Understanding Diazepam (Valium) Addiction
Valium is an addictive Benzodiazepine with longer-lasting effects than other drugs in its class. Diazepam (Valium) addiction can progress quickly if the drug is used in a way not directed by a doctor. Over time, it is harder for a Valium abuser’s brain to function normally without the drug. Yet some people addicted to Valium may not even realize they have a problem.
Taking Valium for longer than 4-6 weeks, even with a prescription from a doctor, increases the likelihood of becoming addicted. One of the telltale symptoms of a Diazepam (Valium) addiction is needing larger doses to feel the drug’s effects. Other signs of Diazepam (Valium) addiction include:
- Strong cravings for the drug
- Isolation from family and friends
- Continued use despite problems caused by the drug
- Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
- Ignoring obligations
Once a user has a tolerance to Valium’s effects, they could also have withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking it. Valium withdrawal can be dangerous and uncomfortable, which makes it hard for addicted people to quit on their own. The symptoms of withdrawal are intense, and many people addicted to Valium need the drug to feel normal.
What Is Diazepam (Valium)?
Valium is most often prescribed to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. It is also used to ease uncomfortable symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Valium works by diminishing hyperactive brain function to relieve severe stress and anxiety. It is ingested orally in pill form and usually taken 1-4 times per day when prescribed by a doctor. Valium is a long-acting Benzodiazepine.
This means it stays in the body much longer than shorter-acting Benzos like Halcion. Because of Valium’s long-lasting nature, people can take fewer doses per day than they would with shorter-acting Benzos. Valium is meant to be taken regularly to be effective. But when someone starts taking Valium more than prescribed, or without a prescription, they increase their risk of becoming addicted.
Signs Of Diazepam (Valium) Addiction
Diazepam (Valium) addiction often starts in a seemingly harmless way: people will take it once or twice to catch up on sleep or cope with a stressful day. Many Valium users hide their drug use, which can make it hard for loved ones to recognize that there is a problem. As someone becomes more dependent on Valium, they often increase their doses. This makes it harder for them to hide their use, and they are more likely to show visible signs of Valium abuse.
The visible and behavioral effects of Valium intoxication are similar to that of alcohol intoxication. Some signs that may indicate Diazepam (Valium) addiction include:
- Changes in appetite
- Uncharacteristic sadness or irritability
- Shaking (from withdrawal)
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Dilated pupils
The Dangers Of Diazepam (Valium) Addiction
The Food and Drug Administration approved Valium in 1963. It was created to help people deal with the stresses of everyday life. Bolstered by an aggressive advertising campaign targeting the middle-aged and middle-class, Valium soon became one of the most widely abused drugs of the 20th century.
Many people underestimate the addictive potential of Valium because it’s prescribed by a doctor. Even fewer people seem to be aware of the dangers of the drug. Valium can lead to convulsions and coma in heavy users. Studies have also shown that people on Valium have an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. When a user stops taking the drug, Valium withdrawal can be deadly. Valium is especially dangerous when mixed with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol and Opioid painkillers. The sedative qualities of each substance taken together are amplified. This can depress breathing or heart rates to the point of failure.
Side effects of Diazepam (Valium) Addiction include:
- Blurred vision
- Skin rash
- Irregular heartbeat
- Slowed breathing
People regularly using Valium over a long period of time can also develop co-occurring mental disorders that they didn’t have before. Because Valium is used to treat anxiety, the brain can come to rely on it to regulate stress. Without Valium, the addicted brain becomes imbalanced, leading to previously nonexistent anxiety and depressive disorders.
The long-term side effects of heavy Valium abuse could also be traumatic. Some evidence has shown that long-term use leads to brain damage that can affect memory and cognition. As early as 1976, David Knott, a physician at the University of Tennessee, noted damage to the cerebral cortex in Valium users. The cerebral cortex plays a large role in a person’s memory, attention, and thought processes.
Causes of Diazepam (Valium) Addiction
Valium is most often used by people who need help dealing with the stress of daily life. These people are also the ones most likely to abuse it. While there are several reasons for Valium abuse, many of those abusing the drug doesn’t take it to get high. They take it to feel normal — to relieve stress and anxiety. People also abuse Valium because it helps them sleep. Valium produces a sense of intense calm and euphoria, especially in higher doses.
Many people mistakenly think that because it is legal, Valium must be safe and less addictive than street drugs like Heroin or Cocaine. Due in part to these misconceptions, many people have accidentally overdosed. Some signs of a Valium overdose include:
- Bluish lips
- Double vision
- Trouble breathing
- Uncoordinated movement
Common Drug Combinations
Valium is often abused in combination with additional prescription medications and alcohol. Because Valium depresses the Central Nervous System (CNS), it is especially dangerous to combine with other drugs that do the same. Most overdoses from Valium occur when the drug is mixed with other CNS Depressants like alcohol and Opiates.
Recognizing Diazepam (Valium) Addiction
Diazepam (Valium) Addiction can be difficult to recognize for loved ones and even the addicted person. Valium is sometimes prescribed for up to 4 months, and Diazepam (Valium) Addiction may gradually develop during this time. People addicted to Valium often put their addiction ahead of professional and personal obligations. They are also likely to become unmotivated and lose interest in hobbies they once found pleasurable.
Drug abuse is the precursor to an addiction, but not everyone who abuses Valium is necessarily addicted. Using Valium in any way not directed by a doctor constitutes abuse. Experiencing cravings and withdrawal symptoms and needing larger doses of Valium to get the drug’s effects are some criteria that may indicate abuse has escalated into addiction.
Intervention And Next Steps
If someone you love is struggling with Diazepam (Valium) Addiction, it’s important to talk to them about it. Getting an addicted person into treatment as soon as possible can prevent future problems with their health, career, and family life. Staging an intervention is one way to persuade your loved one to get help. Interventions help addicted people see how they are affecting their family and friends. It can also make it easier to speak to the addicted person with the support of other loved ones.
People high on Valium may be incoherent or confused, so it’s best to stage the intervention at a time when it is less likely for your loved one to be intoxicated. Make sure to rehearse what you’re going to say before the intervention. If you aren’t sure what to say or you think your loved one may become aggressive, consider hiring a professional interventionist.
Withdrawal And Treatment for Diazepam (Valium) Addiction
People addicted to Valium should never quit “cold turkey.” Withdrawal from Valium can lead to seizures and coma, which can be fatal. Treatment for a Valium addiction helps users step down their doses over the course of several weeks to minimize uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. Some common symptoms of withdrawal from Valium include anxiety, insomnia, and shakiness.
The duration of withdrawal is different for everyone. Those who took larger doses of Valium over an extended period of time take the longest to reach a sense of “normal” without the drug. Therapy and support groups are also invaluable cornerstones of Diazepam (Valium) addiction treatment. Treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Diazepam (Valium) addiction help users understand the underlying reasons for their Valium addiction. Support groups and 12-step meetings can provide a constructive environment for people with the same goal.
Reclaim Your Life From Diazepam (Valium) Addiction
People suffering from Diazepam (Valium) addiction often put their addiction ahead of professional and personal obligations. They are also likely to become unmotivated and lose interest in hobbies they once found pleasurable. We Level Up California can provide to you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from this condition with a professional and safe detox process. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
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 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2008). Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions for Abuse of Benzodiazepines.
 U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2010). Diazepam.
 The Drug Abuse Warning Network. (2014). Benzodiazepines in Combination with Opioid Pain Relievers or Alcohol: Greater Risk of More Serious ED Visit Outcomes.