What is Valium (Diazepam)?
Valium is the brand name formulation of diazepam, a benzodiazepine that is approved for the treatment of anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal, and for nerves before anesthesia. However, Valium may also be used for off-label uses, such as for insomnia or panic attacks.
Diazepam, similar to other benzodiazepines, is not intended for long-term use. Chronic Valium use or misuse can lead to psychological and physical dependence, even if used as prescribed. As a result, patients should never take their medication other than prescribed and should consult with their physician before stopping the medication.
Valium works by calming the brain and nerves. It does this by increasing the production and reuptake of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a naturally-occurring neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits brain signals and decreases central nervous system activity. As a result, this medication helps reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear.
While effective when used as prescribed, many people abuse Valium for its sedative-hypnotic effects. Valium abuse can be dangerous, addictive, and deadly.
Valium Side Effects
Valium may cause side effects that are similar to other benzodiazepines. Some of the most common side effects of Valium that may go away within a couple of days are:
- Muscle weakness
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty urinating
- Frequent urination
While these side effects may not be severe, other more rare side effects are worrisome and require immediate medical attention. These include:
- Uncontrollable body movements
- Shaking of a part of the body
- Slurred speech
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heartbeat
People who abuse Valium or mix it with other substances may be more prone to serious side effects.
Valium is a prescription medication that is usually prescribed to people who struggle with anxiety, stress, or other co-occurring disorders. However, these are the same people who are most likely to abuse substances. And, there are several reasons why people may abuse Valium.
Some people abuse Valium because they are experiencing stress or anxiety. Others take it to get high or to enhance the effects of other substances, such as opioids or alcohol. Additional ways people abuse Valium include crushing and snorting it or taking higher doses than what is prescribed to them.
Valium affects the areas of the brain that control mood and reward. Long-term benzodiazepine abuse affects the brain’s ability to produce GABA naturally, and this reinforces drug-seeking behavior.
Since Valium is a legal medication, some people may think it is safer than other illegal drugs. There are up to 4 million daily benzodiazepine users in the United States. However, the idea that this medication is safe is a dangerous misconception. Valium abuse can lead to addiction or overdose, both of which can be fatal without professional treatment.
Valium Overdose Symptoms & Treatment
Taking too much Valium or mixing it with other substances can lead to an overdose. In addition, using Valium with alcohol can significantly increase the risk of benzodiazepine overdose. Symptoms of Valium overdose include:
- Extreme tiredness
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
- Bluish colored lips or fingertips
In the event of an overdose, emergency medical attention should be contacted immediately. Depending on the severity of overdose, medics may provide supportive care or administer flumazenil, a benzodiazepine overdose-reversal medication. Flumazenil may help restore breathing until care is provided.
Long Term Effects of Valium Abuse
All medications containing diazepam come with a black box warning. This is a warning from the FDA to alert doctors and patients that the drug may be dangerous. It may also indicate a risk for abuse. Anyone who uses Valium for an extended period of time, even if taken as prescribed, may develop a physical dependence on the drug.
In addition to abuse and dependence, other long-term effects of Valium abuse include:
- Motor vehicle crashes – Studies show that the risk of driving while under the influence of benzodiazepines is about the same as driving drunk.
- Cognitive impairment – A study looking at patients who were taking an average of 17 mg of diazepam per day found that long-term use of the medication led to substantial cognitive decline. This cognitive decline did not resolve within three months after the patients got sober. Many patients also reported memory loss.
- Risk of hip fracture – Long-term benzodiazepine abuse may increase the risk of hip fractures in older individuals by 50% or more.
- Increased anxiety, depression, insomnia, and psychotic experiences – Even though Valium is prescribed to treat many of these conditions, long-term use and discontinuation can lead to rebound symptoms. Rebound symptoms refer to symptoms that come back worse than they were before treatment.
Due to these severe long-term effects, physicians usually do not recommend that patients take Valium for more than one month at a time. Instead, other therapies like psychotherapy or antidepressants can help treat anxiety disorders and other anticonvulsants or tranquilizers can be used to help manage seizure disorders.
Valium Dependence and Addiction
Valium has longer-lasting effects than other benzodiazepines. This can make it a very appealing substance of abuse to many drug users. Over time, the body will become physically and psychologically dependent on Valium, causing withdrawal symptoms when people try to stop using the drug. The longer a person uses Valium and at a higher dose, the more severe their withdrawal symptoms will be.
Symptoms of Valium withdrawal include:
- Stomach and muscle pain
Other signs and symptoms of Valium addiction include:
- Experiencing strong urges or cravings for the drug
- Isolating from friends and family
- Doctor shopping to obtain prescriptions of the drug
- Continuing to use despite problems developing at work, home, or school
- Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Needing to use higher doses of Valium than in the past to produce the desired effects
Overcoming Valium addiction isn’t easy, and it can be nearly possible to do alone. Anyone struggling with a benzodiazepine addiction should contact a rehab center near them.
Treatment for Valium Addiction
Overcoming an addiction to Valium begins with medical detox. Drug detox centers in Massachusetts can help mitigate withdrawal symptoms and reduce patients’ chances of relapse. Since it is dangerous to stop taking Valium all at once, most detox centers will help patients develop a tapering schedule. Tapering involves slowly reducing the dose taken to gradually wean individuals off of benzodiazepines. This method can help prevent severe withdrawal symptoms and complications.
After detox, patients should enter into an inpatient rehab program. Stopping Valium and overcoming addiction involves more than just detox. For many people, it requires intensive therapy and long-term support. Inpatient rehab centers provide a multitude of therapeutic services that help individuals identify their triggers and learn to prevent relapse.
Many patients transition to an outpatient rehab center or sober living home after inpatient rehab. These types of aftercare can help individuals sustain long-term sobriety.
Find Help for Valium Abuse and Addiction Today
Finding treatment for Valium addiction is as easy as picking up the phone and calling one of our dedicated addiction specialists. There are many treatments available for benzodiazepine addiction, and one of our counselors can help you determine which one is right for you. Whether you have become addicted to Valium as a result of trying to cope with an underlying condition or you began abusing the drug on the streets, we can help you start your recovery journey. Call now to learn more.