Addiction to Valium (Diazepam)
A type of prescription drug developed in the 1960s, Valium became popular because it was deemed safer than the barbiturates and other sedative-hypnotic drugs being used at the time.1 However, Valium can cause adverse effects, physiological dependence, and severe consequences, especially when misused with other drugs.2
This article will explore what Valium is, its side effects, its potential for addiction, and how to get treatment for a Valium addiction.
What Is Valium?
Valium, the brand name formulation of diazepam, is a benzodiazepine that belongs to the sedative, hypnotic, and anxiolytic group of drugs.3 A central nervous system (CNS) depressant, Valium serves to inhibit abnormal levels of excitation throughout the nervous system, producing a calming effect.4
While Valium and other benzodiazepines are some of the most prescribed medications in the world, there is a known risk of tolerance, dependence, and addiction. As such, Valium is recommended for short-term use and is designated a Schedule IV substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).1,4,5
Valium is used to:2
- Manage anxiety disorders.
- Relieve anxiety symptoms in the short term.
- Relieve alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
- Relieve muscle spasms along with other medicines.
- Manage seizure disorders along with other medicines.
Valium has a wide range of necessary and helpful applications for people suffering and is meant to be taken as prescribed for the uses listed above. However, like many other benzodiazepines, Valium may be misused for its sedating and calming effects.1
Often, Valium is combined with other substances such as alcohol or opioids, or a person may misuse it by:6
- Taking higher doses than prescribed.
- Taking Valium without a prescription.
- Taking the drug to attain the effects or the “high” rather than for medical necessity.
Valium Side Effects & Risks
There are both short- and long-term adverse effects of Valium use and misuse. When Valium is misused and either taken more frequently, in higher doses, or with other drugs like opioids or alcohol, it can increase the risk and severity of adverse effects.2
Short-term side effects of Valium use and misuse may include:2
- Muscle weakness.
- Ataxia (loss of control of body movements).
- Slowed thinking.
- Slowed motor skills.
- Slurred speech.
- Low blood pressure.
- Slowed breathing.
Risks of long-term Valium use and misuse include:2,7
- Tolerance: The need to take more of the drug to produce the same effects.
- Physiological dependence: The body becomes used to the presence of the drug over time and discontinuing it results in withdrawal symptoms.
- Cognitive impairment.
- A potentially increased likelihood of dementia.
- Increased risk of falls and fractures, particularly in the elderly.
While Valium and other benzodiazepines have been shown to have a low likelihood of overdose on their own, overdosing on Valium by itself is possible.1 However, Valium overdoses, and fatal overdoses in particular, are more common when Valium is combined with other substances like opioids, alcohol, or other CNS depressants.2
Valium overdose is a potentially life-threatening condition, if there is any suspicion of potential overdose on this or other substances, it is imperative to call 911 immediately.4
Due to the increased likelihood of opioids also being used in cases of overdoses that involve benzos, it is important to administer naloxone (Narcan) without hesitation if it’s available.4
Valium Overdose Signs
There are several signs to look for that may indicate a Valium or other benzodiazepine drug overdose. These can include signs of oversedation, including:2
- Diminished reflexes.
- Slow or shallow breathing.
- Hypotension (low blood pressure).
Mixing Valium With Other Drugs
When Valium is mixed with other drugs such as opioids, alcohol, and other CNS depressants, there is an increased risk of overdose and the following symptoms:2,8
- Severe sedation
- Slow, shallow, or stopped breathing.
- Loss of consciousness
The likelihood of experiencing a fatal overdose is significantly higher when Valium is combined with other substances, due to the stronger and more unpredictable combined effects Valium and these other substances have.2,8
Is Valium Addictive?
Valium has a known potential for misuse and addiction.2 It is recommended that Valium only be used for a short time and with discernment because of these potential risks.4
Benzodiazepine use is associated with an increase in dopamine activity, which serves to reward or reinforce continued use. This can underlie eventually compulsive patterns of use.9
Several factors impact a person’s likelihood of developing an addiction, and no one factor will determine the development of a Valium addiction. Some risk factors of addiction include:9
- Biological factors such as genetics.
- Environmental factors related to the home, family, and peers.
- Drug use at an early age.
What Are the Signs of Valium Addiction?
Although the diagnosis of an addiction should be left to medical professionals, it may be helpful to be aware of potential Valium addiction signs to recognize when to seek help.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), Valium addiction is formally diagnosed as a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder.3
Valium Withdrawal and Detox
Continued Valium use can result in physical dependence.2 As a person becomes used to the presence of Valium, their physiology adapts to the presence of the drug, and they need it to feel and function normally. When the use of Valium is stopped or the dose is lowered abruptly, the absence of the drug results in Valium withdrawal symptoms.2
Longer treatment durations and higher dosages are associated with an increased risk of dependence and withdrawal.2
Valium Withdrawal Symptoms
Valium withdrawal symptoms can range from mild, to moderate, to severe and there is a chance of life-threatening reactions to withdrawal from Valium. Due to the associated potential risks, it is recommended that a person not stop using Valium or other benzodiazepines without medical oversight.10
Symptoms of Valium withdrawal can include:3
- Grand mal seizures.
- Increased heart rate.
Seizures From Valium Withdrawal
Seizures can occur from Valium withdrawal, especially when withdrawal is untreated.3 Higher doses of Valium and longer periods of use are associated with a higher likelihood of adverse withdrawal reactions like seizures.3
Because of the possibility of seizure from Valium withdrawal, a supervised medical detox may be beneficial and anybody seeking to stop benzodiazepine use should inform their doctor prior to discontinuation.10
Medical detox programs can provide the necessary medical supervision and support to manage dangerous Valium withdrawal symptoms and help a person remain as comfortable as possible.10
How Long Does Valium Withdrawal Last?
The length of Valium withdrawal is difficult to generalize because it relies on many factors.1 Being that Valium is a longer-acting benzodiazepine, it may result in a later onset of valium withdrawal symptoms when compared to shorter-acting benzodiazepines.3
Other factors that can cause variance in the length and intensity of the overall withdrawal process include:3,10
- Age of the patient.
- Dose of Valium used.
- Duration of time Valium was used.
- Presence of other substances, such as alcohol or other sedative-hypnotics.
- Co-occurring mental health disorders, such as panic disorder.
Valium withdrawal can take anywhere from 2-7 days for onset, and it can last several weeks to months.3
An example of a possible withdrawal timeline is:3
- Week 1: Withdrawal symptoms usually begin to develop between 2-7 days.
- Week 2: Withdrawal symptoms intensify and reach their peak.
- Week 3-4: Symptoms gradually begin to decrease.
Valium Addiction Treatment
The first step for many people struggling with Valium addiction is often a medical detox in a residential or hospital setting. During this time, acute physical symptoms of withdrawal are managed safely and preparation for long-term treatment begins.11
After the initial detoxification phase of treatment, it may be necessary to manage and support early recovery with group and individual therapy provided in a supportive environment.11 Addiction treatment typically involves behavioral therapies that encourage a person to identify and change their behaviors and help them build the necessary skills needed to maintain abstinence.11
If you or someone you love is suffering from Valium addiction, please know that recovery is possible. At River Oaks—a drug rehab near Tampa, FL—various levels of addiction treatment are offered. To find out more, call an admissions navigator at .
There are several ways to pay for rehab, including paying for rehab with health insurance. Admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer your questions and help you verify your insurance coverage. You can also instantly and securely .
Please don’t wait to get the help you deserve. Start the admissions process today.