Both Valium and alcohol have similar effects on brain chemistry and the body. For instance, both increase levels of some of the brain’s chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, specifically dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Taking both of these substances together can exacerbate all of the potential side effects of each drug and cause someone to become drunk or intoxicated much faster, and from lower doses, than when only one substance is taken.
What Is 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.
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 Alcohol?
Alcohol is also a central nervous system depressant and the most used addictive substance in America, as published by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism(NIAAA) reports that close to 90 percent of all adults in the United States admitted to drinking alcohol at least once in their lifetime as of 2014.
Most of the time, alcohol use is not a cause for concern, and its consumption is not considered to be high risk. Similarly, Valium, when used as directed and under the watchful eye of a trained medical provider, can be beneficial. These two substances should not be combined, however. The US Food and Drug Administration places warnings in the labeling information for Valium, stating that mixing it with other central nervous system depressants, like alcohol, can have unintended and negative consequences.
Valium and Alcohol Side Effects
Side effects of both Valium and alcohol intoxication can include:
- Slurred speech
- Increased sociability
- Delayed reaction times
- Decreased motor control and coordination
- Blurred vision
- Impaired decision-making skills
- Decreased ability to think clearly
- Mental confusion
- Decreased inhibitions
- Short-term memory loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Aggression and hostility
Both Valium and alcohol have similar effects on brain chemistry and the body. For instance, both increase levels of some of the brain’s chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, specifically dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that helps with mood regulation, impulse control, and some memory functions.
A spike in dopamine amplifies feelings of pleasure and happiness. GABA, on the other hand, is a kind of natural tranquilizer, dampening the “fight-or-flight” reaction and promoting relaxation and sedation. When two substances like Valium and alcohol are taken at the same time, levels of dopamine and GABA are increased even more than they would be if only one of these substances was taken. This can cause a person to become intoxicated much faster.
Taking Valium and alcohol together can exacerbate all of the potential side effects of each drug and cause someone to become drunk or intoxicated much faster, and from lower doses, than when only one substance is taken. The lowered inhibitions and increased sociability can lead to increased risk-taking behaviors with possible long-term side effects. Individuals may engage in potentially harmful sexual encounters, leading to unwanted pregnancy or the contraction of an infectious or sexually transmitted disease. Memory functions are also impaired by both of these substances, and people may have no recollection of entire periods of time while under the influence.
Individuals have an increased risk of being injured or in an accident when taking both of these substances together. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), drinking alcohol in conjunction with taking diazepam (Valium) greatly increases sedation, drowsiness, and impaired memory functions and motor skills.
Doing so also decreases reaction time, mental alertness, and the ability to divide attention. This makes driving while taking Valium and alcohol even more hazardous than it is when just consuming one of these substances. NHTSA reports that a crash is more than twice as likely if a driver is under the influence of Valium and alcohol.
Can You Overdose on Valium and Alcohol?
Drug overdose rates are at an all-time high, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes that close to 50,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2014 in the United States. Mixing two like substances (e.g., two central nervous system depressants like Valium and alcohol) can increase the risk for a potentially life-threatening overdose.
In 2010, alcohol was involved in nearly a quarter of all benzodiazepine overdose fatalities, The CDC publishes. The Drug Abuse Warning Network(DAWN) further reports that alcohol was a factor in over 20 percent of all emergency department (ED) visits involving the abuse of a benzodiazepine drug in 2010. When taken together, alcohol and Valium can slow breathing rates, and lower blood pressure and heart rate to dangerous levels.
Confusion, blurred vision, extreme drowsiness, muscle weakness, decreased coordination, agitation, blurred vision, cold and clammy skin, hallucinations, and a potential loss of consciousness are all possible signs of an overdose, which can result in coma or even death without swift medical attention.
Addiction Risk of Mixing Alcohol and Valium
Taking Valium outside of the bounds of a legitimate and necessary prescription is considered drug abuse. In 2014, an estimated 330,000 people were currently abusing a prescription sedative drug at the time of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). In addition, just over 16 million American adults battled an addiction to alcohol in 2014, NIAAA reports.
Valium and alcohol may be intentionally combined to amplify the mellowing effects, or the “high,” produced by one or the other. Since these substances similarly interact in the brain, abusing them simultaneously can increase the level of dependence more rapidly than taking only one at a time. When the brain becomes dependent on Valium and alcohol, difficult withdrawal symptoms can occur when one or both of these substances is processed out of the body.
Valium and Alcohol Withdrawal
These withdrawal side effects from both alcohol and benzodiazepines can even be potentially life-threatening and may include:
- Irregular heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hypersensitivity to sound and light
- Mental confusion
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Trouble feeling pleasure
- Drug cravings
- Abdominal cramps
Withdrawal symptoms are the result of the brain attempting to restore balance to its chemical makeup. Since functions of the central nervous system have been depressed and levels of GABA and dopamine were artificially increased, when Valium and alcohol then leave the body, the brain takes time to get back to producing and transmitting these neurotransmitters in its normal fashion. When levels of dopamine and GABA are low, a person feels depressed, stressed, fearful, and anxious, and often has trouble sleeping. The body experiences a kind of rebound, and side effects can be significant.
Withdrawal symptoms and cravings can be intense enough to encourage a person to keep taking Valium and alcohol to keep them at bay. A person may then lose control over their ability to regulate their drinking or drug-taking, and addiction may be the result.
When someone abuses multiple substances at a time, such as both Valium and alcohol, complications can arise during detox and treatment for addiction. Medical detox can help a person to withdraw safely from both substances. It should be followed by a specialized addiction treatment program that focuses on polysubstance abuse.
Reclaim Your Life From Valium and Alcohol Addiction
Valium and alcohol may be intentionally combined to amplify the mellowing effects, or the “high,” produced by one or the other. Since these substances similarly interact in the brain, abusing them simultaneously can increase the level of dependence more rapidly than taking only one at a time. 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.