The Dangers of a Valium Addiction
Valium is a type of benzodiazepine prescribed to treat anxiety and panic attacks, but misuse can lead to a Valium addiction. It's also a muscle relaxant, a sedative and an anticonvulsant. The medication Valium is versatile and has many uses.
This is why it is one of the most popular prescription medications being prescribed in America. It’s also why it’s one of the top 10 most abused prescription medications as well.
Valium Recovery Information
What is Valium?
Known by its generic name, which is diazepam, Valium works by influencing the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system in the body. It enhances the effects of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that slows down brain activity. By enhancing the effects of GABA, this drug reduces brain activity. This calms down the brain and helps ease anxiety.
As Valium is effective, it's quite a popular medication. In 2011 alone, 14 million prescriptions for Valium were written. These numbers have only continued to skyrocket over the years. Studies show that the numbers are only going to continue to rise in the future.
Unfortunately, long-term Valium use or misuse can lead to addiction. Here's all that you need to know about an addiction to Valium.
Other Brand Names of Valium
The generic version of Valium is diazepam. However, this medication also comes packaged with other brand names as well. Other common brand names of Valium include:
- Diastat AcuDial
- Diazepam Intensol
These medications also play the same role and have the same effect as Valium. The chemical structure and active ingredients are the same. Worldwide, there are over 500 different brand names for Valium. This isn’t surprising, as Valium was once one of the most prescribed medications.
The Valium dosage recommended will differ from patient to patient. It depends on each patient's biological makeup, age, weight, and bodily response to the medication. Some patients may be more sensitive to the medication and respond to a lower dosage, like diazepam 2mg, while others may require a much larger dosage.
When using Valium to treat certain disorders and conditions, a doctor will need to monitor how you respond to various Valium dosages to determine what works best for you. There are some recommended dosages based on the disorders the medication is being used to treat.
Most doctors will factor in your weight, age and genetics before making any type of recommendations. Some of the most commonly recommended Valium dosages include:
- 2mg to 10mg, 2 to 4 times daily for managing anxiety disorders
- 10mg, 3 or 4 times during the first 24 hours, and 5mg, 3 or 4 times daily for treating acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- 2mg to 10mg, 2 to 4 times daily for treating convulsive disorders
In many cases, most doctors cap the maximum dosage at 10mg of Valium, and prescribe a minimum dosage of diazepam 2mg. If the dosage needs to be increased, it should be increased slowly to prevent adverse effects. Those who increase the dosage too quickly may experience unwanted side effects that may harm their body.
Many people have noticed that both Xanax and Valium are often prescribed to treat the same disorders and conditions. Both are minor tranquilizers, and have a similar mechanism of action that acts on the GABA system.
So, what's the difference between the two?
First of all, Valium and Xanax are both the trade name version of different types of generic drugs. Valium is the brand name drug for diazepam, while Xanax is the brand name drug for alprazolam.
Diazepam, like Valium, is a quicker acting drug, and will rapidly have an effect on the body once ingested. On the other hand, Xanax is a relatively slow acting drug, and will take much longer to have an effect on the body. Even though diazepam, or Valium, takes effect quickly, it will have an effect for a longer period of time. Xanax doesn’t have as long lasting of an effect.
There are also two other key differences. Valium is not prescribed to treat panic disorders, but is considered safe for children. In fact, the pediatric dosing of Valium has been studied extensively.
How Long Does Valium Stay in Your System
Many people are interested in the length of time it takes to clear Valium from the body. The approximate half-life of Valium is estimated to be anywhere from 30 to 56 hours. This means that it should take anywhere from 9 to 10 days for the body to completely clear Valium from the plasma. At which point, the body should be completely clean.
With that said, just because Valium is cleared from the plasma, it doesn't necessarily mean that the metabolites are eliminated. The most recognized metabolite of Valium is a compound known as nordiazepam.
Nordiazepam should have a half-life between 40 to 100 hours. At the lower end of the spectrum, it will take about 70 hours, or several days, for the metabolite to be cleared from the body. At the higher end of the spectrum, it can take over 22 days for the body to completely get rid of all traces of nordiazepam.
Side Effects of Valium Use
Since Valium does act upon the GABA system, it can cause some unwanted side effects. Some patients will experience unsavory side effects even with proper use. This is simply due to their genetics and their biological makeup. It’s difficult to determine which patients may not react positively to the medication beforehand.
