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Serax Addiction And Treatment

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 13, 2019

Serax (Oxazepam) is a type of benzodiazepine that is mainly prescribed to treat anxiety. While it has proven to be helpful for people in short-term applications, it also comes with a risk of being addictive.

What Is Serax?

Serax is the brand name of a benzodiazepine medication that is used to treat anxiety or acute alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines, commonly known as benzos, are a class of drug that are used primarily for treating anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. They typically provide immediate effects and are prescribed by physicians for short-term use on an “as needed” basis.

The most common side effects of Serax include drowsiness, dizziness, and trouble concentrating, but you should contact your doctor immediately if you experience hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat because you may be experiencing an allergic reaction to the drug. More serious side effects include confusion, decreased inhibitions, agitation and aggressive behavior, hallucinations, lightheadedness, yellowing of the skin or eyes, and issues with urination.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are an estimated 52 million Americans who have used a prescription drug for purposes other than in the way it was prescribed, at least once in their lifetimes. Among the most abused are opioids, stimulants, and central nervous system (CNS) depressants, including benzodiazepines.

Is Serax Addictive?

Serax is designed for short-term use for severe anxiety and can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction if taken for longer than two to four weeks. However, because Serax is prescribed for short-term use, medications may get used up fast, in a way that is quicker than the prescribing doctor intended. At this point, the person taking them may need to continue using the drug to treat their ongoing anxiety, insomnia, or alcohol withdrawal. However, due to their inappropriate use of the drug, they’ve now put themselves in a position to develop a tolerance, and also increased their risk of addiction.

The signs and symptoms of a Serax addiction include:

  • feeling unable to function without Serax
  • the inability to reduce doses or stop using Serax
  • continued drug use despite any negative health issues
  • using it in a manner other than what it was prescribed for
  • increased tolerance to the effects of Serax
  • withdrawal symptoms upon ceasing use, which include depression, anxiety, hypersensitivity, shaking of the hands, and trouble sleeping

A Serax addiction may also become evident by behavioral and emotional changes, including depression, mood swings, increased anxiety and irritability, and a general withdrawal from family, friends, and activities they once cared about.

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Benzodiazepines are powerful sedatives and can easily be abused. A person may develop a tolerance when they get used to the drug’s effects. Tolerance occurs when someone needs to increase their dosage of a medication to maintain its effect. For some people, increasing a dose in this manner, may put them at a greater risk of developing an addiction.

It’s important to remember that addiction can also occur from a person using this drug recreationally, which in most cases happens within the context of polydrug abuse. If either of these things happens, a person may find ways to purchase the drug illegally, or may participate in the federal crime of doctor shopping to receive multiple prescriptions.

The common behavioral symptoms of Serax abuse include:

  • muscle weakness
  • headaches
  • changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • memory impairment
  • increased confusion

Understanding Benzodiazepine Dependence

All types of benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence, and stopping the medication after a few months of daily use can cause withdrawal from the drug. When taken continuously for longer than a few months, benzodiazepines may cause seizures, tremors, muscle cramping, sweating, and vomiting when stopped suddenly due to the level of physical and physiological dependence that has occurred.

Serax Overdose And Withdrawal Symptoms

An overdose from benzodiazepines, including Serax, can be deadly if someone does not receive the help they need to handle their addiction. If you or a loved one is suffering from benzodiazepine dependence or addiction, watch out for these symptoms of overdose: blurred or double vision, confusion, dizziness, fainting, nausea, rapid side-to-side movement of the eyes, slowed breathing, staggering, stupor, tiredness, uncoordinated movement, weakness, rash, and in the worst cases, coma. If you witness any of these symptoms of overdose in yourself or someone close to you, contact emergency assistance right away.

When someone who has developed a physical dependence to Serax suddenly stops taking the medication, they may exhibit symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms will typically occur about four hours following the last dose and can last for days and up to a few weeks. The symptoms of withdrawal are dependent on the quantity and frequency of use, but may include flu-like pains, restlessness, confusion, psychosis, seizures, hallucinations, and suicidal behaviors.

Find Treatment For Serax Addiction

Serax should never be stopped suddenly. In cases of physical dependence only, it should be gradually tapered under a physician’s supervision. However, in instances of addiction, the tapering process should occur within the context of medically supervised detoxification to avoid severe withdrawal.

If you or a loved one is ready to receive treatment for a benzodiazepine addiction, the most effective treatments are behavioral therapies and in some cases, medication. Behavioral therapy may include individual, group, and family therapy to help someone develop and maintain positive thoughts and behaviors, handle cravings and relapse, and improve their self-esteem.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be very effective for treating benzodiazepine addiction. It focuses on changing a patient’s thinking, expectations, and behaviors to help them cope with life stressors. Due to the potential that drug addiction has in inducing or worsening depression and other behavioral changes, these therapies are vital components of treatment. They will help to address any underlying behavioral and emotional disorders that may be contributing to the addiction, while providing you with the skills to balance and protect the recovery that is ahead of you.

Medications may be used in some cases if the person suffering from a Serax addiction develops depression, severe anxiety, or insomnia when stopping the drug. Antidepressants and anti-seizure medications may be prescribed to help support the easiest transition from the addictive drug as possible.

It is estimated that 80% of benzodiazepine abuse is involved with abuse of other drugs, typically opioids. When seeking treatment, it is important to look for methods that address this important concern. The most successful treatments for addiction and polydrug abuse involve inpatient therapy to fully control and monitor the drug use and daily activities of the patient, which involve behavioral counseling and nutritional therapy, among other things. Once inpatient treatment is completed, it is most likely followed up with outpatient therapy in which the patient visits the clinical setting for continued counseling.

The professionals at are here to help you find answers to your questions and find treatment centers near you to begin your journey to recovery from addiction. Contact us today.

MedlinePlus - Oxazepam

Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Fact Sheet: Benzodiazepines

MedlinePlus - Oxazepam overdose

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Drug Facts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription Drug Abuse

UCLA Dual Diagnosis Program - Benzodiazepine Addiction

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