Valium: Uses, Side Effects, & Addiction

an image of pills meant to represent valium
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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Valium is a branded form of diazepam, a benzodiazepine that induces long-lasting effects. Any sustained use of this drug can lead to the development of Valium addiction.

Addiction to diazepam can advance rapidly if the medication is not used as prescribed. Many people develop an addiction to Valium without being aware that a problem is developing.

If you take this benzo for more than four weeks – even with a supporting prescription, and even in small doses – you will increase your risk profile for benzodiazepine addiction.

Valium is usually prescribed to treat the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizure
  • Alcohol withdrawal

What is Valium?

Valium (diazepam) is a medication in the benzodiazepine family. A long-acting benzodiazepine, Valium has longer lasting effects than other benzos, and it also stays in the system for longer than short-acting benzodiazepines like Halcion.

You can take Valium tablets up to four time per day, although regular use of this potent benzo will accelerate the development of tolerance, withdrawal, and physical dependence. Tolerance and withdrawal are diagnostic criteria for addiction, and dependence often leads to addiction.

Is Valium a Narcotic?

Valium is a benzodiazepine rather than a narcotic (opioid).

Narcotic is a term derived from the ancient Greek word narkō (make numb). The term was originally used to describe any psychoactive compound with numbing properties. This definition has evolved over time.

In a legal context in the United States, narcotic is used interchangeably with illicit drug.

In a medical context in the United States, narcotic is now associated with opioids like morphine, oxycodone, heroin, and fentanyl.

Narcotics are typically used to treat pain. Benzodiazepines like Valium, on the other hand, are used chiefly to treat anxiety and seizures.

Valium Uses

Valium is normally indicated for the short-term relief of anxiety or to manage diagnosable anxiety disorders. Stress, tension, and anxiety associated with day-to-day life do not typically require treatment with an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety medication).

Diazepam may also be useful to in relieving the following symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal:

Valium can also be used as a supplementary form of relief for:

  • Skeletal muscle spasm triggered by inflammation of the joints or muscles
  • Spasticity caused by paraplegia or cerebral palsy (motor neuron disorders)
  • SPS (stiff-person syndrome), also a motor neuron disorder
  • Athetosis (movement dysfunction)

Valium may be prescribed orally as a supplementary treatment for convulsive disorders. There is currently no evidence to support the use of Valium as the sole treatment for these disorders.

No clinical data supports the effectiveness of Valium for long-term use beyond four months.

In addition to these legitimate medical uses, benzodiazepines like Valium are frequently misused for the following reasons:

  • For a rewarding, euphoric high
  • To promote sleep
  • For relieving stress or tension
  • To mitigate the side effects of stimulants like cocaine or meth
  • In combination with other addictive substances

Dosage

Valium dosage should be personalized to achieve the maximum benefits.

Diazepam is available in the following tablet forms:

  • 2mg
  • 5mg
  • 10mg

Valium dosage will vary depending on the person and on the condition the benzo is being used to treat. Typical diazepam dosages for adults are as follows:

  • For managing anxiety disorders or relieving the symptoms of anxiety: 2mg to 10mg per day, between 2 and 4 times per day.
  • For the symptomatic relief of alcohol withdrawal: 10mg on the first day in 3 or 4 doses, then 5mg taken 3 or 4 times daily as required.
  • For the supplementary treatment of skeletal muscle spasm: 2mg to 10mg per day, 3 to 4 times per day.
  • For the supplementary management of convulsive disorders: 2mg to 2.5mg per day, 1 to 2 times per day.

How Long Does Valium Last?

Valium is a long-acting benzo and the effects set in after a few minutes to an hour, depending on the route of administration.

Valium has an elimination half-life of 48 hours. It takes between four and five elimination half-lives for all of a substance to be removed from the system.

Valium can be detected in the hair for up to 90 days after the last use, in the saliva for between seven and nine days, and in urine for several weeks.

What Does Valium Do?

Like all benzos, Valium enhances the action of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that inhibits the CNS (central nervous system). This can help to calm an overexcited CNS.

Valium is frequently abused, often in higher doses than recommended, and frequently in combination with other substances like opioids or alcohol. When people abuse Valium, DEA reports that the pills are often crushed and then snorted nasally.