Most of the side effects associated with Valium use are temporary. They will usually subside with time, and are not considered to be dangerous. Some short-term side effects of Valium abuse include:
- Blurred vision
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in heart rate and rhythm
- Decreased respiratory rate
- Delayed reflexes
- Dry mouth
- Loss of memory or memory problems
- Slurred speech
- Trouble urinating
In most cases, these Valium side effects will disappear after several doses. Still, you should consider speaking to your doctor about it if the side effects worsen or persist.
Long-Term Side Effects of Valium Abuse
Long-term Valium use can have a profound negative effect on the body. It can lead to long-term side effects. These side effects of Valium may be permanent, and will persist even after the patient has stopped using Valium. Some long-term Valium side effects may even be life threatening.
Common long-term side effects of Valium include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Cognitive deficits
- Difficulties breathing
- Heart attacks
- Loss of memory
- Slowed pulse
Long-term Valium use can also lead to behavioral changes, as well as changes in energy levels. Some users may become socially isolated. Improper use can even cause death.
The Risk of Dependence and Addictive Potential
Since Valium is a commonly prescribed medication, many people are under the misconception that it isn't addictive. Unfortunately, that cannot be further from the truth.
Studies show that Valium can be even more addictive than heroin. This is especially true since most patients don't recognize how addictive it can be. Long-term use can cause physical and psychological dependence to develop.
Once patients develop dependence, weaning off of the prescription can become difficult. Many patients may experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit.
Signs of an Addiction to Valium
How do you know whether you or someone close to you is addicted to Valium? Hiding a diazepam addiction can be quite easy. In fact, many addicts are functioning members of society.
If you ever have any doubts, take one of our addiction quizzes for more insight. The results will tell you whether you or someone close to you may need addiction treatment.
There are many signs to look out for. Common signs of an addiction to Valium include:
- Experiencing negative consequences from diazepam use, but being unable to quit
- Failing to quit diazepam use
- Feeling anxious as your Valium supply run low
- Having Valium on hand at all times
- Needing to take the drug every day
- Needing to take diazepam to make it through the day
- Needing to take larger and larger doses to get the same results
- Taking the drug in more ways than prescribed
If you're addicted to diazepam, your body will have developed a dependence on the drug. This means that it relies on the drug. Without the drug, the body may go haywire.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Valium Abuse
Those who have developed an addiction to Valium will usually go through withdrawals if they try to quit. The intensity of the withdrawal symptoms will differ based on each patient. It's mostly impacted by the length of the drug use. These withdrawal symptoms usually kick in within 12 to 24 hours of the last dose.
They can become even more intense if patients experience acute withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can last for up to 2 weeks.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Personality changes
- Respiratory distress
The intensity of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on the length of the drug use, the dosage taken, among many other factors. As the withdrawal symptoms can be fairly difficult to deal with, most doctors recommend residential treatment for Valium addictions. Close medical supervision, as well as medical detox, is highly recommended.
Medical supervision can stabilize withdrawal symptoms and lessen their effects. It's important to note that Valium withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly difficult to get through. Many patients will relapse to ease their symptoms.
For optimal success, make sure that you come up with a feasible game plan with your local rehab center. Speak with one of the counsellors and sit down with the medical staff to get a better idea of what to expect.
An In-Depth Look at the Valium Withdrawal Timeline
Valium withdrawal symptoms can last for quite an extended amount of time. The withdrawal timeline can be divided into two distinct phases: the acute phase and the post-acute phase.
The acute phase is when most of the physical withdrawal symptoms kick in. These symptoms usually emerge within 1 to 7 days after the last dose, and will peak on the 7th to 9th day. After peaking, the symptoms will start to subside.
However, this doesn't mean that you're off the hook. Valium addicts are prone to developing 'rebound' withdrawal symptoms. This means that the initial withdrawal symptoms will return with a vengeance. They will be just as intense as when they first emerged, if not worse. Many Valium addicts have difficulties getting past these withdrawal symptoms, and will relapse.
Some common 'rebound' withdrawal symptoms include hypersensitivity to light and touch. By the 3rd or 4th week, these 'rebound' withdrawal symptoms will start to subside again. They usually won't appear anymore. If they do, the intensity of the symptoms will usually be greatly diminished.
This entire phase is known as the acute phase. The post-acute phase happens after the acute phase and can last 12 months or longer. This phase includes psychological withdrawal symptoms, like intense cravings for the medication.
Start Your Road to Recovery Today
Many prescription medications have a high addictive potential, and are easy to abuse and misuse. If you have ever wandered down the wrong path when taking Valium, it’s never too late to start back on the road to recovery. With commitment, discipline and perseverance, you can free yourself from the grasps of addiction and become sober.