Valium is a frequently abused sedative due to its easy access and long-lasting, desirable effects. This benzo is frequently prescribed, making it a blessing for those who need it but an easy target for those who look to abuse and distribute the drug.
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What is Valium?
Valium is a brand-name prescription drug that belongs to the drug class benzodiazepine, also known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. It is believed that excessive nerve activity could be the cause of anxiety.
Studies have shown Valium increases the effectiveness of a neurotransmitter that suppresses the activity of nerves. This makes Valium a good option for those suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. Valium has also proven effective for those who experience muscle spasms and seizures.
Unlike other benzos such as Xanax or Ativan with short half-lives, Valium (as well as Klonopin) has a longer half-life so it stays active in the body longer. Some may start taking Valium for legitimate reasons but, due to its addictive qualities, find themselves abusing it.
Valium is typically used to treat anxiety disorders, muscle spasms, stiffness, and seizures. This medication is sometimes used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Prescription Valium is known as:
- Valium (brand name)
- Diazepam (generic)
Side Effects of Valium Use
Valium begins working in 30 to 60 minutes and can last 1–3 hours in the body. Because of its longer half-life, its effects can be felt for much longer, which could interfere with daily life if taken in excess.
There are many side effects you can expect from Valium.
Short-Term Effects of Valium
- Blurred vision
- Feeling tired
- Muscle weakness
- Balance issues
- Memory problems
Long-Term Effects of Valium
- Heart muscle disease
- Sleep disorders
Valium Abuse and Addiction
Unfortunately, drug abuse and benzos like Valium can go hand-in-hand—access to the drug is very easy and its intoxicating effects can quickly become addictive when used for long periods. This is why Valium is typically only prescribed for as-needed use or short periods.
Valium use longer than 4 months is generally discouraged, but not necessarily enforced by physicians. If you’re already struggling with drug abuse or substance use disorder, you may be more at risk to become addicted to Valium.
Signs of Valium Addiction
It can be challenging to identify Valium addiction, as its effects can be a huge relief to those suffering from intense anxiety.
The following behaviors are warning signs to look out for if you suspect Valium abuse is occurring with a loved one or even yourself:
- Change in behavior and performance at work or school
- High drug tolerance (needing larger doses to achieve the same effect)
- Strong cravings and physical dependence on the drug
- Withdrawal symptoms when the drug is reduced or stopped
- Spending excessive time obtaining, using, or recovering from the drug
- Prioritizing Valium over activities you previously enjoyed
- Valium overdose
Symptoms of a Valium overdose may include:
- Slowed breathing and heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
If you suspect someone is experiencing a Valium overdose, it’s important to call 911 immediately and stay with the person until help arrives. Acting quickly in an overdose situation can mean the difference between life and death.
Benzos are notorious for having some pretty serious withdrawal symptoms and Valium is no exception. Due to the sometimes life-threatening nature of these symptoms, it’s recommended that you quit under the supervision of a healthcare provider to ensure you are safely weaned off Valium.
Valium withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Abdominal and muscle cramps
- Muscle pain
- Extreme anxiety
Valium Addiction Treatment
Identifying and treating drug addiction to Valium is no easy task, but it’s very possible with the support of loved ones and the right treatment center. It’s important to remember that you are not alone in your addiction and many providers are ready to help you find recovery.
The sooner you find help, the more likely you are to avoid the long-term damage Valium abuse can cause.
Valium Detox phase
If you’re planning on quitting Valium, it’s highly recommended you taper off the drug under the supervision of a healthcare provider to ensure your safety during the process. Some withdrawal symptoms can be very dangerous if left untreated, so ensure you have a plan in the event more severe withdrawal symptoms present themselves.
Valium Treatment Programs
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment program for Valium. Each addict has a different journey, whether they started as someone struggling with mental illness that was prescribed Valium, or someone who bought it off a dealer.
With that in mind, there are several inpatient and outpatient treatment options available to help you quit the drug safely. These different programs will also offer cognitive behavioral therapy and/or support groups to help you identify what led to the addictive behavior and how to move forward with drug-free living.
An inpatient rehab program is designed for those with a heavy addiction to Valium. An inpatient facility is a 24/7 addiction center where you can receive around-the-clock support. Typically this is a 30-to-90-day program.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
The PHP is a great option for those who may not need a live-in rehab solution. Through a PHP, you will receive medical care (such as medical detox) as well as behavioral therapy and support. This type of program allows you to return to work or to home throughout the week.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
This kind of program is ideal for someone with a minor addiction or for someone transitioning out of a more intensive program. The IOP allows the recovering addict to return for medical check-ups, drug screening, and additional therapy to help them remain abstinent from Valium.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of people who reported ever using diazepam for non-medical purposes declined from more than 13 million in 2012 to under 12.5 million in 2013.
That same study shows that diazepam is the 3rd most widely abused tranquilizer in the US behind alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan).
Support for Friends and Family Members
It can be heart-wrenching to watch a loved one struggle with substance abuse, especially if it was initially prescribed to offer them relief from mental illness. While your first instinct is to help them, it’s important to help yourself as well.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or helpless because of a loved one that’s abusing, make sure you take time for yourself and even consider seeking out a professional to speak to. Know that you aren’t alone.
Valium Addiction FAQs
Why is Valium used for alcohol withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal can come with some very nasty symptoms, some of which brief use of Valium can assist with. It is especially helpful with the risk of seizures and delirium tremens, a condition that features fever, tremors, constant hallucinations, and increased heart rate and breathing. Valium has been shown to provide some relief when used sparely.
What should you avoid when taking Valium?
Alcohol is incredibly dangerous when use in combination with Valium. Both substances are depressants, meaning they slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. When taken in excess, this slowing effect can lead to coma and even death.
Opioids come with the same dangers as alcohol and should not be mixed with Valium.
Grapefruit products may interact with Valium, so it’s important to avoid any food or drink that contains grapefruit.
Why should Valium not be used long term?
Valium has a long half-life, meaning it can affect you for much longer than other benzos. This, in combination with its risk of heart muscle disease (weakening of your heart muscles), make it a substance you don’t want to be on for more than 4 months.