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Yes, You Can Overdose on Valium: Signs & What to Do

It is possible to overdose on Valium.

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Severe overdoses can cause a person to fall into a coma and potentially depress heart and breathing rates to dangerous levels. Fatalities are rare but possible.[1] 

Understanding How a Valium Overdose Can Happen

Valium, a brand name for the drug diazepam, is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, meaning they slow down the speed at which signals travel in the body.[1] 

When taken as prescribed, there should not generally be a risk of overdose. However, this depression of the CNS can become dangerous if you take too much of a benzodiazepine, abuse benzodiazepines, or mix a benzodiazepine with other drugs that may have stacking effects.

Researchers say adults typically take up to 10 mg of Valium every six to 12 hours.[9] That means adults typically take 20 mg of Valium during a day. While no amount of Valium has been identified with causing an overdose in everyone, researchers do know that overdoses typically involve a massive amount of the drug, such as 500 mg to 2,000 mg at one time.[10]

Mixing Valium with other substances can dramatically change the math. Researchers say overdose risks rise when people combine their drugs with central nervous system depressants like opioids or alcohol.[6] It’s impossible to predict how much Valium you can take while drinking. No amount is truly safe.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Overdosing on Valium?

The most common side effects associated with overdosing on benzodiazepines like Valium include the following:[1-2]

  • Sedation
  • Double vision
  • Reduced coordination
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Intellectual impairment

These side effects can also occur with regular, prescribed Valium use, but they will generally be less intense and not last as long. 

Other symptoms associated with overdose include the following:

  • Blue-tinged lips and fingernails
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Excitability
  • Hiccups
  • Rapid side-to-side eye movement
  • Rash
  • Stomach upset
  • Tiredness
  • Tremor
  • Weakness

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact a doctor immediately, even if you have only taken the medication as intended.

Severe Overdose Symptoms

In more serious cases of Valium overdose, a person can experience severe CNS depression, which can cause them to fall into a coma.[1] This is a rare side effect. 

Fatalities from Valium alone are not common. Most severe issues resulting from Valium misuse (or the misuse of other benzodiazepines) are the result of mixing the drug with other CNS depressants, such as alcohol. 

The most serious risk of overdosing on Valium is life-threatening respiratory depression.[2] While not common when the drug is taken on its own, it is still possible if the drug is taken in high doses.

Overdose vs. Regular Use

Anyone can experience Valium side effects, including people who take the drug as directed by a doctor. These side effects can be different than those you might experience during an overdose. This table can help you understand the difference.[12]

Common Side EffectsOverdose Symptoms
Mild drowsinessDrowsiness
Muscle weaknessReduced reflexes
Lack of muscle controlRespiratory depression or coma

How to Treat a Valium Overdose

Taking too much Valium should be treated as a medical emergency, especially if the individual is having trouble remaining conscious or cannot be awakened when unconscious.[3] Call 911 or take them to the hospital immediately.

Valium overdoses typically only require clinical observation and supportive care, where medical professionals monitor a person’s status and make sure they are able to breathe. In especially severe cases, the drug flumazenil may be used, but this drug can cause its own serious side complications, including seizures. Because of this, its use is avoided when possible.[1,4]

Risk Factors for Valium Overdose

The biggest risk factor for a Valium overdose is taking more of the medication than prescribed, either intentionally or accidentally. While you should always follow your doctor’s specific instructions, typical dosing for diazepam (the generic form of Valium) is as follows:[3]

  • For muscle spasms: 2–15 mg a day
  • For sleep problems: 5–15 mg a day
  • For anxiety: 15–30 mg a day

Dosing is often kept lower for people over 65 years old, those with kidney problems or liver problems, and those with severe breathing problems.[3]

In 2022, researchers examined how many people died from overdoses to benzodiazepines like Valium. They found that more than 118,000 benzodiazepine-involved overdose deaths happened between 2000 and 2019. Of those deaths, only 9% did not involve another drug.[7]

Your risk of overdose increases if you take Valium with other drugs that can cause CNS depression, including alcohol and other benzodiazepines.[2] Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that more than 92% of benzodiazepine-involved deaths also involved opioids.[8]

As a general rule, you should not take any benzodiazepine with another drug that may cause CNS depression without first talking to your doctor.

