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Valium Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Detox

Valium (generic name diazepam) is a long-acting benzodiazepine with a rapid onset that is frequently prescribed for conditions such as anxiety disorders, alcohol detoxification, and seizures.1 Diazepam is a Schedule IV controlled substance and has a high potential for abuse. Users may also develop dependence which can result in withdrawal symptoms when the medication is reduced or discontinued.1

Though benzodiazepines are generally safe, when used long-term there is a risk for physical dependence and addiction.2 Those who are experiencing dependence on Valium and are looking to stop using the drug may benefit from a professional detox program that can help them as they go through withdrawal.

Dependence and Withdrawal

Using Valium long-term can result in the development of physical dependence.3 Several factors that may influence the development of drug dependence include:3

  • The dosage of the drug.
  • The potency of the drug.
  • Length of use.

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 the individual cuts back on their use or quits, withdrawal symptoms emerge. With significant levels of physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively drink or use drugs to avoid unwanted withdrawal symptoms.  Withdrawal from central nervous system (CNS) drugs may result from the rapid reduction of dosage or the complete discontinuation.3 The rate and severity of withdrawal are based on:4

  • The dose.
  • The duration of use.
  • The potency.
  • The half-life.
  • The rate of the taper.
  • Individual factors.

Find Out if Your Insurance Plan Covers Valium Addiction Detox

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Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal can lead to very unpleasant and even dangerous physical and mental symptoms, including the reappearance of symptoms of the treated disorder (also known as rebound).3 For example, if someone is taking Valium to treat insomnia, they may experience rebound insomnia upon discontinuing the drug.3 Rebound symptoms might be more severe than the initial symptoms.3

Although withdrawal symptoms vary among people, some Valium withdrawal symptoms may include:5

  • Headache.
  • Sweating.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Confusion.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Paranoia.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Hypertension.
  • Seizures.
  • Death.

When a person uses benzodiazepines, such as Valium, for one month or more, abruptly stopping use can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and delirium.6

Valium Withdrawal Duration and Timeline

The Valium withdrawal timeline varies among people. The duration of withdrawal will depend on several factors and may last 2-8 weeks for acute withdrawal syndrome but in some cases could take months.3

During withdrawal, individuals may experience rebound symptoms or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).3 During rebound, the symptoms treated by the medication reemerge, often in greater intensity than before the person began taking benzodiazepines for their initial anxiety related disorder. Common rebound symptoms include anxiety and insomnia.3 Unlike acute withdrawal, which is primarily physical withdrawal symptoms that occurs within days of stopping Valium, the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal are primarily psychological and emotional symptoms. Depending on the intensity and duration of benzodiazepine use, post-acute withdrawal is known to last many months or even up to 1-2 years. 3

Valium Detox and Treatment

Hospitalization or an inpatient medical detox facility may be recommended for people who have used high doses of Valium over long periods and who have existing medical or psychiatric conditions.7

Outpatient detoxification may be recommended for people who:7

  • Took prescribed doses in the therapeutic range.
  • Are dependable.
  • Have a support system to assist in monitoring their progress.
  • Do not have polysubstance dependence.

Medications that may be used to help with symptoms experienced during Valium withdrawal include:6

  • Antihypertensive medications (including propranolol).
  • Anticonvulsants (including carbamazepine).
  • Antidepressants.
  • Other benzodiazepines which can be used as a slow taper.

It is recommended that the management of Valium withdrawal be completed with medical supervision.7 Detox should never be attempted at home due to the potentially dangerous side effects that may arise.

In the outpatient setting, patients and families need to be informed that even with sound withdrawal treatment, seizures and delirium are possible.7 People under treatment should be instructed not to drive or operate dangerous machinery during detox and perhaps for several weeks thereafter.7 Recurring assessment will be necessary, particularly around times of dosage reductions.7

A meta-analysis of treatment for benzodiazepine cessation concluded that slow dose reduction combined with psychological treatment was more effective than gradual dose reduction alone.5 There is some evidence that adding cognitive-behavioral therapy during discontinuation is superior to just tapering the dose.5

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