Key takeaways:

  • Due to its prevalence as an anxiety medication, many people who abuse Valium may be doing so unknowingly
  • The likelihood of overdosing on Valium is greatly increased if the drug has been taken with other CNS depressants such as opioids or alcohol
  • If Valium has been abused over a long period and/or in high doses, the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and dangerous to health

Valium is a potent long-acting central nervous system depressant of the Benzodiazepine class of prescription drugs. Used to treat a variety of mental health disorders, Valium can cause dependence and addiction to form if abused.

Understanding Valium (Diazepam)

Valium is the brand name for Diazepam, a form of long-acting benzodiazepine used to treat mental health disorders such as depression and general anxiety disorders, as well as muscle spasms and stiffness. [1] It is believed that Valium, a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, works by enhancing certain neurotransmitters in the brain, reducing hyperactive brain function, and helping reduce anxiety and stress. 

Valium prescriptions come in pill form often intended to be taken 1-4 times daily. As the effects of Valium are long-acting, it can be taken less frequently than other forms of short-acting benzodiazepines. Valium stays in the system between 20 and 100 hours which is considerably longer than short-acting variants such as lorazepam (10-20 hours).

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Effects of Valium abuse

Valium is commonly prescribed to people feeling high amounts of stress and anxiety on a day-to-day basis. Due to its prevalence as an anxiety medication, many people who abuse Valium may be doing so unknowingly. Many don’t abuse Valium to get high either, instead using the drug to regulate their mood or to help them sleep. When taken in larger doses, Valium can cause calming and euphoric effects. This paired with long-term use causes many to form a physical dependence on the substance as their tolerance for the drug builds and they need higher doses to feel its effects - or to feel normal. 

Common side-effects of Valium [1]:

  • drowsiness
  • feeling tired
  • loss of appetite
  • blurred vision
  • muscle weakness
  • Loss of coordination and balance

Valium overdose

Valium is often considered to be safe, even in high doses, due to its legal status, regular use, and lack of social stigma. This misunderstanding around the drug's potential risk has led to many people overdosing on Valium. 

The likelihood of overdosing on Valium is greatly increased if the drug has been taken with other CNS depressants such as opioids or alcohol. These substance combinations greatly reduce respiratory function as well as impairing mental faculties. 

A Valium overdose is potentially fatal. If you suspect you or someone you know may have taken a Valium overdose, call 911 or seek medical help immediately. Signs of a valium overdose include:

  • Extreme drowsiness or dizziness
  • Unusual mood or behavior
  • New or worsening symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Seizures

Valium addiction

Valium holds a high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. As with most forms of benzodiazepine medication, taking Valium outside of the prescribed amount can cause a dependence on the substance to form quickly. Taking Valium for long periods of time (more than six weeks) can increase the likelihood of an addiction forming. 

Doctors and diagnosing clinicians use a set of criteria to assess the severity of a person's addiction. Some of the criteria used to assess a valium addiction include: 

  • Social or interpersonal problems related to Valium use
  • Neglected major roles to abuse Valium
  • Withdrawal Symptoms appearing when not taking Valium
  • Used larger amounts over longer periods longer
  • Trying and failing to quit
  • Physical or psychological problems related to Valium misuse
  • Craving 

Symptoms of withdrawal

The severity of withdrawal symptoms from Valium depends on multiple factors:

  • Length of use
  • Amount taken 
  • Whether use was stopped abruptly (cold turkey) 

If Valium has been abused over a long period and/or in high doses, the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and dangerous to health. If someone stops taking Valium abruptly and without tapering off of the substance it can make the withdrawal process even worse. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause seizures, coma, psychosis, and other life-threatening side effects, so a medically supervised detox is always advised.

Common Valium withdrawal symptoms

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting
  • Severe anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Numbness
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory issues
  • Weakness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Sensory hypersensitivity
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle twitching

Severe Valium withdrawal symptoms

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Depersonalization
  • Numbness/tingling in the arms and/or legs
  • Delirium
  • Psychosis
  • Convulsions
  • Coma

As a long-acting benzodiazepine, withdrawal symptoms can take longer to present themselves. In heavy users, it can take as long as seven days for the first signs of withdrawal to present themselves and they can last for several weeks. 

Recovery for a Valium problem

Benzodiazepine addiction can be extremely difficult to get over and the same is true of Valium. Thankfully there are treatment options available throughout the country, either by attending an inpatient residential rehab or outpatient treatment center.  

These facilities offer a safe and comfortable place to detox and a course of treatments including therapy, counseling, support groups, and long-term recovery plans. Speak to a treatment provider today to get help with Valium addiction.