Is Valium an Opiate?
Valium is not an opioid, rather a benzodiazepine medication that is often prescribed to treat anxiety disorder and other conditions. This article will go into further detail about what this medication is, the difference between Valium and opioids, withdrawal symptoms, and how to get help.
Is Valium an Opioid?
Valium is the brand name of the drug diazepam, which belongs the class of drugs called benzodiazepines; it is not an opioid.
Benzodiazepine drugs, often called benzos for short, are sedative and hypnotic drugs that slow down:
- Heart rate.
- Blood pressure.
This class of drugs also lowers body temperature. While opioid drugs also slow down some of these bodily functions, prescription opioids are designed to act primarily as pain relievers while Valium is prescribed to temporarily relieve anxiety, ease muscle tension, and reduce tremors or seizures.
Valium can calm an otherwise over-excited nervous system. Opioids and benzos both increase some of the brain’s other chemical messengers like dopamine, which are related to feelings of pleasure and involved in mood regulation. Some common opioid drugs include:
- OxyContin (oxycodone).
- Vicodin (hydrocodone).
Valium Versus Opioids
Valium is considered a Schedule IV drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) while most prescription opioids are more tightly controlled as Schedule II substances.
Both opioids and benzos like Valium have the potential to be misused and produce drug dependence when used regularly. Both can cause a mellow “high,” resulting in lowered stress levels and inhibitions, and increased pleasure.
The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that over 9 million Americans over the age of 12 misused prescription pain relievers in the past year, while over 6 million misused sedative and tranquilizer type drugs.
Valium and Opioid Overdose Risks
The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) publishes that almost 500,000 individuals received emergency department (ED) treatment for a negative reaction to the misuse of an opioid in 2011, while over 350,000 obtained ED treatment for the misuse of a benzo (almost 25,000 for diazepam specifically).
Benzos and opioids may be combined to heighten the “high” or combat side effects from either drug. When combined, opioid and benzodiazepine drugs can be especially dangerous, as both medications can lower breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure to dangerously low levels, potentially resulting in overdose and death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls drug overdose fatalities an epidemic in the United States as over 91,000 people died from one in 2020.
Statistics published by the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence indicates that the benzo/opioid combination may be very common and highly dangerous; as many as 71-98% of overdose fatalities may include more than one substance.
Valium Withdrawal Symptoms Versus Opioids
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that Valium can cause physical dependence when used regularly, and it is therefore not recommended to be taken for longer than a few months. Opioid drugs can also cause dependence. Neither benzos nor opioids should be stopped suddenly when a dependence is present, as difficult withdrawal symptoms may result.
In the case of Valium, the following symptoms may occur when the drug is stopped “cold turkey”:
- Rebound anxiety
In rare instances, these withdrawal symptoms can even become life-threatening.
With opioids, flulike symptoms are more common. Both drugs can cause the following symptoms when they are discontinued:
- Muscle aches
- Mental confusion and fogginess
- Difficulties feeling pleasure
Both opioid drugs and benzodiazepine drugs like Valium have a high misuse potential due to the “high” they can create, potentially leading to addiction or other adverse consequences of misuse.
Valium Addiction Treatment
Valium can be a dangerous drug to attempt to stop using independently. It is highly recommended to seek professional medical care when wanting to end use to prevent medical problems from developing, as well as to create a long-term recovery foundation rooted in therapy.
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