Taking Valium in any form will induce feelings of sleepiness and relaxation, as well as impairing focus.

Valium Side Effects

The same Valium side effects will manifest whether the medication is used recreationally or legitimately. The most common of these side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slowed breathing
  • Confusion
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Skin rash
  • Seizure

The sustained use of Valium may increase your risk of developing a co-occurring disorder (an addiction with a simultaneously presenting mental health condition).

Long-term abuse of this drug can also damage areas of the brain that govern memory and cognition.

Valium Addiction

Some of the most common signs of Valium abuse include:

  • Irritability
  • Atypical sadness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Appetite changes
  • Slurred speech
  • Secretiveness
  • New social network
  • Stealing or borrowing money
  • Legal ramifications due to Valium abuse
  • Disengagement from preferred activities
  • Social withdrawal and isolation

The symptoms of Valium addiction are outlined in DSM-5-TR, the most recent revision of APA’s diagnostic tool.

Addiction is a non-clinical term used to describe substance use disorder. APA recognizes ten different substance use disorders, including Valium addiction (sedative use disorder). These are the diagnostic criteria for addiction to diazepam:

  1. Spending lots of time obtaining and using this drug, as well as recovering from its effects.
  2. Frequently using diazepam in potentially dangerous situations.
  3. Cutting down on social commitments due to drug use.
  4. Failing to meet personal and professional commitments due to drug abuse.
  5. Experiencing intense cravings.
  6. Taking Valium although it is inflaming or causing physical or mental health conditions.
  7. Taking Valium more often than intended or in larger quantities than recommended.
  8. Trying but failing to moderate use of Valium.
  9. Tolerance for benzodiazepines developing.
  10. Withdrawal symptoms presenting in the absence of Valium.
  11. Ongoing Valium use despite obviously adverse outcomes.

 Is Valium Addictive?

If you take this drug for more than 4 months – even with a prescription – this will increase your risk of developing benzodiazepine addiction.

If you become addicted to this drug, it is inadvisable to suddenly stop using the medication without medical guidance. Valium withdrawal can be life-threatening. The most common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety

If you undergo a tapered reduction in dosage with medical supervision, this will reduce the intensity of withdrawal and minimize complications.

Although there is no cure for addiction, the condition responds favorably to:

  • Medical detox with tapered dosage reduction
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapy like CBT or DBT

We can help you break the chains of Valium addiction here at Renaissance Recovery.

Valium Rehab at Renaissance Recovery

Whether Valium addiction has developed as a result of legitimate medical use or through the abuse of this benzo, we can help you get back on track here at Renaissance Recovery Center.

If you require assistance withdrawing from benzos, we can connect you with licensed medical detox centers throughout Southern California. A tapered reduction alongside continuous emotional and clinical care will alleviate the intensity of benzo detox.

Once you are free of benzodiazepines, you can engage with one of the following treatment programs at our Orange County facility:

  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • Virtual IOP (remote rehab program)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program (for co-occurring disorders)

While detox addresses the issue of physical dependence on this drug, you will need ongoing treatment to help you unpack the psychological aspect of addiction. Regardless of the level of treatment intensity that is most appropriate for your needs, you can access these evidence-based practices and holistic interventions at Renaissance:

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Group counselling
  • Individual counseling
  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
  • Family therapy
  • Experiential adventure therapy

Due to the relapsing nature of addiction – up to 60% of those in recovery will relapse at least once – your treatment team many advise you to transition into a less intensive form of treatment before you reintegrate into daily living. You will also leave our treatment center equipped with an aftercare plan, relapse prevention techniques, and access to our alumni program. The Renaissance team is here to help you from detox to discharge and beyond. When you are ready to embrace life without Valium, call admissions at 866.330.9449.

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Pat C

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“They truly cared for me and the other people that I served with! From this group, I have made 8 new brothers and friends for life! We have continued on, after the program, to take care of each other”

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“Great staff who took the time to get to know me. They have a lot of experience in this field and have first hand experience with what I was going through. IOP is outstanding and really built up a ton of great relationships and found this program to be a ‘breath of fresh air’.”

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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