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Signs and Symptoms of Valium Misuse and Addiction

Valium, a brand-name formulation of diazepam, is a benzodiazepine medication that doctors primarily prescribe to treat anxiety disorders or for the short-term relief of anxiety symptoms.1

Valium has several useful medical purposes. However, the use of benzodiazepines, even when taken as prescribed by a doctor, can expose users to the risks of misuse and addiction, which can lead to adverse consequences including overdose and death.1

If you or someone you care about takes Valium, it can be beneficial to know the signs and symptoms of Valium addiction and the appropriate steps to take if you need help.

Symptoms of Valium Addiction

The use and misuse of benzodiazepines like Valium can lead to the development of a substance use disorder (SUD), also known as addiction.2 A SUD can only be diagnosed by a medical professional using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The DSM-5 classifies Valium addiction as a Sedative-, Hypnotic-, or Anxiolytic-Related Disorder.3 A medical professional may make a diagnosis if a person meets 2 or more of the following criteria within a 12-month period:3

  • Being unable to cut back or stop using Valium despite a desire to do so.
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of Valium.
  • Experiencing cravings, or an intense desire, to use Valium.
  • Being unable to fulfill obligations at home, school, or work due to Valium use.
  • Continuing to use Valium despite having interpersonal or social problems that are caused or worsened by substance use.
  • Using Valium in situations where it is dangerous to do so (e.g., driving).
  • Using Valium despite having a persistent mental or physical health problem that is likely due to substance use.
  • Giving up occupational, recreational, or social activities to use Valium.
  • Developing tolerance, meaning you need more Valium to achieve previous effects.
  • Experiencing Valium withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug. (Note: For people who take Valium under medical supervision, experiencing withdrawal symptoms does not count as meeting diagnostic criteria).

As mentioned, a SUD can only be diagnosed by a medical professional. If you recognize the symptoms above in yourself or someone you care about, scheduling an appointment with a doctor and speaking openly and honestly can be an important first step in getting the appropriate care.

Recognizing the Signs of Valium Misuse

In addition to the symptoms above, a person may exhibit various signs that they are struggling with Valium misuse or addiction. While these don’t necessarily indicate a Valium addiction, knowing the signs can alert you to the potential need for professional treatment intervention.

Misuse is the intentional use of a drug in a manner that diverges from how a medical professional prescribed it.1, 2 A person may misuse Valium by:1, 2

  • Using the medication more frequently or in a larger dose than prescribed.
  • Taking another person’s medication.
  • Taking the medication through a non-prescribed route of entry (e.g., snorting).
  • Taking the medication for the effects it causes (e.g., to get high).
  • Polysubstance use, or taking the medication and using other substances at the time same time (e.g., alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription medications).

Valium misuse can lead to several adverse effects that range from mild to severe, including:1

  • Impaired coordination.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Confusion.
  • Impaired concentration and memory.
  • Aggression.
  • Irritability.
  • Tremors.
  • Suicidal behavior and ideation
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Delirium.
  • Seizure.

Severe adverse side effects can result in a life-threatening Valium overdose and death.1 The risk of experiencing severe adverse side effects is greater when Valium is misused in combination with other substances, especially those that cause central nervous system (CNS) depression, including alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids.1, 4 Unfortunately, people who misuse benzodiazepines like Valium often misuse other substances. It’s estimated that around 80% of benzodiazepine misuse occurs in conjunction with the misuse of other substances, most commonly opioids.4

In addition to experiencing adverse side effects, people who misuse Valium can experience other far-reaching negative consequences. You may notice signs such as:1, 3

  • Interpersonal problems with peers, colleagues, friends, or family members.
  • Trouble at school or work, as evidenced by failure to submit assignments, meet deadlines, or satisfy job responsibilities.
  • Absenteeism from school or work.
  • Injuries due to adverse reactions, including disorientation, dizziness, or impaired coordination.
  • Diminished interest or involvement in hobbies, social engagements, or work-related events.
  • Child neglect or failure to care properly for household needs.

What to Do if Someone Is Showing Signs of Valium Misuse or Addiction

If you suspect someone you care about is exhibiting signs of Valium misuse or may be struggling with addiction, it may be time to get help. Even if they are not ready to receive help, there are several things that you can do to support them, including:5, 6

  • Learning about addiction. This can help you better understand what your loved one may be experiencing.
  • Setting aside time to talk when appropriate. Choose a time and place free of distractions.
  • Sharing your concerns without judgment. You can do this by avoiding stigmatizing language (e.g., “addict”).
  • Encourage them to get an evaluation from a doctor. Offer to help them make an appointment.
  • Researching treatment options. You can contact a doctor or medical professional ahead of time to verify that they have addiction expertise or ask for a referral. You can also use free online resources like our rehab directory to find treatment options near you.

Getting Help

Valium addiction can be challenging to overcome, but treatment is available. Treatment for Valium addiction can help facilitate a safe withdrawal from the drug and address underlying issues that may have contributed to misuse or addiction. No treatment is appropriate for everyone. Effective treatment is individualized to address a person’s unique needs.7

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous, which is why it is recommended that patients undergo medically supervised detox.8 This can help patients withdraw from Valium as comfortably and safely as possible while under the care and supervision of healthcare professionals.8 Following detox, patients may transition to ongoing treatment in an inpatient or outpatient setting, where they may receive a combination of:2, 9

  • Behavioral counseling and therapy. This can help patients stop using substances by modifying unhealthy patterns of behavior and thinking.
  • Co-occurring evaluation and treatment. People who misuse Valium may struggle with a mental health disorder (e.g., anxiety) or the misuse of other substances (e.g., alcohol). Co-occurring treatment can address both.
  • Follow-up care focused on long-term relapse prevention.

If you or someone you care about may be struggling with Valium misuse or addiction, American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help. AAC is a leading provider of evidence-based addiction treatment throughout the U.S. You can contact AAC 24 hours a day at for information, resources, and support.

 

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