Valium (Diazepam) Drug Abuse Guide
Valium belongs to a class of medications that are commonly abused in the United States called benzodiazepines.1 (p21) In 2019, nearly 5 million Americans aged 12 or older had abused Valium or similar drugs within the last year.1 (p21) Almost 700,000 Americans aged 12 or older had an addiction to a prescription tranquilizer or sedative within the last year in 2019.1 (p39) The largest percentage of people who struggled with abuse or addiction to Valium or similar drugs in 2019 were aged 26 or older.1 (p21, 39)
The most recent statistics by region were collected in 2016 and showed that nearly 1.4 million people aged 12 and older had abused drugs like Valium in the western region of the United States, an area that includes Nevada.2 (p52) The western region of the United States had one of the lowest rates of prescription tranquilizer abuse in the country in 2016.2 (p16)
This article is intended to help you learn about Valium and answer any questions you may have, including:
- What is Valium?
- Is Valium the same as diazepam?
- Is Valium a benzodiazepine?
- Why do doctors prescribe Valium?
- What are Valium’s side effects?
- Why do people take Valium differently than it is prescribed?
- Is Valium dangerous?
- Why do people get addicted to Valium?
- What are signs that someone is abusing Valium?
- Can mixing alcohol with Valium kill you?
- Is Valium safe to detox from at home?
- How can you find help for Valium abuse?
What is Valium Used to Treat?
Valium, also referred to as diazepam, is a prescription drug that belongs to a class of central nervous system depressant medication known as benzodiazepines.3,4 Valium has been approved to treat anxiety and seizures, manage muscle spasms, and minimize symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.3,4 Valium is intended for short-term use and isn’t recommended for more than 4 months of continuous use.4 Other medications like Valium include Xanax (alprazolam) and Ativan (lorazepam).5 Valium may be provided over another similar option because it is approved for more medical purposes and has different effects than other benzodiazepines.
Side Effects of Valium
Valium has a range of side effects that may occur while you are under the influence.3,4,6 These side effects may improve over time, but taking high doses or abusing Valium can make these effects more likely to occur.3,4,6 Side effects are also increased when Valium is taken with alcohol.3,4, Short-term Valium effects can include:3,4,6
- Dry mouth.
- Falling asleep.
- Lack of coordination, which can lead to stumbling or falls.
- Low blood pressure.
- Mood swings.
- Participating in activities while asleep and being unable to recall what you did, such as making phone calls, eating, cooking, or driving.
- Poor judgment.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Reduced inhibition.
- Reduced sex drive.
- Slurring of speech.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Trouble remembering what you did while under the influence.
- Visual disturbances such as blurry or double vision or involuntary eye movements.
- Weak muscles.
In some cases, Valium can have the opposite effect.4 Rather than helping people feel less anxious and more relaxed, it can make people feel restless, agitated, more anxious, aggressive, and alert, with difficulty sleeping, muscle spasms, hallucinations, delusions, or psychosis.4
Since it is only intended to be used for short periods of time, long-term Valium use can also create physical and mental health issues.4 These can include depression, constipation, tremors, and increased risk of hip fractures in people over 65.4,6,7 Long-term Valium use has been linked to cognitive issues that can last long after use has stopped.7,8 Benzodiazepine use has been shown to affect sensory processing abilities, various aspects of memory, concentration and focus skills, processing speed, the ability to solve problems, overall intelligence, motor skills, reasoning abilities, multi-tasking skills, and the ability to use language to express meaning, wants, and needs.8
Valium Dependence and Addiction
Valium is a controlled substance, meaning that while it has an accepted medical use, it also has the potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction.5 Abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction are terms that may be interconnected, but refer to separate aspects of substance use.6,9
Valium can be a helpful medication, but also has the potential to be abused.4,7,9 Valium abuse refers to when a person takes it differently than intended, such as using larger doses than prescribed, using it more frequently than prescribed, using it in a way it isn’t intended to be used (chewing, crushing, or snorting pills), taking Valium that isn’t prescribed by a medical professional, or taking it to get high.6,9 Abusing Valium can put you at risk of developing tolerance and physical dependence on the drug, both of which can be early warning signs of addiction.3,9
Regular use of Valium can lead to the development of tolerance.4,6,9 This means that the drug becomes less effective, requiring you to take higher doses to feel relief or get high.4,6,9You may also find that side effects go away or become less bothersome as you develop tolerance.3,9 Tolerance may be one of the signs of physical dependence, as well as addiction, although it doesn’t have to be present for a diagnosis.6,9
Valium changes how the chemicals in your brain work, and after taking it continuously, your brain needs Valium to function normally.3,9 If you have been taking Valium regularly for as little as 2 weeks, and stop taking it, you may develop a physical dependence and experience symptoms of withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking Valium.4,6,7,9,10 Dependence and withdrawal can occur when Valium is used as directed by a doctor, although abuse makes it more likely.4,6,9
Addiction is the most severe aspect of substance use, demonstrating a cluster of symptoms affecting the body, behaviors, and thoughts that manipulate one or more areas of a person’s life.6,10 An addiction to Valium commonly includes symptoms of abuse, tolerance, and dependence, but these aren’t always necessary for a diagnosis.6,10 Addiction affects the function and appearance of the brain and isn’t solved by stopping Valium use.10
Valium Abuse Symptoms
Valium abuse and addiction have warning signs that can alert you to a potential issue. Physical signs of Valium abuse or addiction may include:6 (p550-551), 10 (p20)
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to get Valium.
