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  • Valium, the brand-name prescription for diazepam, is a benzodiazepine that’s likely not prescribed for long-term use. Taking Valium for an extended period of time can cause side effects such as physical dependence, drug addiction, memory loss, and other health issues.

    Benzodiazepines are prescribed as short-term treatments for anxiety disorders, for treatment of alcohol withdrawal, or to reduce muscle spasms. In the long-term (more than one month), benzodiazepines like Valium may do more harm than good.

    Long-Term Physical Health Effects

    Benzodiazepines, also known as tranquilizers, slow down your brain activity. This can have serious effects in the long term.

    Long-term Valium use is linked to ataxia, especially in patients who are elderly. Ataxia is the loss of control of your body movements and can lead to problems with balance, speech, and coordination. Ataxia caused by Valium can be reversed if the drug stops being used.

    Short-term side effects of Valium include sedation, drowsiness, decreased heart rate, and impairment. You may put yourself at risk of feeling these effects in the long term by abusing Valium often.

    Long-Term Mental Health Effects

    Diazepam is a central nervous system depressant, a system that includes the brain and spinal cord. There is evidence that taking Valium long-term may change how your brain works.

    Some studies have shown a connection between long-term diazepam use and a decline in cognition. Unlike other, temporary side effects of diazepam, this damage may last even after you stop taking it. Valium may damage your ability to understand and process information.

    Long-term benzodiazepine abuse can also lead to drug tolerance, where you may need higher doses to get the same effects. Not taking higher doses may lead to decreased effectiveness of the drug. You may feel your anxiety coming back or even worsen in the long term.

    Valium Withdrawal

    Valium withdrawal can affect both your physical and mental health. Withdrawal starts after you have developed a dependency on Valium, and then try to stop taking it. Severe physical dependence and withdrawal are often linked to higher doses and long-term use.

    Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine. Withdrawal may start as soon as 2 days after your last dose and last for several weeks. Diazepam withdrawal is often longer, but less intense, than withdrawal from shorter-acting benzos like alprazolam (Xanax) or lorazepam (Ativan).

    A recovery program at a treatment center may help you manage and beat withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and may include:

    • vomiting
    • insomnia
    • rebound anxiety (worsened anxiety than before starting Valium)
    • numbness
    • hallucinations
    • seizures

    What Counts As Valium Abuse?

    Valium is a regulated prescription drug. Not taking Valium as directed is a form of substance abuse, which can include:

    • taking Valium in high doses
    • taking Valium without a prescription
    • mixing Valium with other substances (opioids, alcohol, etc.)
    • crushing, snorting, or injecting Valium tablets

    Valium abuse may increase your risk of adverse effects, in both the short-term and long-term. Practicing proper substance use can help with harm reduction while taking Valium.

    Treating Valium Abuse

    Valium abuse can be harmful to both you and your loved ones. Some studies show that Valium has a high abuse potential compared to other benzodiazepines. Long-term Valium use may be difficult to quit on your own.

    To come off Valium safely, you will most likely need a drug detox program to cleanse the drug from your system. This may also mean going through withdrawal. A medically supervised drug detox program can help you get through withdrawal safely.

    After a detox, you may need additional treatment. Treatment options for Valium addiction vary widely, ranging from psychotherapy to support groups. To learn more about the best inpatient or outpatient treatment options for you, contact your healthcare professional or 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.

    American Family Physician - Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use - Editorials - American Family Physician
    Drug and Alcohol Clinical Advisory Service - Benzodiazepine withdrawal
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription CNS Depressants DrugFacts
    PubMed Central - Benzodiazepine use, misuse, and abuse: A review​​​
    PubMed Central - Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence
    U.S. Food and Drug Administration - VALIUM (DIAZEPAM) Label
    Vancouver Coastal Health - COMPARISON OF BENZODIAZEPINES

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on July 20, 2022
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