What are Valium withdrawal symptoms?
ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Symptoms that occur as you quit Valium can vary from depression to increased insomnia. They can last for at least 6 weeks after stopping Valium, so strict medical surveillance is important throughout this process.
Are you deciding or considering Valium detoxification? If so, we invite you to read and obtain information in this article, which will clarify many doubts about it. You can expect certain symptoms to manifest in your body during the detoxification process
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Psychoactive Effects
- Why Does Withdrawal Occur?
- Common Symptoms
- Treatment And Tapering Regimens
- Detox At Home
- Safety First
- Your Questions
Valium (diazepam) is a central nervous system depressant. It is a benzodiazepine medicine used to treat anxiety and sleeping disorders. When used appropriately and prescribed for a short period of time, benzos are very effective in treating these disorders. However, any patient who has taken a benzodiazepine for longer than 3–4 weeks is likely to have withdrawal symptoms if the drug is ceased abruptly. The risk of inducing dependence can be reduced by issuing prescriptions limited to 1–2 weeks supply.
Why Does Withdrawal Occur?
Withdrawal is likely to occur in anyone who experiences Valium tolerance symptoms, including those who gradually comes off Valium as well as those who suddenly decide to stop taking it. Why does this happen? Withdrawal occurs when you stop taking habit-forming drugs because the body becomes used to and adapts to chemicals.
So, when the drugs are no longer present, the body still acts as if they are… until it normalizes again.
So how does this apply to Valium? The diazepam contained in Valium interacts with the central nervous system as a depressant, much like alcohol. Because of this, Valium slows the brains responses down and can create a calm sedation of the body. However, when you stop taking Valium, the body (which has been compensating for the lack of diazepam by speeding up its responses) does not know the difference. In this way, withdrawal symptoms occur during the period of time as the body adapts to the lack of diazepam.
Those who stop/reduce use can expect to feel the effects of withdrawal peak between 3 to 6 days after cessation. It is important to note that you may experience withdrawal in a delayed manner. Some people have reported withdrawal symptoms showing up weeks after stopping Valium, for example.
Additionally people report Valium withdrawal symptoms for up to a year after they stop taking Valium.
Those who have developed a strong drug dependency have a harder time during withdrawal, as withdrawal symptoms can linger due to psychological effects of withdrawing from the medication. This may be one reason why you may experience symptoms long after you stop taking Valium. In fact, a 2015 article by BMC Psychiatry says that even if you have taken benzodiazepines at low doses and as prescribed by a doctor, you may stil experience hard withdrawal symptoms.
If you are now asking yourself: “Can I stop taking Valium?” The answer is… It is not easy, but neither is it impossible. You can do it! Especially if you get the right medical help.
Understanding the withdrawal process is important, because individuals who are going through withdrawal are at a higher risk for relapse. The sudden appearance of rebound anxiety and physical symptoms can be immediately countered if the individual begins to take Valium again; this makes it extremely difficult for individuals to discontinue Valium on their own without professional assistance.
Many people may find that the symptoms of withdrawal (see this list of symptoms) are typical of their previous problems such as insomnia or anxiety. Common symptoms follow, organized by symptom type.
- Muscle pain, stiffness and aches (limbs, back, neck, jaw).
- Tremor, fasciculations.
- Confusion, disorientation (may be intermittent) – a common cause of confusion in older patients.
- Delirium (in the absence of autonomic hyperactivity) – particularly in older patients.
- Delusions, paranoia.
- Dizziness, light-headedness.
- Faintness or a sense of unsteadiness.
- Grand mal seizures 1–12 days after discontinuing benzodiazepines.
- Hallucinations (visual, auditory).
- Paraesthesia, shooting pains in neck and spine.
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
- Visual disturbances (blurred vision, diplopia, photophobia, vision lags behind eye movements).
- Diarrhea (may resemble irritable bowel syndrome).
- Anxiety, panic attacks.
- Depression, dysphoria.
- Distortions of body image.
- Feelings of unreality, depersonalisation, derealization.
- Irritability, restlessness, agitation.
- Perceptual distortions – sensory hypersensitivity (light, sound, touch, taste), abnormal sensations (e.g. ‘cotton wool’ sensations).