What to Do if You or Someone You Know Overdoses on Valium

People who take too much Valium need your help. The steps you take when you notice a problem could help to save a life.

If you think someone has overdosed, take the following steps:[11]

  • Ask the person what they took. Did they combine the Valium with anything else?
  • Guide the person to a quiet, calm room away from bright lights and loud noises.
  • Ensure that they are breathing.
  • If the person has stopped breathing and used opioids with Valium, give naloxone (Narcan). This medication can’t reverse a Valium overdose, but it can reverse the signs of opioid overdose.
  • Place the person on their side, so they don’t vomit and choke.

With the immediate steps in place, ask for additional help. Call 911 and tell the operator your current location and the situation. Follow any instructions you’re given and stay with the person until help arrives.

Monitor the person’s breathing and heart rate. If their breathing or heart slow dangerously or stop, you may need to begin CPR. If you don’t know how to properly perform CPR, ask anyone nearby if they have the appropriate training and inform them about the situation.

An overdose is often a sign that Valium addiction treatment is needed. Without professional care to address Valium withdrawal and underlying issues that contribute to substance abuse, another overdose may occur with future abuse.

FAQs About Valium Overdose

The following are some frequently asked questions about Valium overdose:

Can you overdose on Valium?

Yes, you can overdose on Valium. While it’s rare to fatally overdose on Valium alone, it is possible.[5] The drug can also become much more dangerous if mixed with other drugs that depress the central nervous system (CNS), such as opioids or alcohol. 

How much Valium can cause an overdose?

The exact amount of Valium that is likely to cause an overdose in humans is not well-studied, and it can vary greatly according to personal factors. You should only take the drug exactly as prescribed. Doses above 30 mg a day are rare.

Can you die from an overdose of Valium?

It’s possible to die from a Valium overdose but uncommon.[6] In high doses, Valium can slow the heart and depress a person’s breathing. In extreme cases, this can lead to permanent brain damage or death. When Valium is combined with other substances, fatal overdose is more likely.

Updated April 3, 2024
  1. Diazepam INCHEM. Published April 1990. Accessed October 3, 2023.
  2. Benzodiazepine toxicity Kang M, Ghassemzadeh S., StatPearls. Updated June 26, 2023. Accessed October 3, 2023.
  3. How and when to take diazepam UK NHS. Published February 3, 2022. Accessed September 19, 2023
  4. Flumazenil in benzodiazepine overdose An H, Godwin J., Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2016;188(17-18):E537-E537.
  5. Retrospective review of morbidity and mortality associated with acute benzodiazepine withdrawal at a Midwestern academic medical center Thornton SL, Whitacre J, Pallo N, Roberts N, Oller L., Kansas Journal of Medicine. 2021;14:77-79
  6. Diazepam Dhaliwal JS, Saadabadi A., National Library of Medicine. Published 2019. Accessed October 3, 2023
  7. Benzodiazepine-involved overdose deaths in the USA: 2000 to 2019. Kleinman R, Weiss R. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2022;37(8):2103-2109.
  8. Trends in nonfatal and fatal overdoses involving benzodiazepines—38 states and the District of Columbia, 2019-2020. Liu S, O’Donnell J, Gladden R, et al. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021;70(34):1136-1141.
  9. Diazepam. Medscape. Accessed February 21, 2024.
  10. Rapid recovery from massive diazepam overdose. Greenblatt D, Woo E, Allen M. JAMA. 1978;240(17):1872-1874.
  11. What to Do in an Emergency. Frank.
  12. Valium. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published 2016. Accessed February 21, 2024.
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