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Mixing Valium and Alcohol

Valium (diazepam) is a prescription sedative and anxiolytic used for the management and treatment of anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms, and in some cases, acute alcohol withdrawal.1 While Valium is generally safe when taken as prescribed by a doctor, the label for the medication discourages drinking alcohol while taking Valium, as it can pose several health risks.1 Both Valium and alcohol are central nervous system (CNS) depressants and work synergistically, resulting in intensifying the effects of both substances, and the combined effects can include extreme drowsiness, respiratory depression, coma, and even death.1, 2

What Is Valium?

Valium is a prescription medication intended for short-term use that is part of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which help calm or sedate a person through interaction with the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain, increasing inhibitory tone and decreasing excitation in the central nervous system.3 Other common benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Klonopin), among others.3

The most common side effects of Valium include:1

  • Drowsiness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Impaired balance or coordination.
  • Muscle weakness.

What Happens When You Mix Valium and Alcohol?

Valium and alcohol are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants.1, 4 Both facilitate the activation of GABA, the primary inhibitory molecule in the CNS, which alleviates overactivity in the brain and leads to calming and sedative effects, such as drowsiness, feelings of relaxation, slowed breathing, impaired coordination, and more.3, 5

Alcohol has several other effects on the CNS and can stimulate dopamine transmission in the brain’s reward system pathway, which can impact a person’s behavior, mood, coordination, and thinking; it likely also plays a role in reinforcing alcohol use.4, 6 When a person uses 2 or more CNS depressants at the same time, such as Valium and alcohol, each substance compounds or synergizes with the other, which results in profound enhanced sedative effects.1

This makes a person more likely to experience significant drowsiness and sedation and decreased motor skills, as well as experience confusion, disorientation, and incoherence.7

Valium and Alcohol Effects and Dangers

Mixing Valium and alcohol is never safe due to the risk of overdose.8 Furthermore, studies looking at visits to emergency departments involving benzodiazepines like Valium found that combining benzodiazepines with alcohol significantly increases the risk of serious ED visit outcomes for all groups. Older patients experience an even greater risk.9

The enhanced sedative effects of medications like Valium and alcohol can cause profound sedation and can significantly impair a person’s ability to drive or operate other types of machinery, putting them at an increased risk of injuring themselves or others.8 Combining depressants like Valium and alcohol can lead to several other dangerous and potentially fatal health outcomes as well, including:1, 7, 10, 11

  • Oversedation.
  • Slowed or difficulty breathing (e.g., respiratory depression).
  • Memory issues.
  • Impaired coordination and motor control.
  • Increased risk of falls or injury, particularly in the elderly.
  • Increased risk of overdose, which may lead to brain damage, coma, or death.

Anxiety and Alcohol

People who are prescribed Valium are generally advised to avoid drinking alcohol as the combination not only can result in oversedation but can decrease the benefits of their prescription and potentially make their condition (e.g., anxiety) worse.8 Regardless of whether a person is prescribed Valium, people who have a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression, should understand that having a mental health condition can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD), a chronic but treatable medical condition characterized by compulsive alcohol- or drug-seeking behavior.12, 13 Benzodiazepines like Valium are controlled substances with the potential for misuse and addiction, while chronic alcohol use can also lead to addiction.1, 12

Avoiding Valium and Alcohol

Understanding the synergistic effects of Valium and alcohol is important, as mixing the 2 substances can result in oversedation and can have potentially dangerous or unhealthy consequences.1, 8, 11

People who are prescribed Valium should know that its effects on the body can continue for many hours after taking the medication. Many factors, such as a person’s age, weight, and the amount of food they have consumed can impact how long it takes for Valium to be absorbed.1

The best way to prevent adverse health effects of combining Valium and alcohol is to not use them in combination with one another at all. If you regularly take Valium and still wish to drink alcohol, it’s a good idea to talk to the doctor who prescribed your Valium.

Getting Help

If you think that you or your loved one has a problem with Valium, alcohol, or another substance, you should know that treatment for substance use disorders is available.14 Valium misuse treatment and alcohol misuse treatment can help you regain control of your life.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment with facilities across the U.S. If you’re ready to reach out, we’re ready to help. You can call our free, confidential helpline at for more information about rehab, and easily verify your insurance online.

 

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