin rash
  • trembling
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • vomiting

Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • abnormal thinking (disorientation, delusions, or loss of sense of reality)
  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • behavioural changes, including:
    • aggressiveness
    • bizarre behaviour
    • decreased inhibition
    • angry outbursts
  • confusion
  • fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • fainting
  • flu-like symptoms (e.g., sore throat, fever, and chills)
  • hallucinations
  • lack of memory
  • low blood pressure
  • nightmares or vivid dreams
  • signs of breathing problems such as shallow, irregular breathing, or slow or troubled breathing
  • signs of depression (e.g., poor concentration, changes in weight, changes in sleep, decreased interest in activities, thoughts of suicide)
  • signs of infection (symptoms may include fever or chills, severe diarrhea, shortness of breath, prolonged dizziness, headache, stiff neck, weight loss, or listlessness)
  • signs of liver problems (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, dark urine, pale stools)
  • slowed heart rate
  • skin rash or itching
  • trouble sleeping
  • ulcers or sores in mouth or throat
  • unusual excitement, nervousness, or irritability

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • convulsions (seizures)
  • uncontrolled movements of body, including the eyes

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Behavioural changes: Oxazepam, like other benzodiazepines, is known to cause changes in behavior. If you notice changes in behaviour, such as agressivesness, angry outbursts, unusual excitement or irritability, disorientation or confusion, speak with your doctor as soon as possible.

Breathing: Oxazepam can suppress breathing. If you have asthma or another breathing disorder, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Dependence and withdrawal: Physical dependence (a need to take regular doses to prevent physical symptoms) has been associated with benzodiazepines such as oxazepam. Severe withdrawal symptoms may occur if the dose is significantly reduced or suddenly discontinued. Symptoms can include irritability, nervousness, sleep problems, agitation, tremors, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, memory impairment, headache, muscle pain, extreme anxiety, tension, restlessness, confusion, and seizures. Reducing the dose gradually under medical supervision can help prevent or decrease these withdrawal symptoms.

Depression: Benzodiazepines have been known to cause mood swings and symptoms of depression. If you have depression or a history of depression, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

If you experience symptoms of depression such as poor concentration, changes in weight, changes in sleep, decreased interest in activities, or notice them in a family member who is taking this medication, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Drowsiness/reduced alertness: This medication causes drowsiness. Do not drive, operate machinery, or perform other potentially hazardous tasks until you have determined how this medication affects you. Avoid drinking alcohol as it can increase the drowsiness effects of this medication.

Kidney function: The kidneys are partially responsible for removing oxazepam from the body. If you have reduced kidney function or kidney disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Liver function: The liver is partially responsible for removing oxazepam from the body. This may cause a build-up of oxazepam in the body, leading to side effects if it is taken at normal doses. If you have reduced liver function or liver disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

If you experience symptoms of liver problems such as fatigue, feeling unwell, loss of appetite, nausea, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, dark urine, pale stools, abdominal pain or swelling, and itchy skin, contact your doctor immediately.

Myasthenia gravis: Oxazepam may cause symptoms of myasthenia gravis to worsen. If you have myasthenia gravis, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Pregnancy: Oxazepam crosses the placenta during pregnancy and may affect the unborn baby. The use of other medications in this class has been linked to problems for the infant after birth. This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: It is not known if oxazepam passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: The safety and effectiveness of this medication have not been established for children younger than 6 years of age. Appropriate doses for children and adolescents 6 to 18 years have not been determined. Because children are more likely to experience behavioural changes when taking oxazepam, this medication is not recommended for use by this age group.

Seniors: The sedative and impaired-coordination effects of oxazepam may affect seniors more than others. Extra caution is needed, for example, when getting up during the night.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between oxazepam and any of the following:

  • alcohol
  • aminophylline
  • anesthetics
  • anticonvulsants (e.g., fosphenytoin, gabapentin, lamotrigine, lamotrigine, phenytoin)
  • antihistamines (e.g., cetirizine, dimenhydrinate, diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine)
  • antipsychotics (e.g., haloperidol, quetiapine, olanzapine, risperidone)
  • baclofen
  • barbiturates (e.g., butalbital, phenobarbital, secobarbital)
  • buspirone
  • butorphanol
  • chloral hydrate
  • cyclobenzaprine
  • kava kava
  • MAO inhibitors (e.g., tranylcypromine, phenelzine, moclobemide)
  • methocarbamol
  • narcotic pain relievers (e.g., fentanyl, codeine, morphine, oxycodone)
  • pentazocine
  • phenothiazines (e.g., perphenazine, thioridazine)
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (e.g., citalopram, fluoxetine, sertraline)
  • St. John's wort
  • theophylline
  • tramadol
  • tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline, desipramine, imipramine)
  • valerian
  • zopiclone

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.