Valium (generic name: diazepam) is a benzodiazepine medication used to treat short-term anxiety, insomnia, or another form of mental distress. It works by changing chemical levels within the brain, and some people develop an addiction after repeated use.
Researchers say about 1 percent of the population develops a benzodiazepine addiction at some point in life. While every person is different, people who abuse Valium tend to develop hallmark physical and mental health changes that point to an abuse syndrome.
How Can Valium Change a Person’s Mind & Body?
Valium is a powerful medication, capable of changing the way a person thinks and feels. Common changes are split into two groups.
Valium causes several physical side effects, including the following:
- Muscle weakness
These side effects can combine. People with dizziness and weak muscles tend to stagger and fall, and they may experience cuts, bruises, or broken bones.
Valium works directly on the brain’s chemical messenger system, causing depression and confusion. Someone who seems alert and responsive one moment and fuzzy the next could be abusing Valium.
Some people develop paradoxical symptoms at very high doses of Valium, including the following:
People like this can behave inappropriately while intoxicated and emerge with no memory of what happened. Retrograde amnesia is a known Valium side effect, and it’s incredibly dangerous. People may ruin their relationships and have no idea what happened.
What Does Valium Dependence Look Like?
With ongoing use, brain cells become accustomed to Valium and don’t function properly without it. These same cells also recalibrate, so small doses no longer work. In extreme cases, people feel sick between doses and continue to take Valium to feel healthy.
Valium dependence can keep people trapped in a cycle of abuse, taking more to feel normal, and growing more attached to the drug with each dose. Someone taking massive doses of Valium is likely struggling with abuse.
What Does Valium Withdrawal Look Like?
Anyone who has used the drug for long periods needs a treatment team to offer medications and therapies to stay safe as their bodies heal.
As Valium physical dependence deepens, people become sick when they try to quit abruptly or take smaller doses. Withdrawal can be pronounced in people who take the drug at high doses for long periods.
Valium withdrawal symptoms can include the following:
- Abdominal cramping
- Muscle pain
In severe cases, people develop hallucinations, including the belief that they’re not real. Others develop seizures as the withdrawal deepens.
A Valium withdrawal episode is life-threatening. Anyone who has used the drug for long periods needs a treatment team to offer medications and therapies to stay safe as their bodies heal.
What Does Valium Overdose Look Like?
People with a benzodiazepine abuse issue can take too much Valium as they try to combat dependence. People may also overdose if they return to drugs after a day or two of sobriety. Doses that once seemed safe can overwhelm a healing brain, and this can lead to dangerous symptoms.
Valium overdoses often look like sedation. People may respond to oral questions and seem aware of their surroundings. But they may have slurred speech and muscle weakness.
Valium overdoses often involve other sedating drugs, including alcohol. Someone who combines medications like this can experience life-threatening sedation, including the complete absence of breathing.
If you think someone has experienced a Valium overdose, call 911 and tell the operator what you’re seeing and what you think is happening. The person likely needs treatment in an emergency room with fluids and supplemental oxygen.
Get Help for Valium Addiction
People with a longstanding Valium habit often need tapering strategies to heal. Doctors give smaller doses of the drug over time, allowing brain cells to adjust to sobriety without malfunctioning. This method can take a long time, but it’s an ideal way to help the person stop abusing drugs.
Never attempt to suddenly stop taking Valium on your own if you’ve been taking it for a while. This is dangerous. Instead, get medical guidance for a tapered withdrawal process.
If you or someone you love is abusing Valium, a medical detox program followed by inpatient rehab could help you build a new and healthier life. Detox will help you stop taking Valium, and rehab will help you strengthen relapse prevention skills. Contact us to find out if this approach is right for you.
- Benzodiazepine Toxicity. (February 2023). StatPearls.
- Valium. (2016). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- Tapering Patients Off of Benzodiazepines. (2017). American Family Physician.
- Experiences With Benzodiazepine Use, Tapering, and Discontinuation: An Internet Survey. (April 2022). Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology.