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The Effects of Valium Use, Misuse, and Addiction

Valium, also known by the generic name diazepam, is a prescription sedative-hypnotic and is classified as a benzodiazepine. This medication is used to treat specific anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, seizure disorders, and alcohol withdrawal. Valium is typically prescribed for short-term use and is generally considered safe when taken as directed. However, tolerance, dependence, and addiction can occur, even when used as directed.2

If you or someone you care about uses Valium, you may benefit from learning more about the medication. This page will help you learn the short- and long-term effects of Valium and how to get help for Valium misuse and addiction.

How Does Valium Work?

Valium is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that belongs to the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines.3 Benzodiazepines facilitate the binding of the body’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).4, 5 This causes drowsiness and feelings of relaxation, which is why benzodiazepines are classified as sedative-hypnotic medications and are generally considered to be effective for treating anxiety and promoting sleep.3

Valium Side Effects

Side effects of Valium can vary from person to person, but according to the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the most common include:1

  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Ataxia (poor muscle control)

It’s possible to overdose on Valium if you misuse it (e.g., take it in a way other than prescribed or take someone else’s medication).3 Mild to moderate cases of overdose can cause confusion, drowsiness, and lethargy, while more serious cases of overdose can cause severe drowsiness, respiratory depression, and trouble with balance, movement, and speech.1 Although rare, coma and death can occur as a result of Valium overdose. The risk of overdose is higher when people combine Valium with other substances (known as polysubstance use). This includes mixing Valium with alcohol or other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as opioids.1

Long-Term Effects of Valium

The effectiveness of Valium for long-term use, meaning more than 4 months, has not been established by systematic clinical studies.1

Valium can cause physical dependence, even if you use the medication as directed. This means you can experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using Valium. Dependence is a physiological adaptation of the body to a substance, wherein the body becomes so used to the drug being present in the system that when an individual reduces or abruptly stops the use of the drug, withdrawal symptoms emerge. With significant levels of physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively drink or use drugs to avoid unwanted withdrawal symptoms.7

Common symptoms of Valium withdrawal include abdominal and muscle cramps, restlessness, sweating, tremors, vomiting, confusion, extreme anxiety, irritability, and more.1 Abrupt cessation of Valium, especially when used long-term and in high doses, can cause dangerous effects, such as seizures. As a result, withdrawal from Valium and other benzodiazepines is highly monitored and treated under medical supervision.1

Other potential long-term effects of Valium may include an increased risk of:1, 5, 6

  • Tolerance
  • Dependence
  • Addiction
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Cognitive impairment and dementia in the elderly

The use or misuse of benzodiazepines, including Valium, can lead to addiction, also known as a substance use disorder (SUD). A SUD is characterized by the recurrent use of a substance despite experiencing negative health, occupational, and social consequences as a result of substance misuse.3 A person struggling with Valium addiction or another type of SUD may experience several physical and psychological consequences. They may also be more likely to experience:1, 7, 8

  • Increased risk of injuries or motor vehicle accidents.
  • Worsening of underlying mental health conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression).
  • Employment problems or job loss.
  • Financial problems.
  • Relationship and family problems.
  • Increased risk of crime or violent behavior.
  • Increased risk of housing instability and/or homelessness.

Getting Help

Seeking Valium addiction treatment can be a beneficial way to stop the cycle of benzodiazepine misuse and addiction.

As mentioned previously, it’s not advisable to stop using benzodiazepines without a doctor’s guidance due to withdrawal risks.1 The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) advises hospitalization or another form of 24-hour medically supervised detox for people undergoing withdrawal from benzodiazepines.9

For many people, medical detox is only the first stage of treatment.10 Following medical detox, many people benefit from entering inpatient or outpatient treatment. This can help them identify and modify behaviors that contribute to substance misuse and addiction.10

People who have co-occurring disorders struggle with a mental health disorder in addition to a substance use disorder (SUD).10 Specialized co-occurring disorder treatment can help address both conditions at the same time, which can provide better patient outcomes.10

It’s advisable to talk to your doctor if you want to start treatment. Your doctor can perform an evaluation and help determine the appropriate course of treatment for your needs. You can find treatment facilities in several ways, such as by asking your doctor for referrals. You can also use our directory to find rehabs near you.

If you’re ready to learn more about treatment, American Addiction Centers (AAC) is ready to help. AAC is a leading provider of addiction treatment, with rehab centers across the nation. You can contact our free, confidential helpline at to speak to an admissions navigator who can answer questions, provide information on treatment, and verify your insurance.


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