Valium Addiction: Symptoms, Signs and Side Effects

Woman struggling with a valium addiction experiencing side effects while doing work

Valium is a prescription medication commonly used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, sleep disorders, panic attacks, seizures and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Valium, the brand name for diazepam, belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines work by reducing the activity of nerves in the brain and spinal cord, thus calming brain activity. Valium functions by increasing the brain activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Enhanced GABA function triggers the calming effects and sleepiness that are useful for treating sleep disorders and anxiety. However, recurring Valium use causes the body to adapt to the presence of the drug. Over time, the body only functions properly with the presence of Valium, and serious physical side effects occur when Valium use stops.

Although a useful treatment, Valium’s sedative effects contribute to its misuse, particularly in those with mental health conditions such as anxiety and panic disorders. Valium is misused in several ways. People prescribed Valium may take a higher dose, use the drug more often or use the drug for longer than prescribed. Valium is also used by those without a prescription and is sometimes crushed, snorted or smoked. Tolerance to Valium may develop over time and require a higher dose to achieve the desired effects. 

Signs and Symptoms of Valium Abuse

Due to how severe Valium side effects can be, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of Valium addiction. Recognizing the physical and behavioral signs of Valium abuse in a loved one can let you know when to seek help.

Common physical symptoms of Valium abuse include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Doubled or blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Tremors

Common behavioral signs of Valium abuse include:

  • Memory issues
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Poor impulse control
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nervousness

Valium Side Effects

While Valium is an effective treatment for anxiety and panic attacks, both short- and long-term side effects can occur. Understanding the side effects and consequences of Valium use can help individuals consider the risks that accompany misuse and addiction.

Short-Term Effects

The presence and severity of short-term Valium effects depend on the drug dose, administration route and length of use. Immediate and next-day Valium side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Faintness
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea or vomiting

Long-Term Effects

Adverse health effects can occur when Valium is used for an extended period, including drug tolerance, physical dependence and addiction. Long-term effects of Valium include:

  • Constipation
  • Mental fog
  • Problems urinating
  • Decreased sex drive or impotence
  • Uncontrollable tremors
  • Speech problems
  • Muscle control problems

Valium Drug Interactions

Dangerous drug interactions can occur if Valium is used alongside other substances. An individual misusing Valium may choose to also use alcohol or opioids such as heroin. However, using these drugs together can lead to dangerous side-effects. For example, Valium  and alcohol interactions include severe breathing problems, as both substances slow respiratory rates. Valium interactions also occur with prescription drugs such as blood thinners and amphetamines. 

The risk or severity of adverse effects is increased when Valium is taken with certain antipsychotics. Some people may use Valium and Xanax together. Although a doctor may prescribe both Valium and Xanax to treat different conditions, both belong to the benzodiazepine class and have similar biological side effects. Thus, taking Valium and Xanax together can lead to severe side effects such as breathing problems, severe sedation or coma. Therefore, it is crucial that Valium is used only as directed and not mixed with contraindicated substances.

Taking Valium While Pregnant

Women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant should discuss Valium use with their doctor. In general, taking Valium while pregnant is not recommended because it may harm the developing fetus. However, Valium use may be considered during pregnancy if the doctor determines that the medical use of the drug outweighs the risks. 

Currently, The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) classifies Valium as a Category D risk during pregnancy. This category indicates fetal health risks associated with using Valium during pregnancy. Risks include birth defects, breathing and feeding difficulties and hypothermia. Babies born to mothers who regularly used Valium may also experience severe withdrawal symptoms after birth, including seizures, fever and vomiting. Thus, it is critical to discuss Valium risks with a doctor when pregnant or considering pregnancy.

Signs of Valium Overdose

Valium overdose occurs when an individual takes an excessive quantity of the drug. The dose needed to overdose varies from person to person and depends on biological factors and Valium use history. Valium overdose, whether unintentional or deliberate, is life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention. If someone has collapsed, suffered a seizure, experiences breathing difficulties or loses consciousness, immediately call 911. Treatment for Valium overdose may include the administration of Flumazenil, a medication that can treat overdose symptoms. Valium overdose symptoms may be difficult to identify but will worsen rapidly without treatment.

Valium overdose symptoms include:

  • Blue lips and fingernails
  • Blurry vision
  • Breathing problems
  • Mental fog
  • Depression
  • Faintness
  • Sleepiness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Hiccups
  • Unusual eye movement
  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Muscle control problems

Key Points: Valium Addiction: Symptoms, Signs and Side Effects

Due to the risks of Valium addiction, it is critical to understand these key points about this commonly misused drug:

  • Valium misuse can lead to tolerance, dependence and addiction
  • Physical and behavioral symptoms can be used to recognize Valium abuse and Valium addiction in loved ones
  • While Valium is an effective treatment for anxiety and panic attacks, both short- and long-term side effects can occur
  • Dangerous drug interactions can occur when Valium is used alongside substances such as alcohol and Xanax
  • Valium may cause harm to a developing fetus, so Valium use during pregnancy can be dangerous and should be discussed with a doctor
  • Valium overdose, whether unintentional or deliberate, is life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention

If you or a loved one live with Valium addiction, The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. Contact us today to learn about our treatment options and begin the first steps toward addiction recovery.

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National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Prescription CNS Depressants.” March 2018. Accessed August 29, 2019.

Get Smart About Drugs. “Benzodiazepines.” February 10, 2019. Accessed August 29, 2019.

Drugbank.ca. “Diazepam.” Canadian Institutes of Health Research, August 28, 2019. Accessed August 29, 2019.

MedlinePlus. “Diazepam Overdose.” May 15, 2019. Accessed August 29, 2019.