Understanding Valium Addiction
By The Recovery Village Ridgefield
Editor Rob Alston | Medically Reviewed By Kathleen Oroho Linskey, PharmD
Last Updated: May 30, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Valium is the brand name for diazepam. It is a benzodiazepine medication that is available by prescription. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that are classified as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. This is because they cause slowing of certain brain functions and processes. As a CNS depressant, Valium acts a sedative, muscle-relaxer, and anticonvulsant.
Valium abuse has increasingly become a concern. Benzodiazepines are commonly abused because they produce a euphoric effect. Misuse of Valium and other benzodiazepines is associated with many serious adverse health effects. When combined with other CNS depressants, they can cause fatal overdoses.
Understanding the addictive nature of Valium is crucial to recognizing and providing appropriate intervention and help for a loved one struggling with Valium addiction.
What Is Valium?
Valium is commonly referred to as a tranquilizer medication. After it was first introduced to the market in 1963, Valium quickly became accepted as the gold standard of treatment for anxiety. It still ranks as one of the most commonly prescribed drugs of all time, even being nicknamed as “Mother’s Little Helper” in a popular 1966 song by the Rolling Stones. Valium is currently used in the management of:
- Anxiety disorders
- Acute alcohol withdrawal
- Muscle spasm pain
- Spasticity disorders
- Seizure disorders
Valium is thought to increase the action of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a chemical, also known as a neurotransmitter, which causes a slowing of certain brain processes and functions. When taken by mouth, Valium starts to work within 15 minutes with max effects occurring after one to one and a half hours after administration. Valium stays in your system for a long time with concentrations being detectable at least 20 days after last use. A person’s breakdown of Valium may be prolonged with multiple doses of Valium because Valium tends to accumulate in the body.
If you are prescribed Valium, it is very important to follow the directions on your prescription label carefully because Valium is addictive. Do not take larger doses or more frequent doses than your doctor has ordered. This medication should not be stopped suddenly due to possible withdrawal reactions that could cause serious injury.
Side Effects of Valium Use
The use of Valium is associated with possible side effects and adverse reactions. The most common Valium side effects seen in clinical trials were drowsiness, fatigue, and muscle weakness. Other Valium side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty urinating
- Frequent urination
- Change in sex drive or
Severe Valium side effects that would require immediate medical attention include:
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Slurred speech
- Slowed breathing and heartbeat
Long term effects of Valium include the possibility for dependence, and tolerance.which can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Abdominal cramps
- Extreme anxiety and irritability
Is Valium Addictive?
CNS depressants, including benzodiazepines and Valium, have been consistently identified by the National Institute of Health as commonly abused drugs that can cause addiction.
A recent study that analyzed the abuse potential of different benzodiazepines found that Valium was rated as one of the most effective benzodiazepines for causing a euphoric high. For this reason, Valium was perceived to be more valuable than other commonly abused benzodiazepines by recreational drug users.
Further, tolerance to Valium can develop after long term use which then requires the user to take larger and larger doses in order to achieve the desired effects.
Risks of Valium Abuse
While there are many possible side effects of using Valium, the most significant risks are seen when it is taken with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids. The National Institute of Health has reported that more than 30% of opioid overdoses also involve benzodiazepines.
The signs of a Valium overdose include:
- Severe fatigue
- Severe drop in blood pressure and heart rate
- Decreased breathing
- Inability to move muscles and limbs
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of an overdose can be life-saving. If you think you have overdosed on Valium or if you notice that someone is having symptoms of overdosing on Valium, you should:
- Call 9-1-1 immediately
- Try to keep the individual awake and breathing
- Lay the person on their side to prevent choking
- Stay with the individual until emergency workers arrive
- Identify for emergency workers any other substances that may have been taken in combination with Valium
Statistics on Valium Abuse
In order to understand the prevalence of Valium abuse, it can be helpful to take a look at the following Valium use statistics:
- Valium has been recognized by the DEA as one of the five most-prescribed and frequently abused benzodiazepines.
- In 2017, there were approximately 12.6 million prescriptions of Valium (diazepam) dispensed in the United States.
- Valium and other benzodiazepines are typically secondary drugs of abuse, with the most frequent primary drugs of abuse being opioids and alcohol.
- Benzodiazepines are often abused with other substances in order to enhance the euphoric effects of other substances, reduce unwanted side effects, or alleviate withdrawal symptoms of other substances.
- It is estimated that approximately 2.3% to 18% of Americans have misused tranquilizers or sedatives for nonmedical use at some point in their life.
- Benzodiazepine abuse is most common among non-Hispanic white young adults aged 18 to 35 years old.
- Benzodiazepine abuse is strongly associated with co-occurring psychiatric disorders and personal or family history of substance use disorders.
- Benzodiazepine involvement in opioid-related overdose deaths nearly doubled between 2004 to 2011, from 18% to 31%.
Treatment for Valium Addiction
Valium addiction can be overwhelming. However, treatment is available, and recovery is possible. Because the Valium withdrawal process can often involve serious symptoms, a coordinated treatment program facilitated by trained healthcare professionals ensures the best and safest route towards recovery.
A Valium rehab treatment plan that is individualized to a person’s unique circumstances may include inpatient or outpatient rehab. Successful Valium addiction treatment programs involve multiple components which are managed by trained professionals.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Valium addiction, The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. You will receive compassionate and comprehensive treatment to help you find lasting recovery. To learn more about treatment that could help you, contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield today to speak with a representative.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Valium.” Accessed September 8, 2019.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Benzodiazepines.” July 2019. Accessed September 8, 2019.
Food and Drug Administration. “Valium.” Genentech, 2016. Accessed September 8, 2019.
MedlinePlus. “Diazepam.” Revised July 15, 2019. Accessed September 8, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.” Revised March 2018. Accessed September 8, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Commonly Abused Drug Charts: Central Nervous System Depressants.” Revised July 2019. Accessed September 8, 2019.
Schmitz, Allison. “Benzodiazepine use, misuse, and abuse: a review.” The Mental Health Clinician, June 2016. Accessed September 8, 2019.