A prescription medication, Valium is the brand name for the generic drug diazepam. It is in the class of drugs called benzodiazepines and is classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Drugs in this classification have the potential for abuse and can cause psychological dependence or physical dependence.
More About Valium Use
Valium is prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders, chronic sleep disorder, acute alcohol withdrawal, skeletal muscle spasms, and stiffness. It is also used to treat seizures and as a sedative before some medical procedures.
When taken, Valium calms the brain’s abnormal overactivity. It works by changing the levels of two of the brain’s chemical messengers, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). A pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter, dopamine elevates mood. GABA acts as a natural tranquilizer on the body’s central nervous system. It affects the body’s stress response, slowing heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and lowering body temperature. It also minimizes stress and anxiety.
Over time, Valium’s continuous disruption of the brain’s chemicals causes changes in the brain. The result can be dependence and addiction to the drug. The brain needs the Valium to feel balanced. The user needs to keep using the drug to function normally and prevent symptoms of withdrawal. As their tolerance to the drug increases, Valium users typically increase their doses to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Signs & Symptoms of Valium Addiction
When a person is addicted to Valium, they have intense cravings for the drug. As their tolerance increases, they need to keep increasing the amount of Valium they take or take it more often to achieve the same effect. If they stop taking the drug, they experience withdrawal symptoms.
Additional signs of Valium addiction include:
- Difficulty waking up or feeling very sleepy all the time
- Losing interest in activities and hobbies you used to enjoy
- Being unable to stop taking the drug regardless of any health, relationship, legal, or financial problems it is causing
- Avoiding family and friends
- Getting prescriptions from multiple doctors or doctor shopping
- Declining personal hygiene habits
The behavioral and visual effects of Valium addiction are similar to alcohol addiction. The user will have dilated pupils and blurred vision. Drowsiness, weakness, and confusion are common, as are impaired coordination, difficulty with motor skills, memory problems, and trouble concentrating.
Additional Signs of Addiction to Valium
Other signs of Valium addiction include:
- Slurred speech
- Uncharacteristic irritability or sadness
- Slowed breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
When a person stops taking Valium, they go through withdrawal with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person, but a few are common to everyone. According to an article in Medical News Today, each person will experience the symptoms, severity, and timeline of Valium withdrawal differently based on the following factors:
- The dosage of Valium regularly taken
- How long the drugs have been used
- Whether or not the person has any underlying mental or physical health conditions
- Whether or not the user was misusing a prescription or using the drug without a prescription
- Taking Valium with other drugs or alcohol
Three Phases of Valium Withdrawal
- Early or immediate withdrawal, also called rebound withdrawal, occurs within 12 to 24 hours after taking the last dose of Valium. The individual may feel a resurgence of the symptoms the drug was treating. For example, if the person was being treated for anxiety, the symptoms of anxiety may return or get worse once the drug is stopped. During this phase, mood swings, restlessness, irritability, and fatigue are common. The person may experience sleep disturbances, including unusually vivid dreams or nightmares. The early stage generally lasts between one and four days. At first, the symptoms are mild and then increase in intensity.
- The acute phase of Valium withdrawal usually begins a few days after the start of the initial phase. In most cases, symptoms generally last from 5 to 14 days. However, they may last for up to several months. During this time, the individual experiences headaches, stomach pains, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and hand tremors. Their blood pressure and heart rate increase. A fever usually occurs. They may feel confused and disorientated. Cravings intensify, and depression, mood swings, panic attacks, and anxiety are common. Some individuals experience more serious symptoms and complications during the acute phase. These symptoms include numbness or tingling of arms and legs, heightened sensitivities and sensations to light and/or sound, hallucinations, delirium, psychosis, and potentially fatal seizures or convulsions.
- The protracted withdrawal phase refers to symptoms that linger for up to 12 months or longer. Protracted withdrawal symptoms are also called post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS. These symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, depression, mood swings, poor concentration, and loss of sex drive.
Do You Need Help for a Valium Addiction?
If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, now is the time to get help. Call and speak to a caring professional at English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Take the first step toward sobriety.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.