Valium (Diazepam) Misuse and Addiction

Benzodiazepines such as Valium (and its generic counterpart, diazepam) are widely prescribed in the US. In 2017 alone, more than 12 million diazepam prescriptions were dispensed throughout the country.1

This article will discuss how Valium works and why it’s prescribed, the adverse short-term and long-term effects of its use, and treatment for Valium addiction.

What Is Valium?

Valium is part of the class of drugs called benzodiazepines.1 Benzodiazepines like Valium are central nervous system (CNS) depressants.1 When taken as prescribed and for the conditions it is approved to treat, Valium can be beneficial, as its effects may help to calm abnormally elevated nervous system activity. However, Valium and other benzodiazepines are associated with potentially adverse side effects and have an inherent risk of misuse, often in combination with other substances like alcohol and opioids.1

Medical Uses for Valium

Valium is a benzodiazepine that is FDA-approved to treat anxiety disorders and to treat short-term symptoms of anxiety. It is also approved as an adjunctive therapy for certain types of muscle spasms, as well as to manage acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as agitation, tremor, or delirium tremens.2

Though it can be safe and effective as a treatment for several health issues, misuse of Valium increases the risk of significant tolerance, physical and psychological dependence, and addiction development.1 Significant dependence and associated withdrawal are possible even after only one month of daily use, which raises concerns about the safety of long-term use of benzodiazepines like Valium.3

Long and Short-Term Effects of Valium

People may misuse benzodiazepines like Valium by using it more frequently, ingesting higher doses than prescribed, using someone else’s prescription medication, or taking it simply to get high instead of for an actual health-related condition.4 Such misuse increases the risk of certain adverse effects or side effects of Valium. Furthermore, the severity of certain adverse side effects of valium may increase based on the dose and frequency of use.

Short-Term Effects of Valium

People taking benzos like Valium may experience drowsiness and feel somewhat uncoordinated for the first few days of use. Other side effects that may develop can include:4

  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Confusion.
  • Memory decline.
  • Movement problems.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Dizziness.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Slowed breathing.

Long-Term Valium Effects

Long-term use of Valium may be associated with certain risks and potentially harmful effects, including:3

  • Persistent declines in cognitive functioning.
  • Cumulative risks of injury from falls, motor vehicle accidents, etc.
  • Increased risk of addiction.

The risks of driving while taking benzodiazepines have been compared to the risks associated with driving while having a blood alcohol content approaching the legal limit in most states.3 Additionally, long-term benzodiazepine can increase the risk of hip fractures by as much as 50% in older individuals.3

How Addictive Is Valium?

Benzodiazepines are Schedule IV drugs, which are characterized as drugs with a low potential for misuse and low risk for dependence.5 However, the inherent risk is there—CNS depressants like Valium can lead to problematic use and, ultimately, the development of a substance use disorder.4

Whether or not someone develops a substance use disorder depends on a variety of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors.6 Genetic predisposition or mental health disorders can influence the risk of addiction for some people.6 Economic status, peer pressure, and/or abuse may also play a role in the potential for addiction.6 In addition, there is evidence that the earlier drug use begins, the more likely it is to progress to the point of addiction.6

What Are the Signs of Valium Addiction?

If you are concerned that you or someone you know might be struggling with Valium addiction, there may be several characteristic signs, symptoms, and behavioral changes that might indicate that a substance use disorder has developed. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lays out several criteria that a treatment professional or a doctor can and use to evaluate patients prior to making such a diagnosis. The individual must present with at least 2 of the 11 criteria within the prior 12 months to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder—in this case, one involving Valium is termed a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder.7

Some of these criteria include the following:7

  • Using more of the drug or using it more frequently than intended
  • Cravings or strong desire to use the substance
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home due to substance use
  • Recurrent substance use in situations where it is physically hazardous
  • Experiencing withdrawal when use of the substance slows or stops

Valium Detox and Withdrawal 

Once a person is physically dependent on Valium, withdrawal symptoms can appear as quickly as a few hours after the last dose was taken.4 Therefore, it is important not to suddenly discontinue use, as this can trigger symptoms of withdrawal that may be dangerous.4

Severe symptoms of withdrawal may include hallucinations, seizures, increased heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure.4 A medically supervised detoxification process can ensure that a person is kept safe and comfortable while healthcare professionals can manage the symptoms of acute withdrawal and address any withdrawal complications to arise.4

It is important to note that detox is merely the beginning stage of addiction treatment and on its own, does little to help treat addiction.8 However, when combined with continued therapeutic care, individuals grappling with substance use disorders can begin building a strong foundation in recovery.

Stop Using Valium with Addiction Treatment

Professional treatment for Valium addiction is essential. Some withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and potentially lead to death, and getting professional help can reduce the potential for complications from withdrawal or the risk of relapse. It can be extremely uncomfortable, and even dangerous, for people to try to stop on their own.

Seeking valium addiction treatment can feel like an overwhelming process, but it doesn’t have to be. Our inpatient rehab in Las Vegas, Nevada, has compassionate admissions navigators on staff 24/7 to help answer questions about the admissions process, payment options, insurance benefits, and more. Call us at for more information, including that regarding the levels of addiction treatment options we offer and how you or a loved one can get started on the road to rehabilitation.

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