Valium Side Effects

Valium Side Effects: Long-Term and Short-Term

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Addiction to Valium (and other benzodiazepine-based substances) can be devastating, with several short and long-term consequences that accompany prolonged periods of usage or misuse. Thankfully, treatment options are available to help you or your loved one to start on the path to recovery from the challenges presented by chronic Valium usage.

Valium Side Effects: Short-Term

Also known as diazepam, Valium—and many other benzodiazepines—work by facilitating the activity of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a brain neurotransmitter, to induce a sensation of relaxation. Prescribed for treating anxiety, seizures, and muscle spasms, it can also bring about several consequences of use, particularly if misused or otherwise ingested without medical supervision.

In the short term, Valium usage can result in:

  • Feelings of euphoria and relaxation
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Impaired motor skills and coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Muscle weakness
  • Memory impairment
  • Changes in appetite

What Does Valium Do To The Brain?

Valium enhances GABA activity in the brain, reducing certain central nervous system (CNS) activities. Acting as a natural calming agent, this benzodiazepine reduces neuronal excitability within the brain and dampens its overall activity level, leading to the short-term effects described above.[1]

Severe Side Effects

While most people tolerate Valium well when taken as prescribed, several potentially severe side effects may occur—a risk that increases significantly when misused. These severe side effects can include:[2]

  • Respiratory depression: Valium is a CNS depressant, and as such, it can cause breathing difficulties or even respiratory failure at high doses.
  • Severe sedation: Valium’s GABA-inducing properties make it possible to cause excessive drowsiness or sedation, impairing your ability to perform tasks and leading to potential injury as a result.
  • Memory impairment: High doses of benzodiazepines, including Valium, can lead to significant memory issues.
  • Low blood pressure: Some individuals experience hypotension as a result of Valium usage, which can create further dizziness and the potential for fainting.
  • Severe muscle weakness: In some cases, Valium can cause severe allergic reactions or temporary muscle paralysis.

Valium Side Effects: Long-Term

Long-term use of Valium and other benzodiazepines carries the risk of several potential long-term side effects. As a benzodiazepine, Valium is considered to be a Schedule IV controlled substance by the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has both legitimate medical purposes but also carries with it the potential for abuse and addiction.[3]

With prolonged use, the body may develop a tolerance, necessitating higher and higher doses to achieve the same effects. Such tolerance can lead to physical dependence, where the body requires the substance to function normally. The withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines can be fatal and should always be monitored by a medical professional.

Additional long-term side effects to potential addiction and overdose issues include:

  • Increased risk of injury from loss of coordination
  • Drug-drug interactions that can lead to adverse effects
  • Cognitive decline
  • An increase in anxiety if and when usage is tapered off
  • Damage to relationships
  • Trouble with employment or with the law (due to illicitly obtaining Valium)

Health Risks of Long-Term Valium Use

When taking Valium for an extended period, you could be at increased risk of several potential health concerns, including: 

  • Interference with normal functions of the CNS
    • Breathing issues
    • Cognitive and executive functioning
  • Confusion
  • Stomach problems
  • Co-occurring conditions (such as depression)
  • Sleeping issues
  • Increased risk for seizures

Medical Conditions That Affect Valium

Always check with your primary care provider before taking Valium. In most cases, you should not use Valium under these conditions:[4]

  • You are allergic to it
  • You have a breathing problem
  • You have a muscle weakness disorder
  • You suffer from sleep apnea
  • If you have glaucoma
  • If you have severe liver disease

Proper Use

When properly prescribed, Valium can be an effective treatment for several conditions, including anxiety disorders, seizures, and muscle spasms. A prescriber will be able to work with you to determine the correct dosage and time frame for effective and appropriate use.

Dosage

The appropriate dosage for Valium will vary, depending on the person and the condition being treated. Most adults will be prescribed 2 to 10 milligrams for anxiety, seizures, or muscle spasms.[5]

Valium Abuse Side Effects

Valium abuse is dangerous and can lead to severe physical and mental health consequences, intensifying possible side effects, especially when not taken as prescribed. These include:

  • Increased sedation
  • Impaired motor coordination
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Respiratory depression
  • Paradoxical reactions: In some cases, Valium abuse can cause paradoxical reactions, leading to increased anxiety, agitation, or hostility.
  • Increased physical and psychological dependence
  • Addiction and increased physical and psychological dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Overdose

Drug Interactions

Combining Valium with other substances is very risky. Mixing Valium with alcohol and other depressants, such as opioids, amplifies their overall effects and toxicity.[6] Furthermore, combining benzodiazepines with alcohol or opioids increases the risk of both overdose and potential death, with 91.4% of all benzodiazepine-involved overdose deaths involving opioids​. [7]

Symptoms Of 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

If you suspect someone to be overdosing on Valium, call 911 immediately. Prompt medical attention can help prevent any life-threatening complications.

Treatment For Valium Dependence

According to data released by SAMHSA in the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 4.8 million people aged 12 or older reported misusing prescription benzodiazepines in the past year.[8] A 2015 NSDUH analysis found that benzodiazepine misuse was most common among 18-25-year-olds and often linked to prescription stimulant or opioid misuse. Most misuse involved using benzodiazepines without a prescription, typically obtained from friends or relatives. [9]

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 move on to 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.

Levels of Care for Valium Addiction Treatment

  • Detoxification: A controlled 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.
  • 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 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: Group therapy allows individuals to process their experiences and gain new insights in the supportive environment of their peers, facilitated by a licensed professional.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Valium is commonly prescribed for anxiety and panic 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 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)

Frequently Asked Questions About Valium

01

Is Valium addictive?

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Yes, Valium carries a potential for addiction and is classified as a Schedule IV substance.

02

Are there withdrawal symptoms associated with Valium?

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There are several withdrawal symptoms associated with Valium, including restlessness, muscle cramps, nausea, increased anxiety, and confusion. Severe withdrawal can result in seizures and even death.

03

Does valium cause memory loss?

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Yes, in some cases, Valium can cause memory loss, particularly when misused or abused.[11]

Sources
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[01]

Diazepam (Valium): Uses & Side Effects. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/20942-diazepam-tablets on July 26th, 2023

[02]

Diazepam (Valium) – Side Effects, Dosage, Interactions – Drugs. (n.d.). EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/diazepam on July 26th, 2023

[03]

The Controlled Substances Act. (n.d.). DEA. Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/csa on 2024, June 8.

[04]

Diazepam (Valium) – Side Effects, Dosage, Interactions – Drugs. (n.d.). EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/diazepam on July 26th, 2023

[05]

Benzodiazepines and opioids | National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2024, May 17). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids on 2024, June 9.

[06]

Linnoila, M. I. (1990). Benzodiazepines and alcohol. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 24 Suppl 2, 121–127. https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-3956(90)90043-p on July 26th, 2023

[07]

Liu, S., O’Donnell, J., Gladden, R. M., McGlone, L., & Chowdhury, F. (2021). Trends in nonfatal and fatal overdoses involving benzodiazepines — 38 states and the District of Columbia, 2019–2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 70(34), 1136–1141. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7034a2 on 2024, June 8.

[08]

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 26th, 2023

[09]

Maust, D. T., Lin, L. A., & Blow, F. C. (2019). Benzodiazepine use and misuse among adults in the United States. Psychiatric Services, 70(2), 97–106. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.201800321 on 2024, June 9.

[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 26th, 2023

[11]

DM;, A. W. (n.d.). The effect of diazepam on patients’ memory. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6470192/ on July 26th, 2023

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