The Effects & Dangers Of Mixing Valium & Alcohol
Each year alcohol misuse kills an estimated 95,000 Americans, making it the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States behind tobacco use and poor diet/physical inactivity.
When alcohol use is mixed with other kinds of drug abuse, and especially other central nervous system depressants like opioids or benzodiazepines, you face an increased risk of adverse events, overdose, and serious physical harm or death.
What Is Valium?
Valium is a brand-name formulation of the generic benzodiazepine (benzo) prescription drug diazepam.
Diazepam, which was originally approved for medical use in 1963, is long-acting with a half-life of between 36 and 200 hours but has relatively low potency. These properties make it a good option for treating:
- anxiety disorders
- panic attacks
- symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
- seizure disorders
- skeletal muscle spasms
- benzodiazepine dependence (tapering)
Other common benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide), Ativan (lorazepam), and others.
Effects Of Mixing Valium & Alcohol
In the body, a natural neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is used to help limit and control brain activity related to reasoning, memory, emotion, and other functions.
When used as directed, diazepam increases the effect of GABA in the brain and body, making you feel more relaxed, calm, secure, and even sleepy when you might otherwise feel anxious, stressed, panicked, and tense.
Alcohol mimics GABA, binding to the same sites in the brain with a similar effect.
When used with diazepam, alcohol may significantly increase the benzodiazepine drug’s depressant effects. This can lead to a dangerous level of CNS depression that will likely be more intense than if you used alcohol or diazepam alone.
Dangers Of Mixing Valium & Alcohol
Short-term, this combination effect greatly increases the risk of adverse effects, which can include:
- sedation (severe drowsiness and fatigue)
- confusion, agitation, and anxiety
- muscular weakness and lack of motor coordination
- slowed reaction speed
- impaired judgement
- low heart rate and blood pressure
- respiratory depression (slowed/stopped breathing)
Dependence & Withdrawal
Long-term, drinking alcohol with diazepam increases the risk that dependence and tolerance to both substances will develop. This can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that could emerge whenever you stop taking one or both substances.
Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- panic attacks
- muscle spasms
- aches and pain
Severe Side Effects
In addition, long-term misuse of benzodiazepines and alcohol is known to result in severe side effects including lasting mental health effects, memory loss, impaired cognition and motor control, and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The sedative effects of benzodiazepines and alcohol can increase the risk of overdose when used in combination.
Signs of a diazepam/alcohol overdose include:
- blurry vision
- slurred speech
- loss of consciousness
- cold, clammy skin
- difficulty moving or standing
- slow, shallow, or stopped breathing
- blue-tinted lips or fingernails
- unresponsiveness or coma
If you suspect an overdose has occurred, immediately contact your local emergency department and give the responding medical personnel as much information as possible. The sooner you get help, the better the chances will be for the victim.
Treating Polysubstance Addiction
When multiple substances are abused chronically, it can result in a form of polysubstance addiction. This condition may be more severe and complex than benzodiazepine or alcohol addiction alone.
However, like any other form of a substance use disorder, polysubstance addiction can be treated through an appropriate substance abuse treatment program.
Professional treatment options include medical detox/tapering services or a stay at a long-term inpatient/residential treatment center.
If you or a loved one struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, please contact us today to learn about our addiction treatment facilities.
Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
This page does not provide medical advice.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - FDA requiring Boxed Warning updated to improve the safe use of benzodiazepine drug class
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - VALIUM (DIAZEPAM) Label
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Alcohol Facts and Statistics
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Diazepam overdose
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