- Poor memory and concentration.
- Metallic taste.
- Rebound insomnia.
Generally, milder withdrawal symptoms (especially dysphoria and insomnia) have been reported following abrupt discontinuance of benzodiazepines taken continuously at therapeutic levels for several months. The more severe withdrawal symptoms have usually been limited to those who received excessive doses over an extended period of time.
Treatment and Tapering Regimens
NOTE HERE: Doctors recommend that you withdraw from diazepam under medical supervision in all cases.
How can you best pass through withdrawal from a strong medicine like diazepam? Often, tapering down doses a little at a time can help significantly. The gradual decrease helps with depression and insomnia. However, any medical detox from Valium requires medical supervision. Here are some main concepts to keep in mind.
- The first step in the treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal is to stabilize the person with an adequate dose of diazepam. The doctor calculates how much Valium is equivalent to the dose of benzodiazepine that the patient currently uses, up to a maximum of 40 mg of diazepam, stabilizing it with this dose of diazepam for 4-7 days. For people taking less or more than the equivalent of 40 mg of diazepam, the program of low dose reduction and high doses of benzodiazepine should be followed, respectively.
- The period of time between each dose reduction is based on the presence and severity of withdrawal symptoms. The longer the interval between reductions, the more comfortable and safer the withdrawal
- In general, withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines fluctuate; the intensity of the symptoms does not decrease steadily, as is the case with most other drug withdrawal syndromes. It is not recommended to increase the dose when the symptoms get worse; instead, continue with the current dose until the symptoms disappear, then continue with the dose reduction program indicated by your doctor.
- Symptomatic treatment can be used in cases where withdrawal symptoms persist.
It is important to be careful with prescription and over-the-counter medications that are used to help with symptoms and that do not interact negatively with the diazepam contained in Valium. As you’re quitting and lowering doses, you should also avoid the use of alcohol and other drugs to prevent further chemical dependence. Seek the advice of a doctor about other ways to relieve related symptoms.
You may have been taking benzodiazepines for an anxiety or other psychological disorder; following withdrawal from benzodiazepines, is likely to experience a recurrence of these psychological symptoms. Seek psychological care to address these symptoms. Often, lifestyle changes or new behaviors can be more effective in long-term care of anxiety than strong, depressant drugs.
The Ashton Manual provides you with simple Valium tapering schedule.
Detox at Home
It is never advised that you detox from Valium at home, on your own. The sudden interruption or reduction in the use of Valium may be tempting for those who want to end dependence on Valium. However, what may seem like a courageous decision could be very painful and dangerous without getting the right help.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) both discourage rapid cessation or reduction and without medical surveillance. Instead, these institutions recommend that detoxification should include a gradual reduction program of Valium to reduce the risks.
Another potential danger, which could be serious, is unwanted relapse. By trying to detoxify at home, you may be unable to tolerate withdrawal symptoms. In these cases, you can re-use Valium to avoid more agony than the cessation of consumption may produce. A relapse will certainly delay recovery efforts and could generate frustration. However, relapse can be prevented if you have access to adequate medical and psychological support that is usually available in detoxification programs. Do not be afraid to ask for help, this could save your life.
If you have decided to quit Valium, it is essential that you follow the advice given in this article so that the clearing process is as smooth as possible, both for you, your family and those around you. Here are some safety suggestions:
- Always withdraw under medical supervision.
- Look into contraindications of Valium with other medications.
- Seek the help of a medical detox clinic, when necessary.
- Seek the advice of a medical doctor with experience in benzo withdrawal.
- Taper doses.
NOTE HERE: Any concurrent alcohol abuse could make a volatile situation even more dangerous. Self-report any medications or drinking before you attempt withdrawal.
Do you still have questions about withdrawing from Valium? Please leave us your questions below, and in a short time we’ll try to get back with you. If we don’t know the answer, we will refer you to someone who does.
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The Journal of the Royal College of General Practioners: The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome and its management.
The National Pain Association: Abrupt Withdrawal from Pain Medications — Information and Caution.
Toxicology Data Network: Diazepam.
NCBI: Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.
NHSTA: Highway Safety Drug and Human Performance Sheet for Diazepam.