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Valium Addiction & Misuse

Diazepam, known by its brand name Valium, is a benzodiazepine with a potential for misuse and addiction.1 While benzodiazepine addiction can be challenging on its own, oftentimes benzodiazepines may be misused concurrently with other drugs like alcohol or opioids. Combining benzodiazepines like Valium with alcohol or opioids can increase the risk of a fatal drug overdose, as the substances may amplify the effects of one another, particularly respiratory depression. Evidence-based addiction treatment can lead to positive health outcomes for those struggling with addiction. Understanding Valium misuse and addiction, what the risks are, and how to find treatment can help you begin your journey to recovery.

What is Valium?

Valium is a benzodiazepine, a class of sedative drugs that calm an otherwise overexcited central nervous system.1 Like other benzodiazepines, medical providers may prescribe Valium to treat anxiety disorders because it exerts an anxiolytic, or relaxation, effect.1They may also use it to treat muscle spasms and epilepsy.1

Valium is generally safe when taken as perscribed.1 However, it is important to note that Valium has a potential for misuse and addiction, and a person is at risk even when taken as prescribed.1

Valium Addiction & Health Effects

The body absorbs benzodiazepines like Valium quickly, which provides almost immediate relief from symptoms like those of anxiety and muscle spasms.2 Misuse of Valium, which includes taking more than prescribed or more frequently than prescribed, taking it in a way other than prescribed, and using Valium alongside other CNS depressants or opioids, can lead to experiencing more intense or severe side effects, and expose a person to other health issues and addiction.2

Potential health effects of Valium or benzodiazepine misuse include:1

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Amnesia.
  • Impaired concentration or memory loss.
  • Confusion.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Depression.
  • Euphoria.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Aggression.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Vertigo.

Some more severe potential health effects of Valium misuse may include:1

  • Delirium.
  • Paranoia.
  • Suicidal ideation and behavior.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Death.

Signs of Valium Addiction

Valium addiction means that a person continues to use the drug despite it causing significant negative consequences in their life or to their health.3 The clinical term for addiction to Valium or other benzodiazepines is sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder.3

Signs of benzodiazepine addiction include:3

  • Taking more of the substance than intended, or taking it over a longer period of time than originally intended.
  • Spending a lot of time acquiring and using sedatives like benzodiazepines or recovering from their effects.
  • Giving up activities to make time to use benzodiazepines.
  • Benzodiazepine use that prevents one from fulfilling responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  • Continuing to use benzodiazepines despite problems in the person’s relationships.
  • Continuing benzodiazepine use despite worsening medical or psychological effects.
  • Having a strong desire to cease benzodiazepine use, or unsuccessful efforts to quit.
  • Experiencing a strong craving or urge to use benzodiazepines.
  • Recurrently using benzodiazepines in dangerous situations, such as when operating heavy machinery.
  • Developing a tolerance to benzodiazepines, which creates a need to take larger doses to feel the same effects. (This criterion does not count toward diagnosis if the person is taking benzodiazepines as directed by their prescriber.)
  • Experiencing withdrawal effects after stopping benzodiazepine use. (This criterion does not count toward diagnosis if the person is taking benzodiazepines as directed by their prescriber.)

To be diagnosed with a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder, a person must have experienced at least two or more of the above symptoms over the past 12 months.3 The more symptoms that are present, the greater the severity of the addiction.3

Valium Dependence & Withdrawal

When a person is physiologically dependent on Valium, it means that their body has become so accustomed to its presence that it struggles to function when use is suddenly stopped or significantly reduced.4 Dependence is characterized by the presence of withdrawal symptoms.1 Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be severe and life-threatening; however, medical detoxification (detox) services can help ensure safety by managing potential severe withdrawal symptoms.2 Experiencing withdrawal symptoms can make a person want to continue to take Valium, potentially leading to unhealthy use or addiction.

Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

Valium withdrawal symptoms can include:2

  • Nightmares or insomnia.
  • Anxiety or irritability.
  • Increased excitability.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Social phobia.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Depression.
  • Memory and concentration problems.
  • Seizures.
  • Head and neck pain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Numbness in limbs.
  • Tremors.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Changes to appetite and weight.

How Long Does Valium Withdrawal Last?

Valium withdrawal symptoms can last from 1 week to a few weeks after Valium use has stopped.2 The duration and severity of the symptoms depends on several factors: the length of time the person has been taking the benzodiazepine, daily dosage taken, the half-life of the specific benzodiazepine, a person’s overall health, and whether or not other substances are used.2

It is important to always consult your doctor before making any changes to the dosage or before stopping Valium.

Valium Overdose

While it is possible to overdose on benzodiazepines like Valium, benzo-only overdoses are rare.8 More common, and more serious, are overdoses that involve benzos like Valium and other substances like alcohol or opioids. These types of overdoses tend to be more severe, as benzos and opioids and other depressants like alcohol can amplify each other’s effects.1 Research indicates that nearly 14% of opioid overdose deaths in 2021 involved benzodiazepines, while alcohol was involved in nearly one-fifth of benzodiazepine overdose deaths.9, 10

Valium Overdose Symptoms

It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if one is experiencing a possible overdose. If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of an overdose, contact 911 emergency medical services.

Overdose symptoms may include:1

  • Low blood pressure.
  • Slowed reflexes.
  • Lowered coordination.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Oversedation or loss of consciousness.
  • Difficulty breathing (short, shallow breaths or stopped breathing).

Emergency treatment can help manage and sometimes even reverse life-threatening effects of an overdose. In the event that opioids contributed to the overdose, naloxone can be used to reverse the effects of the opioid, which may help stabilize a person while waiting for emergency services to arrive.

Treatment for Valium Addiction

Someone physiologically dependent on Valium may benefit from medical detox prior to entering a drug rehab treatment program.6(pg9) Medical providers supervise this process, which may include a tapering regimen along with medications to treat certain withdrawal symptoms.5

Behavioral therapies are typically a part of Valium addiction treatment and other drug rehab programs. Therapy can help a person learn more healthy coping strategies than using Valium to cope with stressors.7Addiction treatment therapy can be inpatient or outpatient treatment.6 Inpatient treatment involves residing at the treatment facility, whereas outpatient treatment involves living at home and commuting to services.6

Start Your Recovery Today

There are a few ways in which to locate the best-suited Valium addiction treatment program. Consulting with a primary care provider is a good place to start because they know a person’s medical history, may be able to diagnose sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder, and, in turn, can make treatment recommendations and possible referrals for a specific rehab program.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) also provides an online treatment directory. It is possible to search with it using a keyword or specific location. A call to the AAC addiction helpline at can help a person get connected to a specialist who can help locate a suitable treatment program as well as verify health insurance.

It is never too late to seek help. Please call us at . We are here 24/7 and are happy to assist.

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