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Valium (Diazepam) Addiction | Side Effects, Withdrawal Symptoms, & Treatment Options

Published on November 3, 2020
circular light blue pills in blister packs Valium Diazepam

Valium is often used to treat anxiety disorders like panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder. It can also help control distress caused by alcohol withdrawal, muscle spasms caused by neurological disorders like paraplegia and cerebral palsy, and seizures.

When you’re prescribed Valium for a long period of time or you use it without following your doctor’s instructions, you may become addicted to it. If you or a loved one struggles with Valium addiction, recovery is possible at a drug abuse treatment program.

What Is Valium?

Valium is the brand name for a prescription drug called diazepam. It belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines (or “benzos”). Other popular drugs in this class include Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan. 

Like other benzodiazepines, Valium is a central nervous system depressant that relaxes the muscles and promotes sedation (a state of calmness). It does this by enhancing the effect of a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA. 

Valium comes in multiple formulations, such as oral tablets, oral solutions, and rectal gels. 

Side Effects Of Valium

As with most medications, Valium may cause side effects. The most common side effects include: 

  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • weak muscles
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • trouble urinating or frequent urination
  • confusion
  • altered sex drive or ability 

Some people also experience rarer, more serious side effects such as memory problems, slurred speech, slowed heartbeat and breathing, and uncontrollable shaking. Call your doctor if you or your loved one experiences these or other unusual side effects. 

Valium Abuse & Addiction

Valium can make you feel calm, relaxed, and, at larger doses, euphoric (intensely happy). That’s why some people abuse the drug. Abusing Valium means taking it in a manner not prescribed by your health care provider. 

For instance, you may:

  • take higher doses than prescribed
  • take it more frequently than prescribed
  • take it without a prescription
  • mix it with other drugs, such as alcohol or opioids 

Valium abuse increases the risk of addiction. Addiction is a disease that makes you feel unable to stop using a drug despite the negative consequences of using it. 

Although abuse makes addiction more likely, people who take Valium exactly as prescribed can also become addicted, especially if they take it for a long time or at high doses. 

That’s why many doctors only prescribe Valium for short-term use, occasional use (such as during a panic attack), or at low doses. 

Signs Of Valium Addiction

If you’re wondering whether you or someone you know is addicted to Valium, here are some signs to watch out for:

  • mood swings
  • tolerance, or needing increasingly higher doses of Valium to achieve the desired effects 
  • physical dependence, or experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you don’t take Valium 
  • doctor shopping, or visiting multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions of Valium
  • withdrawing from family and friends to spend more getting and using Valium
  • avoiding responsibilities at work or school to spend more time getting and using Valium
  • losing interest in activities previously enjoyed 
  • wanting to stop taking Valium but feeling unable to do so

Valium Overdose

When you abuse or are addicted to Valium, you face a higher risk of overdose, which may be life-threatening. Overdose can occur when you take too much Valium or mix it with other substances. 

The most common signs of Valium overdose include:

  • blurred or double vision
  • bluish fingernails and/or lips
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • upset stomach
  • rash
  • hiccups
  • confusion
  • excitability 
  • tremor
  • lack of coordination

Call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222 if you or someone you know experiences these symptoms. 

Call 911 if you notice more serious symptoms such as fainting, seizures, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness. 

These symptoms are more likely to occur if you mix Valium with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol, opioids, barbiturates, or other benzodiazepines. That’s because these drugs slow down brain activity.

Whether you call poison control or 911, you’ll be asked to provide the name, age, weight, and condition of the person who overdosed. If possible, you should also disclose the amount of Valium taken and the time it was taken at. 

Learn more about Valium Overdose

Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

If you struggle with Valium abuse or addiction, you may experience moderate-to-severe withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the medication. 

Withdrawal symptoms might include:

  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • trouble concentrating
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • weight loss
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • sweating
  • hand tremor

To avoid or reduce these withdrawal symptoms, talk to a doctor before you try to stop using Valium. 

In most cases, the doctor will gradually decrease your dosage until you’re not taking any Valium. This process, which is called “tapering,” doesn’t shock your system like quitting cold turkey does. Instead, it lets your body adjust to the lack of Valium in a slower, safer manner.

Learn more about Valium Withdrawal

Valium Addiction Treatment Options

If you or someone you love struggles with Valium abuse or addiction, you may feel hopeless. However, recovery is possible. 

Detox Programs

Most people who struggle with Valium use (or any other kind of drug use) will begin their recovery with medical detox.

During detox, a team of health care professionals will slowly lower your Valium dosage while monitoring your withdrawal symptoms. 

They may also prescribe medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms; for example, you may be given a sleep aid for insomnia or an antidepressant for depression, anxiety, and irritability.

As you detox, you may need to live at an inpatient drug addiction treatment center, especially if your addiction is severe. If it’s mild, you could attend an outpatient treatment center while living at home.  

Behavioral Therapy

During and after detox, talking with a licensed therapist can help you avoid relapse. One of the most popular forms of therapy for people recovering from substance abuse is cognitive behavioral therapy. 

This form of counseling can help you change unhealthy behaviors, develop coping skills, and strengthen your mental health.  

Support Groups

At a peer support group, you can receive advice from other people who are recovering from addiction. In addition, your loved ones can attend family support groups to connect with families in similar situations and learn how to better support your recovery. 

Support groups are available at most inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. Many people continue to attend them even after they complete formal treatment. 

To learn more about the treatment options available at Ark Behavioral Health, please reach out to us today.

Valium FAQ

How Long Does Valium Stay In Your System?

Drug tests can detect Valium in the human body for weeks after last use. And this period, as well as the accuracy of tests, only increases following heavy or frequent Valium abuse.

The general detection periods for Valium in drug tests are:

  • Blood: 2 days
  • Saliva: 10 days
  • Urine: 6 weeks
  • Hair: 13 weeks

Read How Long Does Valium Stay In Your System to learn more

Can You Snort Valium?

By finely crushing Valium tablets, some may choose to misuse the drug by insufflation or inhaling the drug through the nose with a straw or tube. 

This method of drug ingestion generally provides immediate access to the bloodstream through the mucus membranes of the nasal passages, allowing you to get higher, faster. But, Valium is not designed to be taken in this way and diazepam itself is only minimally water soluble.

Learn more about Snorting Valium

Is Valium An Opioid?

Valium is not an opioid. It is a benzodiazepine that can treat anxiety, cause sedation, and lead to health risks when abuse.

Learn more about Valium Drug Classification

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration - FDA Warns about Serious Risks and Death When Combining Opioid Pain or Cough Medicines with Benzodiazepines; Requires Its Strongest Warning
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Diazepam
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Diazepam overdose
U.S. National Library of Medicine: PubMed - The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome
U.S. National Library of Medicine: StatPearls - Diazepam

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