Can I get addicted to migraine medications (Xanax and Valium)?

Both Xanax and Valium are benzodiazepines that have a muscle-relaxing effect. And both drugs have the potential to cause addiction. Dr. Jana Burson, MD presents facts about these medications to help you evaluate Xanax or Valium as migraine headache medicines here.

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Will I get addicted to Valium?

Hi. I was prescribed Xanax and it was very helpful for me. It was like I was given a new lease on life. I suffered numerous disabling injuries in a car accident years ago and I suffer from never ending pain. I also suffer from severe migraines.

When I started taking the Xanax, my migraines all but disappeared and the medication also relieved my pain. I think because my body was not so tensed up, with my teeth clenched, every single second of my life was better. Previously, even when I slept, I sometime woke up, my head inches off the pillow, my body stiff as a board. Also, because I was not in so much pain I wasn’t so tired all of the time and I was more active and outside more, not so afraid of someone bumping into me.

The problem is I started noticing that I was thinking about taking another dose of Xanax before I was due. I tried to stop thinking this way because the medication was really helping me, but to no avail. So I decided to stop taking this medication.

Now I am back to the migraines, and the pain is worse! I’ve actually broken a tooth from clenching and I don’t have any energy to do the fun stuff with my children. My doctor suggested valium but I do not want to chance it if it will cause me to build up a tolerance and “crave” it like I did the Xanax.  Plus, I learned that the half life of Valium is pretty long and might not be the most efficient if I need drug testing or screening.

Would the Valium be okay for treating symptoms of a migraine? Are there any other medications that would provide the same relief without the same risk? Any advice that you would provide me would be greatly appreciated.  Signed, D.

Addiction doctor (MD) answer – Yes, Valium is addictive

Dear D,

Addiction isn’t just physical dependency. Anyone who takes medication like Xanax or oxycodone for more than a few weeks may feel physical withdrawal symptoms if they stop the medication suddenly. But for the diagnosis of true addiction, psychological symptoms must also be present. You gave an excellent example of a psychological symptom, when you described thinking eagerly about your next dose of medication.

It doesn’t sound like you actually developed addiction, since you recognized potential problems with the medication, and were able to stop it. You likely saved yourself a great deal of suffering.

Both Xanax and Valium are brand names of medications in the benzodiazepine family of medications. These drugs are used to treat anxiety and insomnia, but also have a muscle-relaxing effect. And both drugs have the potential to cause addiction.

Decisions about medications are always a risk versus benefit analysis. In other words, does the potential benefit outweigh the potential risks? Because of your experience with Xanax, I feel Valium would be a high-risk medication for you to take, unless all other treatment options failed.

Since there are other means to treat your condition, Valium may not be necessary anyway. Many prescription muscle relaxants can be prescribed in place of Valium or Xanax, with little, if any, risk of addiction. Anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen or naproxen, may be helpful.

Additionally, there are non-pill ways of treating muscle tension, such as massage, heat, and biofeedback. I would encourage you to talk with your doctor about these alternatives. These methods admittedly take more time than taking a pill, but can be effective, and much safer.

More on uses of Valium

About the author
Jana Burson M.D. is board-certified in Internal medicine, and certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. After practicing primary care for many years, she became interested in the treatment of addiction. For the last six years, her practice has focused exclusively on Addiction Medicine. She has written a book about prescription pain pill addiction: "Pain Pill Addiction: Prescription for Hope." Also see Dr. Burson's blog here.
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