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  • Is Valium Addictive? Effects, Warnings, and Health Risks

Is Valium Addictive? Effects, Warnings, and Health Risks

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Last Medical Reviewer On: July 10, 2023
Updated On: Jul 10, 2023
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Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po Chang Hsu MD, MS

Is Valium Addictive
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    What you will learn
    • Valium is the brand name for the prescription drug, diazepam.
    • Valium was once the most prescribed drug in the US.
    • The effects of Valium slow the central nervous system processes and generate a sense of calm.
    • The effects of diazepam/Valium can lead to misuse
    • The effects of diazepam can quickly tolerate, leading to needing increased dosages for the same effect
    • Abrupt withdrawal from Valium can lead to seizures and be life-threatening
    • Treatment may help you overcome Valium dependency.

    Is Valium Addictive?

    Valium belongs to a class of prescription-based central nervous system (CNS) depressants known as benzodiazepines (BZDs). BZDs were marketed in the 1960s as an effective treatment for anxiety. Despite the medical advancements realized by their adoption, BZDs (Valium included) are known to be habit-forming.

    What Is Valium?

    Valium is the brand name for a prescription drug generically known as diazepam. Diazepam is an FDA-approved prescription medication commonly used to manage anxiety disorders. It may also help with muscle spasms and can even be used to manage seizures and other symptoms of epilepsy.

    You may be surprised to know that Valium is among the most prescribed drugs in the US.[1] Unfortunately, its rapid and growing use came at a cost, as the effects of the drug can lead to misuse and dependence, causing millions to struggle with Valium addiction.

    As a schedule IV controlled substance, Valium can only be legally obtained via prescription.[2] This means that many people suffering from Valium dependency were first introduced to the drug by their doctors.

    How Does Valium Affect The Brain?

    Valium physically attaches itself to GABA receptors found in your brain by a process known as allosteric binding.[3] This process increases chloride in the brain, reducing excitability (anxiety, tension, etc.). This exchange also alleviates seizures in epilepsy patients.

    How Does Valium Affect The Body?

    Valium affects the body quickly after absorption. The rapid onset, alongside its potency, has contributed to its wide use in the industry.[4] Valium works to calm excited neurons, creating a relaxing effect to manage some of the more debilitating symptoms associated with anxiety.

    Anxiety is an extremely common psychological problem. In fact, more than 40 million people living in the US struggle with it daily. The use of benzodiazepines, like Valium, has helped millions of people manage their symptoms.

    Still, Valium’s use must be monitored carefully to ensure successful outcomes. Abuse of Valium can lead to severe dependency problems.

    Valium can remain in the body and hair follicles for several days, making it easily detectable. Valium can cross placental barriers and may impact the development of a fetus if taken during pregnancy. It has even been found in breast milk, so breastfeeding while using Valium could potentially affect the growth and well-being of your nursing infant.

    Why Is Valium Addictive?

    Like all addictive substances, Valium’s habit-forming characteristics may be attributed to the increased levels of dopamine triggered by the use of the drug. Adapting synapses within the brain’s reward system may also be responsible for inducing an addictive response in vulnerable users.[5]

    The regulation of dopamine neurons may also affect Valium dependency. While important, focusing on the chemical and psychological pathways to addiction may overshadow other reasons for skyrocketing addiction rates. The increased prescribing of Valium by medical professionals, for example, has likely contributed to dependency.

    Overprescribing medications, like Valium, may have been influenced by more than patient health. Sometimes, the decision to prescribe medications may be motivated by unrealistic claims made by drug companies operating with a profit motive.

    With Valium, industry-sponsored references, such as The Physicians’ Desk Reference, may have overstated the benefits in an effort to increase sales.[6]

    While Valium is generally taken orally in pill form. Those who misuse it crush it into a powder and snort it as a way of getting high. It is particularly prevalent among those who also use cocaine and heroin. Co-abuse of Valium and opioids is often attempted to induce an increased sense of euphoria.

    Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

    The sudden disuse of Valium can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. To prevent this, doctors may gradually lower their patient’s prescriptions until treatment is concluded.

    Withdrawal symptoms commonly manifest in the following ways:[7]

    • Physical symptoms: Insomnia, chest pain, and blurred vision are all examples of physical withdrawal from Valium. Hot and cold spells may also occur.
    • Mental symptoms: Withdrawal may lead to mental anguish. You may notice increased stress levels, irritability, or an inability to concentrate for long periods.
    • Emotional symptoms: Valium withdrawal may cause feelings of emotional distress, including depression.
    • Psychological symptoms: Anxiety is a psychological symptom that may occur after Valium dose reduction. You may also experience panic attacks when reducing your Valium dosage.

    Signs of Valium Addiction

    The signs of valium addiction are not always immediately apparent. Still, it’s important to learn how to recognize them in case you or a loved one needs additional support.

    If you use Valium daily, your chances of becoming chemically dependent increase significantly. Feeling increased anxiety when your current prescription runs low indicates that you may have formed a Valium dependence.

    Taking Valium without a prescription or as a way of getting high may also lead to addiction. If you or a loved one have experienced these signs, it may be time for professional intervention.

    Statistics About Valium Use

    Is Valium Addictive?

    The following statistics related to the combination of opioid and Valium use underscore a significant risk associated with mixing and misuse:[8]

    • 220 Americans die every day from opioid overdose.
    • Overdose deaths increase tenfold among users who mix benzodiazepines with opioids.
    • In 2021, 14% of opioid overdoses that resulted in death also involved benzodiazepines, like Valium.

    Valium Addiction Treatment

    Seeking treatment for your Valium addiction is a great way to help break the cycle of dependency.

    Rehabilitation centers, like Epiphany Wellness, offer outpatient services specifically designed to promote your recovery. These personalized programs offer evidence-based treatment for substance abuse disorders. Best of all, treatment plans can be tailored to your specific needs.

    In some cases, medication-assisted treatment may be necessary to relieve cravings and withdrawal discomfort.[9] Talk to your doctor about available options.

    You Can Recover From Valium Addiction.

    Valium addiction has become more common in the decades since its introduction. You’re not alone. If you’ve developed a Valium addiction or are worried you might, you must let somebody know how you’re feeling.

    Resources are available to help you manage withdrawal, deal with stressors, and finally become free from addiction. Remember, seeking help is the first step to breaking the cycle of dependency, and recovery is absolutely achievable.


    Frequently Asked Questions About Valium

    How long does it take for Valium to take effect?
    What are the names of some other common benzodiazepines?
    Are there any side effects associated with Valium use?
    What are the long-term health risks of Valium?
    Can you mix Valium with alcohol?
    Can you overdose on Valium?

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