Valium is the brand name for the drug diazepam. While safe and effective when taken in its prescribed doses, it can also be addictive if it is abused consistently and in large doses.
Understanding Valium Abuse
According to the National Library of Medicine, “Diazepam is used to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures and to control agitation caused by alcohol withdrawal.” The drug can be taken safely under a doctor’s care, but those who use higher doses, take the drug in a different way, or take it more frequently than prescribed are putting themselves in danger of becoming addicted.
Valium is in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These substances can cause significant euphoria when taken in high doses, but this is also a form of abuse. In addition to addiction, someone who frequently abuses benzodiazepine drugs can experience a number of serious side effects, including severe and possibly life threatening withdrawal symptoms and dangerous respiratory depression.
Signs and Symptoms of Valium Abuse
Valium works by slowing the activity in the brain so an individual can relax. However, it slows the activity in all the other parts of the body, which can lead to fatigue, drowsiness, and confusion. This is why it is very unsafe for someone on even low doses of Valium to drive or participate in other activities requiring immense concentration.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, you can recognize someone who is abusing Valium through a number of signs and symptoms, including
- Dry mouth
- Blurred or double vision
- Urinary retention
- Drunken behavior
- Slurred speech
- Diminished reflexes
Individuals on low doses of the drug will often become tired and confused while those on higher doses may become extremely excitable. The drug can also cause severe mood swings, where a person could be happy one moment and suddenly irritable, paranoid, and hostile the next. CNS depressants cause side effects similar to alcohol intoxication, especially when abused, which is why one should be extremely careful with them and, at all times, avoid taking large doses.
Dangers of Valium Abuse
Valium can be dangerous, especially when one abuses it. The more a person misuses a benzodiazepine drug, the more likely the severe risks associated with its use are to occur. The common dangers of Valium abuse include
Respiratory depression and death
Even one large dose of Valium can be deadly, as the drug causes intense respiratory depression that could potentially cause a person to stop breathing altogether. Even if the individual is treated quickly enough to save their life, they might sustain brain damage or go into a coma as a result of the drug’s abuse.
Alcohol and Valium abuse
Many individuals abuse Valium along with alcohol. This is extremely dangerous, as the two drugs both cause respiratory depression and slowed heart rate, which can increase one’s chances of a deadly overdose. Abusing any other CNS depressants along with Valium can create the same effect.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, pregnant individuals who abuse drugs like Valium put the unborn child at risk for serious birth defects and other risks. These can include
- Neonatal flaccidity
- Respiratory and feeding difficulties
- Withdrawal symptoms
Because benzodiazepines take such a long time to leave a person’s system, those who abuse them can experience a build-up of the drug in their bodies. This can lead to oversedation, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, the signs of which are
- Impaired thinking, memory and judgment
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of coordination
Many drugs cause dependency and withdrawal symptoms whether abused or not as long, as they are taken for a prolonged period of time. However, benzodiazepines like Valium can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that can even be deadly, including
- Muscle tension
- Weight loss
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty concentrating
One who misuses a drug like Valium puts themselves at an even higher risk of experiencing all the potential side effects of the drug. It is important to avoid this type of abuse because, as illustrated above, it can be not only dangerous but also deadly.
Who Abuses Valium?
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, diazepam is the fourth of the five most prescribed benzodiazepine drugs, behind alprazolam, lorazepam, and clonazepam, respectively. This means it is highly available and also has a strong potential for abuse. Individuals from every age and ethnic group abuse benzodiazepines, including Valium, and this abuse is not regulated to one group. However, some are more vulnerable than others.
- Elderly individuals are often prescribed benzodiazepines to treat anxiety issues, and these individuals are vulnerable to misusing their medications and becoming addicted. This is especially true because the families of elderly addicts often don’t want to address their loved ones’ addictions and instead let them continue unabated.
- Tranquilizers and sedatives were the sixth and seventh most abused drugs by 12th graders, according to a study on past year abuse from 2014 (National Institute on Drug Abuse). This means Valium and drugs like it were more abused than OxyContin, cocaine, and Ritalin.
- Out of the 345,691 cases of emergency department visits attributed to benzodiazepines in 2010, 26,860 were diazepam related.
Valium is an addictive drug, and those who misuse it can quickly watch their abuse go from voluntary to compulsive. Those who drink alcohol while taking Valium or who abuse other CNS depressants at the same time increase their chances of becoming addicted or overdosing. Anyone who suffers from risk factors associated with addiction should be very careful, even when taking this drug as prescribed.
Over time, Valium addicts become disinterested in everything else in their lives and will do anything in order to obtain more of the drug. This is what causes every aspect of a person’s life to be negatively affected by addiction.
Am I a Valium Addict?
If you have been misusing your or someone else’s Valium medication, how can you know if you are already an addict? It is very important to consult your doctor for a proper assessment of your situation, but you can also look for the signs and symptoms of addiction by answering the questions below.
- Do I feel like I can’t get through the day, wake up in the morning, go to sleep, etc. without taking Valium?
- Do I feel unhappy or experience frightening symptoms when I cannot take the drug?
- Are my friends and family members concerned about my substance abuse, or would they be if they knew the extent of it?
- Do I feel like I’m less able to deal with stress and anxiety as a result of my substance abuse?
- Have I experienced any severe problems in my life caused by my Valium abuse, professional, personal, or otherwise?
- Have I ever experienced severe mental or physical side effects of my substance abuse, including overdose?
- Do I feel like my use of Valium and/or other substances is beyond my control?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is time to seek help for your Valium abuse and addiction. Without professional treatment, it might be dangerous––let alone very difficult––for you to attempt a recovery.
Valium Addiction Treatment
The first stage of Valium addiction treatment is detox. One must go through a safe withdrawal period with the help of healthcare professionals and medications in order to avoid experiencing the severe, psychological withdrawal syndrome associated with the drug. Once the individual is stabilized, treatment for addiction can begin in full.
Behavioral therapies are the most important part of treatment for benzodiazepine addiction. These programs can help patients
- Learn to recognize and avoid triggers
- Learn to cope with stress, cravings, and other issues that could lead to relapse
- Practice better life skills for the future
- Set beneficial goals such as abstinence from all substances of abuse
- Retrain the reward pathway of the brain to desire things other than dangerous drugs
- Examine and repair problematic family dynamics that could have helped lead to or enable substance abuse
- Address and treat any co-occurring mental disorders associated with one’s addiction, including anxiety disorders
Valium addiction is difficult to overcome, but with the proper treatment options, you too can start your life over and put an end to your substance abuse. Remember, this is just the beginning of your journey of recovery.