Oxazepam for anxiety

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Oxazepam has a calming effect. You will be prescribed it for anxiety for a short period of time only - from a few days to a maximum of four weeks.

Oxazepam is likely to affect your reactions and ability to drive. These effects could last into the following day. It is an offence to drive while your reactions are impaired.

Do not drink alcohol while you are on oxazepam.
Type of medicineA benzodiazepine
Used forAnxiety
Available asTablets

Many people can feel anxious from time to time. Anxiety is normal in stressful situations, and can even be helpful. However, anxiety can become abnormal if it appears for no apparent reason, or if it is out of proportion to a stressful situation, or if it continues after a stressful situation has passed. Oxazepam is an anti-anxiety medicine which is prescribed for short periods of time to help ease the symptoms of anxiety.

Oxazepam works by affecting the way certain substances in your brain (called neurotransmitters) pass messages to your brain cells. It has a calming effect on your brain. The calming effect is helpful in people who have symptoms caused by anxiety, such as difficulties sleeping.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine can only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking oxazepam it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have any breathing problems.
  • If you have any problems with the way your liver works, or if you have any problems with the way your kidneys work.
  • If you have a mental health problem. This includes conditions such as psychosis, depression, obsessive conditions, phobias and personality disorders.
  • If you have ever had a drug or alcohol addiction.
  • If you have a condition causing severe muscle weakness, called myasthenia gravis.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about oxazepam, and will also provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from taking it.
  • Take oxazepam exactly as your doctor tells you to. Your doctor will tell you how many tablets to take, and how often to take them. These directions will also be printed on the label of the pack to remind you about what was said to you. As a guide, it is usual to take one or two tablets three times a day for anxiety. If you are taking oxazepam because you are having difficulty sleeping, you may be prescribed a dose to take at bedtime only. The course of treatment prescribed will be as short as possible.
  • Try to take your doses of oxazepam at the same times of day each day, as this will help you to remember to take them. Swallow the tablet(s) with a drink of water. You can take oxazepam either with or without food.
  • If you forget to take a dose at the usual time, take it when you remember. Try to take the correct number of doses each day, but do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Remember to keep any follow-up appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • Oxazepam is likely to affect your reactions and ability to drive. It is an offence to drive while your reactions are impaired. Do not drive until you know how you react, especially when you first start treatment. Please also be aware that the effects of oxazepam could last into the following day. Even if your driving ability is not impaired, should you drive, you are advised to carry with you some evidence that the medicine has been prescribed for you - a repeat prescription form or a patient information leaflet from the pack is generally considered suitable.
  • Do not drink alcohol while you are on oxazepam. It will increase the risk of sedative side-effects.
  • Oxazepam is taken for short periods of time only, often for just a few days. It will not be for longer than four weeks, as this may lead to you feeling dependent on it. Also, your body gets used to it quickly, and after this time it is unlikely to have the same effect.
  • If you are due to have an operation or any dental treatment, please tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking oxazepam. This is because oxazepam increases the effects of some anaesthetics.
  • Your doctor could recommend that you reduce your dose of oxazepam gradually when it is time to stop taking it. This is to reduce the risk of you experiencing withdrawal effects. Follow carefully any instructions your doctor gives to you.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the more common ones associated with oxazepam. The best place to find a full list of the side-effects which can be associated with your medicine, is from the manufacturer's printed information leaflet supplied with the medicine. Alternatively, you can find an example of a manufacturer's information leaflet in the reference section below. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common oxazepam side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sleepy, weak, or light-headed (these can continue into the following day)Do not drive and do not use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
Forgetfulness, feeling confused or unsteadyIf any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor
Feeling (or being) aggressiveThis can happen in some people - let your doctor know about it as soon as possible

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Oxazepam Tablets 10 mg, 15 mg, Actavis UK Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated August 2015.
  • British National Formulary; 71st Edition (March-September 2016) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
1438 (v25)
Last Checked:
23/09/2016
Next Review:
23/09/2019
The Information Standard - certified member

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