- Eye movements that aren’t smooth.
- Falling asleep or looking sleepy.
- Chronic runny or stuffy nose if Valium is crushed and snorted.
- Poor coordination, such as stumbling or falling while walking.
- Slurred speech.
- Taking large doses of Valium.
Behavioral symptoms of Valium abuse and addiction may include:6 (p550-551), 10 (p20)
- Continuing to use Valium even after it has created or exacerbated a recurring or chronic physical or psychiatric health issue.
- Continuing to use Valium even after it has created or worsened issues in relationships with family members or loved ones.
- Cutting back or quitting activities that were previously important or enjoyable.
- Doctor shopping (visiting more than one doctor at a time) to get Valium prescriptions, or getting Valium without seeing a doctor.
- Inability to control how much Valium you take.
- Isolating from friends or family members.
- Taking Valium in dangerous situations, such as when driving.
- Using more Valium or taking it for longer than intended.
- Issues at work and/or school, such as unexplained absences and failing grades
- Inability to complete responsibilities at home.
- Wanting to cut down or stop taking Valium, but being unable to do so.
Valium Addiction Treatment Options
With physical dependence developing within 2 weeks of regular use, it is suggested that you begin treatment by attending medically supervised detox.9,11,12 Valium withdrawal symptoms can be distressing, and have the potential to become fatal, but detox facilities have staff who can treat your symptoms and ensure your safety.9,11,12 Detox staff will provide a slow taper of long-acting benzodiazepine medications with a low potential for abuse, such as Librium (chlordiazepoxide) or Klonopin (clonazepam), to ease your withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications from occurring.9,11,12
While detox can help you get off of Valium, it won’t help you change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to addiction.10 This will be addressed in inpatient and outpatient treatment. The right setting for you depends on your individual needs and circumstances.10 Multiple factors are used to determine whether inpatient or outpatient treatment is a better fit, including whether you have any co-occurring physical or mental illnesses, your employment situation, home life, whether you have relationships that are supportive of your sobriety, and if you have legal issues.10 In addition, if you take Valium for anxiety, your treatment plan may need to include non-addictive medication along with therapy to manage symptoms of anxiety.4,6,10
Inpatient treatment offers intensive group and individual therapy while you stay at the facility for the duration of treatment, which generally lasts between 3 and 6 weeks.10 Outpatient treatment offers group and individual therapy that ranges in intensity but allows you to live at home while receiving care so that you can continue tending to your usual schedule of responsibilities.10Treatment facilities commonly offer psychiatric care if needed.10
Therapy sessions typically make use of behavioral therapy, which has been shown to be highly effective at treating substance use disorders.9,10 Behavioral therapy techniques are designed to teach you how to manage cravings, learn skills to cope with situations that put you at high risk for relapse, communicate more effectively, improve relationships, develop healthier patterns of thoughts and behaviors, and encourage participation in self-help meetings and other activities that promote sobriety.9,10 Participation in therapy has been shown to lower participation in illegal behaviors, improve the likelihood of long-term sobriety, and improve employment status and performance.10
Finding Help for Valium Abuse
As one of the leading providers of substance abuse treatment in the country, American Addiction Centers can help treat you for Valium abuse or addiction.13 With facilities located throughout the country, and a local one in Las Vegas, Nevada, it’s convenient no matter where you live.13,14Our facilities offer a full range of treatment services ranging from medical detox to outpatient treatment and recovery housing.15 For more information about the services that American Addiction Centers offers and how we can help you overcome Valium abuse and addiction, reach out to our helpline at 702-800-2682 It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). 2018 annual surveillance report of drug-related risks and outcomes — United States.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2020). Diazepam (Valium).
- Food and Drug Administration. (2016). Valium (diazepam) label.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2017). Drugs of abuse: A DEA resource guide.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Johnson, B., & Streltzer, J. (2013). Risks associated with long-term benzodiazepine use. American Family Physician, 88(4), 225-226.
- Crowe, S.F., & Stranks, E.K. (2018). The residual medium and long-term cognitive effects of benzodiazepine use: An updated meta-analysis. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 33(7), 901-911.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Misuse of prescription drugs research report.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse.(2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
- Gupta, M., Gokarakonda, S.B., & Attia, F.N. (2020). Withdrawal syndromes. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 45, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 06-4131. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). American Addiction Centers.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). Desert Hope Las Vegas treatment center.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). Substance abuse treatment services.
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