ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Valium can be one of the most dangerous drugs during withdrawal. It has the potential to trigger seizures, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. With this in mind, it’s vital you seek medical supervision for your safety. This article reviews common symptoms and their intensity…as well as treatment and tapering options. A full look at how to get of Valium safely, with a section at the end for your questions.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- What is Valium?
- Addictive Liability
- Effects on the Mind and Body
- Why Withdrawal Happens
- Is It Safe to Detox From Home?
- The Benefits of Treatment
- Signs of a Drug Problem
- Valium Use Trends
- Your Questions
What is Valium?
Valium (diazepam) is a benzodiazepine that is used to help people who experience anxiety. Valium is also used treat those experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or muscle spasms. And sometimes, it is used medically to help people who encounter seizures.
Valium comes in the form of a tablet, a long-release capsule, and a liquid form, all of which are taken by the mouth. Depending on your complication and doctor’s suggestion, Valium can be taken 1 to 4 times a day.
Like other prescriptions, people can develop a habit of taking Valium. Indeed, physical dependence on Valium develops after only a few weeks of regular dosing. But is drug dependence or tolerance the same as addiction?
Addiction: This condition is mainly psychological in nature. It is characterized by drug craving, and the inability to stay off a psychoactive drug, even in spite of negative consequences.
Dependence: Drug dependence is a chemical state triggered by regular use of a psychoactive drug. It manifests as withdrawal symptoms when you quit using the drug, and is usually resolved after a few weeks of detox.
Tolerance: Often, an individual will build a tolerance to the drug if using for a long-period time. This means they’ll need to take more in order to feel the effects.
There is a fine line between Valium dependence and addiction. In order to avoid creating an addiction, it’s necessary you follow your doctor’s recommended dosage and never go more or less. Furthermore, though you’ll always want to follow your doctor’s orders, it’s also suggested you’re not on Valium for more than 4 months. People who take Valium for more than a few months at a time are at higher risk of both addiction and dependence.
Effects on the Mind and Body
Valium is a sedative drug. On a physical level, it works to cause the user to increased levels of relaxation and sleepiness. These sensations are a reaction to the slowdown of the nervous system.
That being said, people don’t frequently take Valium to alter their mindframe or to get high. In fact, Valium is known to cause the unwanted following effects:
- Disturbing dreams
Instead, Valium is often abused by adolescents and young people already getting high on other substances, namely, heroin and cocaine. However, being that it’s a prescription, there’s still much potential for it to be misused by individuals in need of the medication.
Withdrawal is actually the manifestation of “faster” body processes and functions meant to counterbalance depressant effects of Valium. Symptoms go away on their own but take time to resolve.
Why Withdrawal Happens
Withdrawal occurs when the body adapts to the chemicals in a drug. In fact, the body has to adapt to drug like Valium in order to function as “normal”. So, when you stop taking Valium, or miss a dose, the body doesn’t understand why the drug isn’t streaming through its network. Therefore, it reacts in a way which can make you feel very uncomfortable.
Being that Valium is a sedative substance, it works in a similar way to alcohol by depressing the central nervous system and slowing down the body’s responses. This is what creates a state of relaxation. Over time, your body becomes so used to this depressing of the nervous system that it adjusts by speeding up other functions and processes. Take away the Valium, and you’re left with a chemical imbalance.
Once you stop taking Valium, withdrawal begins and symptoms start to arise. One of the first things you will notice is that you’ve lost the sense of relaxation. Since the central nervous system is no longer sedated by a chemical, the body reacts in a way that’s entirely opposite – lots of activity and agitation. This counter reaction is highly uncomfortable and often painful. Luckily, it’s not life threatening and, with the right medical supervision, users can manage the withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal from Valium can take from 2-8 weeks. Intense symptoms require medical supervision during any case of Valium withdrawal.
Withdrawal duration depends on:
- The amount of Valium you take.
- Your dosing frequency.
- Your individual metabolism.
- How long you’ve been using Valium.
