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  • Valium (Diazepam) Side Effects, Dosage, & Warnings

    Valium (Diazepam) Side Effects, Dosage, & Warnings

    Valium is the brand name for diazepam and is classified as a benzodiazepine and central nervous system depressant. It’s often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, seizures, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal. How severe these problems are, often determines the dosage.

    While it can be a safe medication to take as directed, it also comes with side effects and warnings you should know about

    Valium Use

    Valium is normally used as a prescription drug and works by boosting the activity of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter. 

    When Valium amps up the amount of GABA in your system, your body begins to relax. Not having enough GABA in your system is what may have brought on the anxiety, seizures, or spasms in the first place.

    Valium Dosages

    The dose of Valium prescribed depends on what medical conditions you have, your age, weight, and how you responded to prior treatment. However, there are some dosages that are more common than others. 

    To treat anxiety, seizures, and muscle spasms in adults, 2-10 mg two to four times daily with a maximum of 30 mg every 8 hours is the most common dose.

    For alcohol withdrawal, the most common dose is 10 mg three to four times during the first 24 hours and 5 mg three to four times a day as needed after that.

    Side Effects Of Valium

    Valium comes with a wide variety of side effects. You may experience some, all, or none depending on how your body reacts to the drug. The most common side effects of diazepam include:

    • sedation 
    • ataxia
    • muscle weakness
    • confusion
    • panic attacks
    • drowsiness
    • dizziness
    • lightheadedness
    • tachycardia
    • depression
    • dry mouth
    • impaired coordination
    • headache
    • tremor
    • dystonia
    • low blood pressure
    • nausea
    • constipation
    • respiratory depression

    Valium Warnings

    Valium comes with multiple warnings you should be aware of before you start taking it. Some of those warnings include:

    Drug Interactions

    Mixing Valium with certain medications can cause serious problems. Valium mixed with opioid medications comes with an increased risk of serious breathing problems, severe drowsiness, and coma.

    Those serious side effects as well as an increased risk of overdose can also come up when mixing valium with antihistamines, muscle relaxants, alcohol, or marijuana. 

    You and your doctor should be aware of all the medications you’re taking (even over-the-counter ones) so you don’t end up accidentally mixing drugs.

    Abuse & Dependence

    Valium is classified as a controlled substance and a Schedule IV drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

    This classification is due to the drug’s potential for abuse and dependence, especially in those who are prone to addiction, take valium long term, or use higher doses. 

    This means that your body can grow a physical dependence on the drug and when you stop taking it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms

    Withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant and can cause you to want to take the drug again to alleviate those symptoms. This can lead to further abuse and addiction.

    Withdrawal Symptoms

    As discussed above, when your body becomes physically dependent on Valium and you stop taking it, withdrawal symptoms can set in. 

    Withdrawal symptoms can include:

    • tremors
    • anxiety
    • psychosis
    • irritability
    • sweating
    • headache
    • confusion
    • muscle cramps
    • vomiting

    Allergic Reaction

    There’s also a chance of an allergic reaction when taking Valium, especially if you’re taking it for the first time. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:

    • hives
    • rash
    • itching
    • difficulty breathing
    • swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat

    If you develop any of these symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

    Medical /Mental Health Conditions

    ​There are also several medical and mental health conditions that don’t work well with diazepam. Diazepam can make the symptoms of these conditions worse. They include:

    • myasthenia gravis: autoimmune disorder causing fatigue and exhaustion in muscles
    • severe respiratory issues
    • sleep apnea: pauses in breathing while sleeping
    • acute narrow-angle glaucoma: blocked drainage canals in the eye
    • liver disease
    • severe depression: diazepam can cause suicidal tendencies and a worsening of your depression

    Pregnancy

    Taking Valium during pregnancy isn’t recommended because of the adverse effects it can have on the fetus including congenital malformations, respiratory difficulties, and hypothermia. There’s also an increased risk of miscarriage. 

    Breastfeeding

    If you take valium while breastfeeding, small amounts of it can transfer from the breast milk to the baby and can build up in their system. This can cause sleepiness and affect how they gain weight. 

    It may be best to switch to another benzodiazepine that exits the body faster so it doesn’t affect the baby as much. 

    If you or your loved one struggles with Valium addiction, please call our helpline today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2022 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Sources

    Food & Drug Administration (FDA) - Valium
    National Center for Biotechnology Information - Diazepam
    National Library of Medicine - Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Diazepam (Valium)
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Diazepam

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on July 18, 2022
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