Valium Addiction Treatment Resources

Valium Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment Resources

Valium, which is the brand name for diazepam, belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Commonly prescribed to treat conditions such as anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures, valium works to slow the activity of the central nervous system (CNS).

First synthesized in 1959 and introduced to the marketplace in 1963, Valium quickly became a top-selling pharmaceutical drug in the U.S.—but its sedative properties can also be heavily addictive and even deadly when misused.[1]

What Is Valium?

Clinically, Valium is used to treat a variety of medical conditions, including:

  • Anxiety disorders: Valium is prescribed to help relieve the symptoms of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder, helping to promote a sense of relaxation.
  • Muscle spasms: Valium is commonly used to treat muscle spasms caused by either injury or neurological disorders.
  • Seizures: As an anticonvulsant, Valium can be used to control certain kinds of seizures, such as epilepsy.
  • Alcohol withdrawal: Valium may also be prescribed to manage the anxiety, tremors, and agitation of alcohol withdrawal, helping to reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent further medical complications.
  • Insomnia: Valium’s sedative, relaxing properties can also help to promote sleep and restfulness for those who struggle to fall asleep (on a short-term basis).

Valium has also seen a sharp increase in illicit use since its introduction into the medical world, owing to its ability to produce a relaxed and euphoric high.

According to data released by SAMHSA in the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.5% of people aged 12 or older, equivalent to 40.3 million individuals, had a Substance Use Disorder in the past year. A 2014 survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 1.7 percent of 8th graders, 3.9 percent of 10th graders, and 4.7 percent of 12th graders reported past-year misuse or abuse of substances like Valium.[2,3]

Valium, as a benzodiazepine, is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has a lower potential for abuse and dependence compared to Schedule III substances but still carries the potential for abuse and addiction.[4]

Common nicknames for Valium include V, Vals, Vallies, Candy, and Blues.

Side Effects of Valium

Valium, as with all benzodiazepines, can cause various side effects, which may vary in scope and severity depending on the individual and the dose. These can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired motor functioning and cognition
  • Impaired memory
  • Changes in mood and appetite

How is Valium Taken?

Typically Valium is taken in either pill or liquid form when prescribed, though pills can also be crushed and snorted or injected in an attempt to increase the high when being misused.

Valium Quick Reference

Valium Quick Reference

Drug Category

Benzodiazepine (sedative, hypnotic, and anxiolytic)

Commercial & Street Names

Commercial: Valium (trade name), Diazepam (drug name)

Street: V, Vals, Vallies, Candy, Blues

DEA Schedule

Schedule IV

Administration

Oral, liquid, snorted, injected

Effects of Valium Abuse

Misusing Valium can result in many notable health effects, particularly because benzodiazepines often need to be taken in increasing quantities to obtain the desired effect. Users will experience a slowdown in cognition, executive, and motor functioning, along with potential respiratory depression due to its effects on the CNS. The risk of overdose on Valium is also a concern, which may result in a coma or even death.

Can You Overdose on Valium?

Yes, overdosing on Valium is possible and can result in severe consequences if medical attention is not obtained, especially when combined with opioids. If you suspect a Valium overdose, call 911.

Signs and Symptoms of Valium Overdose

Some of the signs and symptoms of a Valium overdose include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Slurred speech or inability to speak
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Low blood pressure

What to do if you suspect someone is overdosing on Valium

If you suspect a Valium overdose, call 911 immediately. Prompt medical attention can help to prevent any life-threatening complications.

Dangers of Long-Term Valium Use

Long-term abuse of Valium and other benzodiazepines can lead to the development of a substance use disorder, as prolonged usage (whether prescribed or illicit) carries a high potential for both tolerance and withdrawal. Other major risks include cognitive impairment, potential physical injury (due to slowed reflexes), and the ongoing risk of overdose.[6]

Mixing Valium with Other Drugs

Combining Valium with other substances is highly risky. Mixing it with alcohol and other depressants, such as opioids, can notably suppress respiratory activity in the brainstem.[7] Furthermore, combining benzodiazepines with alcohol or opioids significantly increases the risk of overdose and potential death. Alcohol plays a causal role in nearly 1 in 5 (18.5%) benzodiazepine overdose deaths each year.[8]

Statistics on Valium Use, Misuse, and Addiction

Benzodiazepine-related overdose deaths decreased overall from 2017–2019; however, since 2019, the illicit benzodiazepine supply has reportedly increased. From 2019 to 2020, benzodiazepine overdoses per 100,000 emergency department visits increased (23.7%), both with (34.4%) and without (21.0%) opioids. From January to June 2020, 92.7% of benzodiazepine-involved deaths also involved opioids, and 66.7% involved illicitly manufactured fentanyl.[5]

Valium Addiction and Abuse

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), addiction to benzodiazepines, such as Valium, falls under the category of sedative, hypnotic, and anxiolytic use disorder, a category of substance use disorders.[9]

An individual may be diagnosed with sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder if they meet at least 2 of the following criteria within 12 months:
Sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics are often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

  1. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use.
  2. A great deal of time is spent on activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics.
  3. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic.
  4. Recurrent sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use failing to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences from work or poor work performance related to sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use; sedative-, hypnotic-, or anxiolytic-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household).
  5. Continued sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics (e.g., arguments with a spouse about consequences of intoxication; physical fights).
  6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use.
  7. Recurrent sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use).
  8. Sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic.
  9. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following;
    • A need for markedly increased amounts of the sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
    • A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic.
  10. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
    • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the stimulant (refer to Criteria A and B of the criteria set for withdrawal).
    • The stimulant (or a closely related substance) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Is Valium Addictive?

