Valium is the brand name for the medication diazepam, which is prescribed to treat anxiety, seizures, and muscle spasms. It can also be prescribed to manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Valium is part of a larger class of tranquilizer medications called benzodiazepines. These drugs help slow down brain activity, helping people to relax. Other drugs in this category include brand names like Xanax, Klonopin, Halcion, and Ativan.
Valium works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which helps to calm the brain and nerves. It is available in tablet form and is typically taken 1-4 times a day with or without food.
Prolonged use of Valium can lead to physical and psychological dependence, making it addictive. It’s for that reason Valium is classified as a Schedule IV Controlled Substance.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Valium Abuse?
Physical and behavioral signs of Valium addiction include:
- Slurred speech
- Dilated pupils
- Impaired coordination
- Changes in appetite
- Sadness, anxiety, or irritability
- Shaking (due to withdrawal)
If you believe you or a loved one may be addicted to Valium, seek professional help immediately.
Is Valium Addictive?
Valium is addictive even if taken as prescribed. It builds dependence, making it harder for the brain to function properly without it. This dependence builds the longer Valium is used, leading to withdrawal symptoms when a person stops taking it suddenly.
Valium can also be psychologically addictive. This can lead to a person seeking out the drug compulsively, even when it’s not medically necessary.
Because of these risks, benzodiazepines like Valium are typically only prescribed for short-term use, and under the close supervision of a healthcare provider. Taking Valium beyond the four weeks typically recommended by doctors dramatically raises your chance of addiction.
If a person develops an addiction to Valium, it’s important that they don’t try to stop taking it abruptly, but instead seek professional help to taper off the medication under medical supervision. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be severe, and in some cases, life-threatening.
Valium usually takes 15 minutes to an hour to take effect, with peak effects usually occurring within one to two hours. The therapeutic effects of Valium typically last around 4-6 hours in most individuals.
However, it’s important to note that diazepam has a relatively long half-life compared to other benzodiazepines. The half-life of diazepam can range from 20-100 hours, with an average of around 40-50 hours. This means that it can take several days (typically 2-7 days) for the drug to be completely eliminated from your system.
Moreover, Valium elimination half-life increases with age. One study found that Valium elimination half-life increases by one hour for every year of age over 40. Middle-aged and elderly people who take Valium should be aware of this to avoid overdose.
Aside from age, other individual factors like metabolism, organ function, and other personal health factors can influence the rate at which Valium is metabolized and eliminated from the body.
Valium and Xanax are both Schedule IV drugs, meaning they both carry the potential for abuse and addiction.
But there are differences.
For one, Xanax withdrawal symptoms are more severe, with psychosis and delirium being two symptoms unique to Xanax. Other symptoms, like rebound anxiety, are common to both Valium and Xanax but are particularly strong with Xanax.
There are other differences as well including:
- Duration of Action — Valium has a longer duration of action compared to Xanax. Valium’s effects can last up to 48 hours, while Xanax’s effects are usually felt for about 5 hours.
- Onset of Action — Xanax typically has a quicker onset of action, meaning it works more quickly after ingestion. It usually takes about 1-2 hours to feel the effects, compared to Valium which can take 2-4 hours.
- Uses — Both drugs are used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, but Valium is also commonly used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, muscle spasms, and seizures. Some people also take Valium for sleep issues.
- Addiction and Dependence — Both drugs have a high risk of physical dependence and addiction, especially when used for longer periods of time. However, due to its potency and short half-life, Xanax might be associated with a higher risk of addiction and withdrawal symptoms compared to Valium.
- Side Effects — Both medications have similar side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, and memory problems. However, some people may experience these effects differently.
- Potency — Xanax is more potent than Valium, meaning you can take smaller doses to get the same effect. Because of this, 1 mg of Xanax is equal to a 20 mg Valium dosage.
- Household dysfunction
Both Xanax and Valium should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare provider due to their potential for addiction and withdrawal.
Valium Addiction Treatment Options
If you or a loved one are looking for help treating a Valium addiction, South Coast Behavioral Health can help.
The first step is treating Valium withdrawal symptoms so you can detox safely. South Coast offers a full medical detox program staffed by caring and compassionate professionals. These professionals can provide you with medications to help you manage your withdrawal symptoms.
Therapy should be used to treat addiction at its source. This often means addressing mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective for addressing these and for helping people learn coping strategies to deal with them.
We also offer a variety of treatment options based on the client’s needs including:
- Residential treatment in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Huntington Beach
- Partial hospitalization in Newport Beach
- Intensive outpatient treatment in Newport Beach
Recovery is a long road but it begins with accepting treatment. If you have any questions, please call us at 866-881-1184. Our addiction specialists are available 24/7 to take your call.