Generally speaking, people will begin feeling withdrawal symptoms 2 to 7 days after their last dose of Valium. Symptoms continue for around 2 to 8 weeks, and sometimes longer. Some symptoms linger and are called “post-acute” or “protracted” withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms related to mood and sleep may persist for months or years after acute withdrawal.
Still, the length of time it takes to detox usually depends on how dependent on the drug you’ve become. For example, people who haven’t taken Valium for a long period of time (or those who haven’t overly abused it) will find their withdrawal symptoms lasting for a shorter period and being less uneasiness.
It’s helpful to note that long-acting benzodiazepines such as Valium have an increased effect on the body. The half life of diazepam is much longer than lorazepam or alprazolam, for example. Therefore, if you’re taking a substance with a similar chemical structure, but it’s not Valium, you’ll feel the same withdrawal symptoms. Just at a smaller and shorter interval.
No one who goes through Valium detox will experience the same withdrawal symptoms. Nor will they go through them to the same extreme. The experience is highly individual, although many symptoms are common. are The list below is divided into the three subcategories of withdrawal symptoms, listing out which are most common when it comes to a benzodiazepine withdrawal.
1. Anxiety Symptoms
- Anxiety, panic attacks, hyperventilation, tremors
- Sleep disturbance, weight loss, muscle spasms
- Visual disturbance, sweating
- Altered mood
2. Perception Distortions
- Sensitivity to loud noises
- Abnormal body sensations
3. Major Events
- Psychotic-like symptoms
Medical experts experience in long-term use of benzodiazepines recommend that you slowly wean off the drug. In other words, taking less and less of Valium over a period of time can help you manage withdrawal. Symptoms tend to be less intense or severe…and less complicated with gradual dose reduction. If a doctor recommends this, you may end up following a conversion chart such as this one.
The main text used by many people who want to get off Valium is The Ashton Manual. This text set up safe guidelines for benzodiazepine withdrawal and is referenced by patients who want to safely quit Valium. Note here that many people who want to quit Valium have little to no medical support. Often, doctors have little knowledge or experience about benzo tapers. In these cases, it can help to look to a support group, blog, or forum like:
There are a variety of medications people can use to ease symptoms related to coming off Valium.
So, you might to be recommended one or more of the following:
- Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors: This is a class of antidepressant medication that will reduce some of the withdrawal symptoms that come with Valium, namely, those that have to do with anxiety.
- Melatonin: A hormone also used for easing anxiety withdrawal symptoms. It’s been known to sometimes even induce sleep which, in itself, will make the withdrawal process less difficult.
- Anticonvulsant Medication: As mentioned in the introduction, some people experience seizures when withdrawing. If that’s the case, this medication will be given. Still, it’s also been known to reduce other symptoms of Valium withdrawal.
- Baclofen: A muscle relaxing medication which has been known to decrease an individual’s cravings for Valium and other drugs.
There are other forms of medication which may be used to reduce levels of nausea or headaches, but these are the primary ones people experiencing a benzodiazepine withdrawal find themselves on.
Is It Safe to Detox From Home?
Any case of drug withdrawal should be medically supervised. Plus, diazepam detox can trigger suicidal ideation, seizures, and major panic episodes. So, before you proceed…check in with your prescribing doctor and set up an individual plan. With the right self-discipline, many individuals can withdrawal from home. Usually through a tapering method.
Yet, there are some people who won’t be able to properly quit on their own terms. When this is the case, an inpatient/outpatient treatment is recommended. Generally speaking, physical withdrawal is best managed under proper medical supervision through an inpatient program.
When going through an inpatient detox, it can be expected you’ll hear from a medical professional every three to four hours. This isn’t just for the sake of checking in on your withdrawal process, but also to teach you exactly what’s happening to your body. As mentioned, everyone goes through a Valium withdrawal differently. And you can expect your body isn’t going to react the exact same way someone else’s will.
