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Is Valium Addictive?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 18, 2023 (Originally Published)

October 11, 2023 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Valium, a branded form of diazepam, belongs to the benzodiazepine (benzo) class of drugs and is a controlled substance that can only be obtained with a prescription. Valium has a high potential for dependency and addiction when used long-term.

In this guide, you will discover:

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  • Is Valium addictive?
  • How much Valium causes addiction?
  • How quickly can you get addicted to Valium?
  • What are the most common Valium addiction effects?
  • How can you connect with Valium addiction treatment in Southern California?

Valium Addiction

Valium (diazepam), is a benzodiazepine that is prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of:

  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Muscle spasms

Valium works by reducing overactive brain function to reduce stress and anxiety. The medication is categorized as a long-acting benzodiazepine, meaning that it remains in the body longer than short-acting benzos like Halcion (triazolam). Due to the prolonged effects of Valium, people require fewer daily doses than they would with shorter-acting benzodiazepines.

While Valium can be highly effective when used short-term and as directed, it can also be misused. Misuse is defined as taking a medication like Valium in a manner other than as prescribed or using it for unintended purposes – achieving a euphoric high, for instance. Diazepam abuse typically involves higher doses than recommended. Additionally, those who misuse Valium frequently combine the benzo with other CNS depressants like alcohol or opioids. Diazepam abuse may involve consuming tablets orally and is also associated with crushing the pills and snorting the powder.

Benzodiazepines like diazepam can cause tolerance to form. When this occurs, the effects of diazepam are diminished, prompting many people to increase the dose in an attempt to counteract tolerance. Increasing the dose of Valium will accelerate the development of physiological dependence. Dependence is usually the result of prolonged or chronic use of Valium for more than four months. The body adapts to the continuous presence of Valium, and withdrawal symptoms will present upon discontinuation or reduction in dose. Taking Valium regularly and/or in high doses increases the likelihood of dependence.

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How Addictive is Valium?

Valium is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance due to its potential for dependence and misuse. The most current data from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) show that 909,000 U.S. adults used sedatives like Valium in 2021.

Any sustained use of Valium can result in tolerance forming, where higher doses are needed to achieve the same effects. Tolerance can lead to the development of dependence, associated with the presentation of withdrawal symptoms if the dose is reduced or discontinued. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, muscle pains, and even seizures. To mitigate these risks, you should not stop taking Valium abruptly. Instead, consult your healthcare provider and adhere to a taper that reduces dosage gradually to prevent the onset of severe Valium withdrawal. Tolerance and withdrawal are both diagnostic criteria for Valium addiction – more on this below.

If you become addicted to Valium, you will be diagnosed with sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder, one of ten substance use disorders (addictions) recognized by APA (American Psychiatric Association). Like all addictions, diazepam addiction is characterized by compulsive use despite obviously adverse outcomes. Although incurable, Valium addiction responds favorably to evidence-based treatment.

How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Valium?

Valium addiction can develop in four to six weeks. Prolonged use of Valium, even with a doctor’s prescription, can increase the risk of addiction. The time frame for developing an addiction to Valium may differ based on factors such as an individual’s genetics, frequency of use, and dosage. That said, it’s possible to develop an addiction in just a few weeks of regular use.

Sticking to prescribed doses and regularly consulting with a healthcare provider is key when taking Valium. Seeking professional assistance is beneficial for those dealing with Valium addiction because substance use disorder is a progressive condition that typically gets worse if untreated but responds positively to ongoing therapy.

Symptoms of Valium Addiction

Valium addiction is classified as a type of substance use disorder according to DSM-5-TR (fifth revised edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). DSM-5-TR provides criteria that healthcare professionals use to diagnose substance use disorders as mild, moderate, or severe.

Am I Addicted to Valium?

If you are concerned that you have developed an addiction to diazepam, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you using Valium in increasing amounts or for longer periods of time than you originally intended?
  2. Do you persistently try to cut down or stop using Valium, even though you express a desire to do so?
  3. Do you spend a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of Valium?
  4. Do you experience cravings or strong urges for Valium?
  5. Are you unable to fulfill major obligations at work, home, or school because of Valium use?
  6. Do you continue to use Valium despite having persistent social and interpersonal issues caused or worsened by the drug’s effects?
  7. Have you given up important social, work, or recreational activities because of Valium use?
  8. Have you used Valium in situations where it is dangerous to do so?
  9. Do you continue to use Valium despite knowing that you have a physical or psychological condition that was caused or inflamed by your substance use?
  10. Are you experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using Valium? (Note: This criterion doesn’t count toward diagnosis if the drug is being used as prescribed.)
  11. Have you developed tolerance to Valium, meaning that you need more of the drug to experience previous effects? (Note: This criterion does not count toward diagnosis if the drug is being used as prescribed.)

Two or three positive responses indicate a mild Valium addiction. If you answered “Yes” to four or five of the above questions, this suggests a moderate benzo addiction. Severe diazepam addiction involves the presentation of at least six of the above criteria in a one-year period. Consult your healthcare provider if you are concerned about Valium addiction. They may refer you to a mental health specialist for diagnosis.

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Valium Addiction Effects

Valium addiction can have a wide range of physical, psychological, and social effects. Some common effects of valium addiction include:

  • Physical effects: Valium addiction can cause a range of physical symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness, and impaired coordination. Long-term use of Valium can also trigger liver and kidney damage, respiratory depression, and other serious health problems.
  • Psychological effects: Valium addiction can lead to a range of psychological symptoms, including depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings. Long-term use of Valium can also impair memory, attention, and other cognitive functions.
  • Social effects: Valium addiction can also have significant social effects, such as relationship problems, financial difficulties, legal problems, and problems at work or school. People with Valium addiction may also isolate themselves from family and friends and may have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.
  • Overdose: Valium addiction can also increase the risk of overdose, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms of a Valium overdose include respiratory depression, coma, and even death.
  • Withdrawal: Withdrawal symptoms from Valium addiction can be severe and can include anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, seizures, and even hallucinations.

Shortcut the recovery process from Valium addiction by reaching out to Renaissance Recovery.

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Get Valium Addiction Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

Prescription drug addiction is a serious issue that requires specialized treatment. At Renaissance Recovery Center near Huntington Beach, we offer outpatient treatment programs for individuals struggling with addiction and mental health conditions, including integrated dual diagnosis treatment for addictions co-occurring with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

Our outpatient treatment programs include PHPs (partial hospitalization programs), IOPs (intensive outpatient programs), and dual diagnosis treatment programs, providing you with the support and structure you need to overcome your Valium addiction.

Engage with individualized addiction treatment that draws from a range of holistic and evidence-based interventions, including MAT (medication-assisted treatment), group and individual counseling, psychotherapy (CBT or DBT), family therapy, and holistic therapies.

Once you complete your treatment program, we provide a personalized aftercare plan that includes coping techniques and relapse prevention strategies. We are committed to your ongoing recovery from Valium addiction, and our affordable luxury rehab can help you transition to a less intensive form of treatment or sober living in Southern California.If you’re ready to take the first crucial step in your recovery, reach out to our admissions team at 866.330.9449. Let Renaissance Recovery Center help you overcome your valium addiction and start living a healthier, happier life.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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