Valium (Diazepam) Addiction
Benzodiazepines including Valium are widely prescribed medications in the United States, but they carry a risk of misuse and addiction.1, 3, 5 It is important for loved ones of people suffering from Valium addiction, and sufferers themselves to understand the mechanism of addiction so that they can make informed decisions about accessing treatment and decrease the risk of overdose and death.
This article will discuss what Valium is, Valium addiction, and what the risks of Valium misuse are, as well as some helpful treatment options available to those who may be struggling with addiction to Valium.
What Is Valium?
Valium, also known as diazepam, is one of the oldest drugs in the class of benzodiazepines, a group of sedative-hypnotic, anxiolytic drugs.1 Valium’s mechanism of action helps to manage the conditions it is prescribed for by reducing over-excitation in the nervous system, yielding a calming effect for the person using the drug.2
Valium, like other benzodiazepines, has a known risk for physiological dependence and addiction.3, 4 Benzodiazepines are most often reserved for relatively short-term therapeutic use due to risk of significant tolerance, dependence/withdrawal, and addiction development with longer-term use.3
What Is Valium Used For?
Valium has therapeutic benefits for many people. Healthcare professionals may prescribe this medication for a variety of reasons, which include:5,6
- Short-term management of anxiety in association with anxiety disorders.
- Management of acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
- Relief of skeletal muscle spasms.
- As part of treatment for certain seizure/convulsive disorders.
Valium Side Effects
The misuse of benzodiazepine medications, including Valium, often – though not always – involves using higher than the maximum recommended dosage, using Valium with other prescription medications, illicit drugs, or alcohol; taking someone else’s medication, or taking the medication simply to “get high.” 5
The dose and frequency of use increases the chances for experiencing withdrawal or other adverse effects.5 Misuse of Valium increases the risk of serious potentially life-threatening effects, including overdose. 5
Short-Term Effects of Valium
The range of side effects from Valium use that vary in duration as well as intensity. Some of the short-term side effects of Valium use include:5
- Concentration and memory difficulties.
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle weakness.
- Coordination and movement issues.
- Slurred speech.
- Respiratory depression.
Long-Term Effects of Valium
There are long-term impacts of Valium use and misuse as well. Using Valium over an extended period can result in tolerance, a circumstance where a person needs more and more of the drug over time to produce the same result.7
During this same time, people who use Valium may develop significant physiological dependence on the substance indicated by withdrawal symptoms when use of the substance is suddenly decreased or abruptly stopped.2 Furthermore, long-term use or misuse of Valium or other benzodiazepine medications can lead to an increased risk of cognitive impairment and decline, and addiction.8
Is Valium Addictive?
Yes, Valium carries a risk of dependence and addiction.5 However, when used as directed for short-term management of certain conditions, and under the supervision of a healthcare provider, it can be safely used.3,6
What Are the Signs of Valium Addiction?
Only a qualified healthcare professional can diagnose any substance use disorder (SUD), but it can be very helpful to know what to look for if you are concerned that you or someone you care about is misusing Valium or may be struggling with addiction to Valium.
Gaining an understanding of some of the factors that professionals use to diagnose SUDs can go a long way toward getting someone you love the help they need. There are 11 criteria that specialists use to diagnose a substance use disorder, some of which include:7
- Taking Valium more often, in larger amounts, or for longer periods than intended.
- A constant desire to cut back or stop use of Valium but being unable to do so.
- Craving Valium.
- Continuing to use Valium even when it results in negative personal, social, obligational, or relational consequences.
- Continued Valium use despite the knowledge that such use has led to persistent or recurrent medical or mental health issues.
Valium Withdrawal and Detox
Stopping the use of Valium suddenly or abruptly cutting back can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and delirium, which can be dangerous and life-threatening. People who have developed physical dependence on Valium may require a medically supervised detox to be kept as safe and comfortable as possible during withdrawal management.10 Some of the other signs of Valium withdrawal include:7
- Increased heart rate.
- Involuntary movements.
Valium has a long half-life and therefore withdrawal symptoms may not occur immediately, and it may take some time to get through the withdrawal symptoms. Valium withdrawal can take several days to a week to develop, peak in severity during the second week after stopping use, before subsiding in intensity over the course of the next few weeks. It is not uncommon for many initial Valium withdrawal symptoms to last up to four weeks.7
The beginning stages of recovery can be very difficult for many people and often necessitate a great deal of support. Cravings, cognitive, and biological cues to use also are more intense during withdrawal.11 Getting the right level of support at the right facility is crucial during this point in the recovery journey.
Valium Addiction Treatment
Going to a medical detox to help manage withdrawal symptoms is the recommended – and sometimes necessary – first step in the recovery process. However, detox alone is often not enough for individuals to avoid relapse, as it doesn’t address the underlying issues that may have contributed to the addiction.9,11 Furthermore, cravings can last well into recovery and because of this, the more time someone can remain involved in any of the different types of addiction treatment, the more they will be able to learn how to cope with them as they come up.12
One of the best options for someone coming out of a withdrawal management program start treatment in a residential treatment program.12 For people who may want or need a more intensive and structured program, inpatient treatment near Miami at Recovery First Treatment Center could be the right start to your recovery process. Residential treatment provides a supportive environment where individuals can learn how to manage cravings, find community and support, and learn skills that can help build a foundation for long term recovery.
One option after completing residential treatment is to continue with outpatient care, which is likely to be relatively less time intensive, more flexible, and provide a greater focus on learning how to live a life in recovery beyond treatment.