The Benefits of Treatment
We’d like to encourage you to seek medical help and go through Valium withdrawal in a detox clinic. Besides the fact that you’ll always be under the eye of a trained professional, there are many perks to entering a treatment facility. The most notable being you’ll be surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals who are going through a similar experience as you. And, inevitably, can support in preventing relapse.
If you decide to enter a treatment facility, it’s important to understand what exactly you’re getting yourself into. This isn’t a place where you can withdraw and immediately be free of any drug compulsion. One of the biggest difficulties with cases of drug dependence keeping the mind off the drug-of-choice.
What a treatment facility will offer are the tools to do just that. Whether it be behavioral counseling or group therapy, you’ll be in an environment whose goal is to help you become a more responsible individual. So, when you enter back into day-to-day life, you’ll know how to properly self-discipline yourself and avoid any opportunity at Valium.
It’s already been mentioned that you can’t overdose when withdrawing from Valium. However, is it possible to overdose while on the drug? Can lowered tolerance lead to an overdose if you use Valium after detox?
The short answer is yes. Diazepam made it to the Top 10 overdose drugs from 2010-2014. Still, the chances of overdosing on it alone are slim. But if you were to combine Valium with other sedative drugs, then the potential for an overdose can occur. More on mixing opioids, Valium, and overdose risk from NIDA here.
Signs of a Drug Problem
Not everyone who’s prescribed or takes Valium will become addicted. It’s only when someone misuses the drug that it becomes a drug problem. Misuse includes taking more than the recommended dosage, taking Valium in ways other than prescribed (snorting, smoking, or injecting), or using Valium without a prescription.
If someone you love has acted differently or showing signs of the effects of Valium, you may ask yourself: How do I know if s/he is addicted?
The following are traits of addictive behavioral patterns. Typically, addicts will experience two or more within a 12 month period. Though not all the signs will be obvious to a loved one – as drug abusers have the tendency to hide their habit – there are some aspects to keep an eye out for:
- Continuing to use Valium even if it has negatively affected the individual’s mind and body.
- Using Valium even when it continuously poses physical hazards.
- The overwhelming urge to use Valium.
- Having the desire to cut down or quit Valium, yet, being unable to.
- Taking a large amount of drugs or more than the recommended dosage for a longer period of time than original intentions.
- Spending a large amount of time attempting to obtain Valium, ingesting it, and recovering from its effects on the body and brain.
- The inability to perform important responsibilities, such as school, work, or home.
- Damaging one’s personal life and social life.
- The lack of interest in activities that once satisfied the person due to Valium usage.
- The necessity to increase the dosage of Valium after seeing a lack of effects from normal dosage.
- Withdrawal symptoms upon dose cessation or abrupt lowering of dosage.
Indeed, it can be quite difficult for individuals to desire help with their drug problem. However, addiction is a medical condition. And you can get better!
People who have the most success in quitting for good are those who want to get better. If you or an addicted individual you love discovers this will, they’re one step closer to beating the disease
Valium Use Trends
In 2015, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that around 7.4 million people were past monthly users of diazepam products. Of there, an estimated 1.3 million Americans aged 12 or older were thought to be misusing Valium. So, if you have a problem…
You are not alone!
There are a few kinds of people who’ll find themselves addicted to Valium. Adolescents and young adults are prone to abusing it for recreational purposes. It’s common for campuses to not only have teenagers receiving this medication, but offering it to other students too.
Furthermore, it should be noted that there are many young people handling mental health on their own. One of the risks of self-medicating, however, is addiction. Though Valium won’t be the only substance of choice, if it is available, it has high potential to be abused by people handling an anxiety disorder for its sedative effects.
Finally, people who already have a history of addiction (whether it be drugs or alcohol) are also at risk of developing addiction. This has been one problem in terms of alcoholics as Valium can be used to ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Do you still have any concerns in terms of Valium addiction and/or withdrawal? Or, have you been through a Valium addiction yourself and have advice to offer on quitting. If so, please share in the comments section below. We will attempt to reply to all comments personally and promptly.
Reference Sources: MedlinePlus: Diazepam
NCBI: Withdrawal Management
SA Health: Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Managment
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.