Yes. Valium, as with all benzodiazepines, has a high potential for addiction and creating physical and psychological dependence.

How Addictive is Valium?

Valium works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which produces a calming effect on the central nervous system—and this also means the body quickly adapts to its presence in the system, thus creating the high potential for tolerance.

Abruptly stopping Valium after long-term use or misuse can result in withdrawal symptoms, which can last for many months, be extremely uncomfortable, and also be potentially fatal.

Signs of Addiction to Valium

Potential signs of addiction to Valium can include:

  • An increase in tolerance, requiring a higher and higher dose
  • Social withdrawal
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Attempting to obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Cravings
  • Signs of withdrawal (anxiousness, restlessness, irritability, tremors, possible seizures)

Valium Addiction and Mental Health

Frequent misuse of benzodiazepines can cause disruptions in overall mood and functioning, creating vulnerability for potential co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Individuals struggling with substance use disorders are also at risk for developing one or more concurrent mental health conditions or chronic diseases. According to SAMHSA’s 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 17.9 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring disorder, many of which involve both substances and other mental health disorders.[10]

Some of the more common co-occurring disorders seen in individuals with a diagnosed substance use disorder include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Cutting Agents Used for Valium

Illicit benzodiazepines that mimic Valium are frequently cut with opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl, significantly raising the risk profile due to the potential for overdose.

Valium Addiction Treatment

Treatment for Valium addiction will normally begin with a medically supervised detox program. Providers can monitor and treat any severe withdrawal symptoms in a safe environment, and patients will then engage in a structured inpatient treatment protocol to work on the underlying factors of addiction, along with providing treatment for any potential co-occurring disorders and additional medical needs.

Valium Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

  • Detoxification: An environment to safely manage withdrawal symptoms under medical supervision.
  • Therapy: One-on-one therapy sessions with a licensed mental health counselor can help explore the underlying issues contributing to Valium/benzodiazepine addiction and develop strategies for recovery, along with helping to address any potential co-occurring mental health issues that may be present.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy provides a safe environment where individuals can connect with their peers, share experiences, and gain insights from others facing similar challenges.
  • Support groups: Participating in support groups provides ongoing community and guidance for maintaining sobriety in the long term.
  • Aftercare programs: Aftercare programs offer ongoing support, relapse prevention strategies, long-term counseling, and other resources to sustain long-term recovery after the initial phase of treatment is complete.

Therapies Used in Valium Addiction Treatment

Several modalities may be utilized in the treatment of Valium addiction, which may include:

  • Motivational Interviewing, which invokes collaboration and curiosity to explore motivations for change, build rapport, and identify goals and motivations for ongoing sobriety.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people identify negative thought patterns to think more positively and constructively
  • Group therapy: This allows individuals to process their experiences and gain new insights in the supportive environment of their peers, facilitated by a licensed professional.

Frequently Asked Questions About Valium

01

Does Valium lower blood pressure?

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Yes, Valium can lower blood pressure when used.

02

Can Valium cause depression?

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While Valium is a CNS depressant, it’s also possible for it to lead to psychological depression in users due to its potential negative consequences and risk for tolerance and withdrawal.

03

Can Valium withdrawal be fatal?

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Yes. Valium withdrawal can entail experiencing tremors and seizures, and as such, should be supervised by a medical professional to avoid complications.

Sources
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[01]

Calcaterra, N. E., & Barrow, J. C. (2014). Classics in chemical neuroscience: Diazepam (Valium). ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 5(4), 253–260. https://doi.org/10.1021/cn5000056 on July 14th, 2023

[02]

Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) releases. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/2021-10/2020_NSDUH_Highlights.pdf on 2024, June 12.

[03]

Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Sarra L. Hedden, Joel Kennet, Rachel Lipari, Grace Medley, Peter Tice, RTI International, Elizabeth a. P. Copello, Larry a. Kroutil, Peter Tice, & David Hunter. (2015). Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results From the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf on 2024, June 12.

[04]

Ortiz, N. R., & Preuss, C. V. (2024, February 9). Controlled Substance Act. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK574544/ on 2024, June 13.

[05]

Liu, S. (2021). Trends in Nonfatal and Fatal Overdoses Involving Benzodiazepines — 38 States and the District of Columbia, 2019–2020. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 70. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7034a2 on July 15th, 2023

[06]

Johnson, B., & Streltzer, J. (2013). Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use. American Family Physician, 88(4), 224–225. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2013/0815/p224.html on July 15th, 2023

[07]

Alcohol-Medication Interactions: Potentially dangerous mixes | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). (2023, September 22). Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/health-professionals-communities/core-resource-on-alcohol/alcohol-medication-interactions-potentially-dangerous-mixes#pub-toc0 on 2024, June 13.

[08]

Alcohol-Medication Interactions: Potentially dangerous mixes | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). (2023, September 22). Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/health-professionals-communities/core-resource-on-alcohol/alcohol-medication-interactions-potentially-dangerous-mixes#pub-toc0 on 2024, June 13.

[09]

Hasin, D. S., O’Brien, C., Auriacombe, M., Borges, G., Bucholz, K. K., Budney, A. J., Compton, W. M., Crowley, T. J., Ling, W., Petry, N. M., Schuckit, M. A., & Grant, B. F. (2013). DSM-5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders: Recommendations and Rationale. American Journal of Psychiatry, 170(8), 834–851. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12060782 on July 15th, 2023

[10]

SAMHSA. (2021). 2021 national survey of drug use and health (NSDUH) releases. Www.samhsa.gov. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/release/2021-national-survey-drug-use-and-health-nsduh-releases on July 15th, 2023

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