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  • Valium is neither narcotic nor an opioid. Diazepam, Valium’s primary ingredient, is a benzodiazepine that affects the central nervous system (CNS).

    Some of Valium’s sedative-like effects can feel similar to opioids, but its definition as a benzodiazepine makes it separate from both the narcotic and opioid drug classes.

    Is Valium A Narcotic?

    The term “narcotic” has seen less and less use when referring to medications in recent years. Some definitions of narcotics referred to any pain relieving or numbing substance. Other definitions include any prescription drug or illicit substance that affected mood or behavior. 

    This includes opioids as well as some stimulants (like cocaine), and the vague nature of the term has led to its reduced use.

    Is Valium An Opioid?

    No. Opioids are pain medications, and this class of drugs doesn’t include diazepam. 

    Opioids are either derived from naturally-occurring opium or created in a lab. Common opioids include oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. The term “opioid” has replaced the term “narcotic” to refer to this specific class of painkillers.

    Understanding Benzodiazepines

    Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos” or tranquilizers, are psychoactive drugs that are prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. While they can have similar effects to some opioids, they have different chemical makeups and affect the brain differently. 

    Common prescription benzodiazepines include Klonopin, Xanax, Valium, and Ativan.

    Why Are Benzodiazepines Prescribed?

    Benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat mental health disorders, especially anxiety. They can also reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms. In contrast to opioids which treat physical pain, benzos can reduce agitation, muscle spasms, and anxious feelings.

    How Benzodiazepines Work

    Benzodiazepines affect the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. They cause sedation by binding to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces brain activity, and this method of activity is unique to benzodiazepines.

    Risks Of Valium Abuse

    Benzodiazepines like alprazolam, lorazepam, and diazepam have been commonly prescribed over the last 20 years, but they have their own unique side effects and risks. They are Schedule IV controlled substances according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

    Dependence & Withdrawal

    Usually, Valium should be prescribed in the short-term. Long-term use can lead to eventual physical dependence, and withdrawal when trying to come off the drug. Withdrawal symptoms caused by Valium and other benzos include:

    • vomiting
    • tremors
    • restlessness
    • hypotension (chronically low blood pressure)
    • mood swings
    • panic attacks
    • hallucinations

    These symptoms can vary depending on how long Valium was taken, or if it was a target of drug abuse.

    Mixing With Opioids & Other Depressants 

    Though Valium is a benzodiazepine and not an opioid, it should not be mixed with opioids. These two types of drugs can create dangerous interactions when mixed, leading to life-threatening overdose, respiratory depression, or coma.

    Valium can also cause excessive sedation when mixed with other depressants like alcohol, and these substances should not be taken with each other.

    Your doctor or healthcare professional prescribing your medications should be aware of your history and usage to avoid potentially harmful interactions.

    If you, a family member, or a loved one is struggling with Valium abuse, know that help is available. To learn about our addiction treatment options, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Commonly Used Terms | Drug Overdose | CDC Injury Center
    National Institutes of Health - Diazepam | C16H13CIN2O - PubChem
    U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - Benzodiazepines - DEA
    U.S. Food and Drug Administration - VALIUM (DIAZEPAM) Label - FDA

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on July 19, 2022
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