What is Valium (Diazepam)?
Coping with anxiety and anxiety-related conditions can be a challenging journey, and for many people, medications like Valium (diazepam) can provide much-needed relief. Valium belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Although these medications can be effective when used as directed, they can lead to physical and psychological dependence.
Valium is one of many brand names for diazepam. Diazepam is a Schedule IV controlled substance, indicating it can only be purchased with a prescription because it has some potential for abuse and addiction.
Valium works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps calm down the central nervous system. Side effects of Valium include decreased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, anxiety, and stress.
Understanding Valium Withdrawal
Abruptly stopping Valium after regular long-term use is never advised because doing so can result in unwanted and sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms. This is because Valium disrupts the brain’s ability to produce GABA and dopamine, a pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter that elevates mood, naturally. Instead, the brain is relying on the next dose of Valium to stabilize these neurotransmitters.
Over time, people need to take higher doses to achieve the same effects. When the medication is stopped suddenly or tapered too quickly, the brain struggles to regain its natural balance, resulting in withdrawal symptoms.
Common Valium Withdrawal Symptoms
Valium withdrawal symptoms and timelines can vary widely from person to person based on factors like the dosage used, duration of use, and differences in metabolism. However, common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Emotional sensitivity
- Muscle tension
- Loss of appetite
- Increased sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Heart palpitations
It’s important to note that people can develop a physical dependence on Valium whether they abuse the medication or not. Taking Valium as prescribed for extended periods of time can still result in physical dependency. However, people who abuse and get addicted to Valium may have more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Regardless of how Valium dependence develops, it is always important to detox under medical supervision. If you are prescribed Valium, your doctor can help you taper off it slowly to avoid withdrawal. If you are abusing Valium or struggling with addiction, it’s best to seek help from a medical detox center where your symptoms can be managed and you can receive comprehensive, therapeutic support.
Valium Withdrawal Timeline and Stages
In a clinical setting, benzodiazepine withdrawal is recognized as having two stages:
- Acute stage – Symptoms of Valium withdrawal typically appear 1-4 days after the last dose. Valium has a half-life of up to 48 hours, so it stays in the body for a long time, and it may take a few days for withdrawal symptoms to appear. How quickly symptoms appear depends on the amount taken in the last dose and the length of time Valium has been used. Variations in metabolism, emotional stability, and psychological health can also affect the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of acute withdrawal include physical, psychological, cardiovascular, and neurological symptoms. Symptoms are usually most intense during days three and four.
- General withdrawal – After symptoms peak between days three and four, individuals enter the general withdrawal stage. During this stage, cravings, lightheadedness, headache, and gastrointestinal upset may persist, but other symptoms may begin to subside. General withdrawal is less severe than acute withdrawal. This stage of withdrawal can last for 10-14 days.
After acute and general withdrawal, some individuals, particularly those with long histories of benzodiazepine abuse, may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome, also known as PAWS, is characterized by a long period of generalized psychological symptoms that may occur after getting sober. PAWS may involve symptoms like anxiety, depression, uneasiness, and cravings.
Factors that affect the Valium withdrawal timeline are:
- Length of use – The longer a person uses Valium, the longer their withdrawal symptoms may last.
- Dosage – People taking higher doses of Valium may experience more severe and longer-lasting withdrawal symptoms.
- Physical health – Variations in metabolism, liver and kidney health, and body weight can speed up or slow down the withdrawal timeline.
- Mental health – Many people with a Valium use disorder also have an anxiety disorder. Co-occurring disorders like anxiety or depression can affect a person’s experience during withdrawal.
Coping With Valium Withdrawal
Without medical guidance, detoxing from Valium can be dangerous. Symptoms such as fever, hallucinations, panic attacks, psychosis, and seizures require medical treatment, and without it they can be severe. Even if the physical symptoms aren’t severe, intense cravings for Valium may cause some people to relapse. As a result, it is essential to talk to a healthcare provider about stopping Valium or seek help from a drug and alcohol detox center.
A medical detox program can offer the 24-hour support you need to detox safely. An on-site doctor can evaluate your situation and help you taper off Valium slowly, eliminating the risks that come with withdrawal. During detox, additional medications can be prescribed to alleviate any persisting symptoms, and group therapy sessions as well as peer support groups are readily available.
Additional ways to cope with Valium withdrawal include:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle – Eating well, staying hydrated, and engaging in regular physical activity can support your body’s ability to cope with withdrawal. Detox and treatment centers provide healthy meals and physical activities to encourage a healthy lifestyle.
- Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques – Practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques can help manage anxiety and promote a sense of calm during withdrawal. They can also help reduce cravings.
- Find a support system – Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family who understand your journey and can offer emotional support. Participate in any therapy and peer sessions offered at a benzo detox center.
Find a Valium Detox Program Today
If you are struggling with Valium addiction, know that you’re not alone, and there are resources available to guide you towards a healthier, more balanced life. Our Valium detox center in Vista, California offers comprehensive individualized treatment programs that help you properly treat and heal from substance use. We provide a safe, peaceful, and structured environment where you can focus on long-term recovery and safely detox from Valium.
The early stages of withdrawal can be difficult, especially without the support of medical and mental healthcare professionals. Detoxing on your own or “cold turkey” can cause extreme discomfort and in some cases can even be fatal, and relapse can occur.
Don’t wait any longer for the transformative care you deserve. Call now to learn more about our Valium detox program in Vista, California.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Valium (Diazepam) Label, Retrieved August 2023 from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/013263s094lbl.pdf
- National Library of Medicine: Diazepam withdrawal syndrome: its prolonged and changing nature, Retrieved August 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1862031/