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Updated 11 February 2013

Oxazepam

Oxazepam is a sedative hypnotic benzodiazepine medication and is indicated for the treatment of short-term insomnia.

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Oxazepam is the active ingredient of Purata, Sandox-Oxasepam, and Serepax.

General information

Oxazepam is a sedative hypnotic benzodiazepine medication and is indicated for the treatment of short-term insomnia. It relieves tension and nervousness and relaxes the body. It should be administered immediately before bedtime.

Oxazepam remains active in the body for many hours, and drowsiness may occur the next day.

This benzodiazepine should in most case not be used for longer than 2-4 weeks as tolerance and physical and psychological dependence can occur. Oxazepam shares with other benzodiazepines the risk of abuse, misuse, psychological and/or physical dependence.

If prescribed for longer than 4 weeks, your prescriber should periodically reassess the need for oxazepam.

How does it work?

Oxazepam has an effect on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is the brain's quieting or tranquilising neurotransmitter, possessing an inhibitive effect on the transmission of nerve signals. Oxazepam, and other benzodiazepines, enhance the effect of GABA, thus slowing down the transmission of nerve signals.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: Schedule 5

Available as: Tablets and capsules

What does it do? Oxazepam has an anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia effect.

Overdose risk: Medium

Dependence risk: High

Available as a generic? Yes

Available on prescription only? Yes

User information

Onset of effect: Within 30 minutes.

Duration of action: Up to 24 hours.

Dietary advice: Oxazepam may be taken with or without food.

Stopping: Sudden discontinuation may lead to withdrawal symptoms. Oxazepam should not be stopped abruptly - the dosage should be gradually reduced according to the advice of your doctor.

Prolonged use: Short-term therapy is advised. Treatment should generally be no longer than 4-6 weeks, including a tapering-off process. Tolerance has been noted with long-term use. Do not take for longer periods unless strictly instructed to do so by your doctor.

Special precautions

Never exceed the prescribed dose.

Alert your doctor before using this drug if:

  • you have a known hypersensitivity to benzodiazepines,
  • You have myasthenia gravis,
  • You have liver or kidney disease,
  • You have a history of alcohol or substance abuse,
  • You have a chronic lung disease,
  • You have a mental illness or depression,
  • You have sleep apnoea, or
  • You have porphyria.

Pregnancy: Avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant

Breastfeeding: Avoid. This medication is passed through breast milk and may affect your baby adversely. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: Avoid. This medication may cause serious adverse effects. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: This medication is not intended for use in children.

Elderly: Use with caution, as side-effects may be emphasised. Dosage may need adjustment.

Driving and hazardous work: This medication should be avoided as it may cause extreme sedation.

Alcohol: Oxazepam's effect may intensify the effect of alcohol and vice versa. Do not consume alcohol while taking this medication as side effects may be drastically pronounced.

Possible side effects:

Side effect

Frequency

Consult your doctor

Common

Rare

Only if severe

In all cases

Drowsiness/confusion

X

x

Dizziness / loss of coordination

x

x

Slurred speech

x

x

Unsteady walk

x

x

Visual disturbance

x

x

Extreme fatigue

x

x

Loss of memory

x

x

Rash/itching

x

x

Anger/behaviour changes

x

x

Headache

x

x

Bruising/bleeding

x

x

Interactions:

Drug interactions:

Alcohol, antihistamines, antidepressants, other benzodiazepines, narcotics

Increased depression of central nervous system (CNS)

Digoxin

Increased possibility of digoxin toxicity

Disulfiram

Increased possibility of oxazepam toxicity

Ketokonazole and other related antifungals

Increased possibility of oxazepam toxicity

Cimetidine

Increased possibility of oxazepam toxicity

Isoniazid

Increased possibility of oxazepam toxicity

Oral contraceptive

Increased possibility of oxazepam toxicity

Propranolol

Increased possibility of oxazepam toxicity

Valproic acid

Increased possibility of oxazepam toxicity

Isoniazid

Increased possibility of oxazepam toxicity

Levodopa

Decreases levodopa's anti-Parkinson effect

Probenecid

Increased possibility of oxazepam toxicity

Rifampicin

May decrease the effect of oxazepam

Theophylline

May counteract the sedative effects of oxazepam

Disease interactions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have acute closed-angle glaucoma, myasthenia gravis, liver or kidney disease, a chronic lung disease, you have a mental illness or depression, or if you suffer from sleep apnoea.

Overdose action

An overdose of oxazepam can be serious. Seek immediate emergency medical attention. Symptoms may include poor coordination, slow breathing, tremors, drowsiness, slurred speech, confusion, slow reflexes and loss of consciousness.

Recommended dosage

1-2mg/day at bedtime. Use strictly as prescribed by your doctor.

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.

 
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