How to Stop Valium Cravings, Prevent Relapse, and Find Help
Managing Valium Cravings
Valium, also known by its generic name diazepam, can be used to treat conditions such as anxiety, seizures, muscle spasm, and withdrawal from alcohol or other sedative medications.
People can become dependent on the drug to help them relax, “take the edge off” the effects of other drugs, or ease the withdrawal process. Those who try to quit after prolonged use may experience cravings that make it hard to stop using.
Learn more about Valium cravings and relapse, including:
- Signs and symptoms of cravings.
- Treatment methods to help people struggling with Valium cravings.
- Medications that can reduce or alleviate cravings.
- Natural methods to manage Valium cravings.
Valium Cravings Signs and Symptoms
If you use Valium in higher doses and/or for a longer time period than recommended by your doctor, you can develop physical dependence and, eventually, an addiction.
People who are addicted to Valium may experience cravings to continue using the drug, to relieve withdrawal symptoms, or even when they are triggered by a person, place, or thing when they are no longer using.
Signs and symptoms of cravings can include:
- Being unable to stop thinking about the drug.
- Experiencing an increase in heart rate or breathing when reminded of the substance (ex., seeing pill bottles).
- Thinking back to times when the drug was used.
- Feeling urges to use the drug in response to withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, nausea, tremors, or anxiety.
- Feeling urges to use the drug in response to stressful events or strong emotions such as anger or sadness.
Whether someone experiences cravings, as well as the intensity of the cravings, can depend on a variety of factors, such as:
- Duration of use.
- How much the person took (the dosage, on average).
- Whether the person stops cold turkey or gradually tapers their usage.
- Individual physiological and psychological makeup.
Onset of Cravings
Withdrawal symptoms – which can include cravings – may not develop for more than a week, peak in intensity during the second week, and lessen in intensity during the third or fourth week. 2
Cravings are often strongest when a person first stops using and subside over time. They can last from a few days to weeks, or until a person obtains professional help. Some users may continue to experience intermittent cravings long after they stop using.
Treatments and Therapies for Valium Cravings
Certain treatments can help eliminate or reduce Valium cravings and can be effective for recovering from a Valium addiction.
Several studies on benzodiazepine dependence and withdrawal suggest that the two most important components of successful treatment include gradual dosage tapering and anxiety management. 3,4
Types of treatments and therapies used to treat Valium cravings include:
- Supervised medical detox: Supervised detox allows a person to gradually taper off Valium, thereby avoiding intense withdrawal cravings. Detox should be followed by some form of behavioral therapy to help address the underlying reasons for addiction.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of treatment that helps a user identify and change distorted, unhealthy thought patterns and promotes the development of healthier, more appropriate coping mechanisms. CBT can be used to help a person control cravings and manage anxiety.
- Relaxation techniques: These techniques may be useful for addressing anxiety symptoms. Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, and other mind-body techniques may be incorporated into formal treatment programs or practiced on one’s own.
- Urge surfing: This technique helps users imagine the craving as a wave that builds in intensity and then wanes. Users learn that they do not have to give in to the craving and that it will eventually pass.
Treatment Programs for Cravings and Addiction
Professional treatment and self-help groups can help you deal with cravings, get you started on the road to recovery, and prevent relapse. Some common types of treatment include:
- Inpatient or residential treatment: This form of treatment can be long- or short-term, depending on your individual needs. Programs can vary from high-end treatment programs that offer resort-like atmospheres to basic and affordable programs. Inpatient treatment centers typically offer supervised detox; individual and group therapy; recreational, art, and/or music therapy; 12-step meetings; and educational groups.
- Outpatient treatment: Outpatient is a less intensive form of treatment best suited for those who don’t require the level of supervision, guidance, and support offered by inpatient programs. These programs also tend to be less expensive than inpatient, are more likely to be covered by insurance, and do not require you to stay at the facility. People in these programs typically attend groups or therapy sessions at the facility on certain days of the week for a few hours at a time.
- 12-step programs: These groups are free and useful for people who feel they will benefit from the support of others and who have a willingness to commit to working through the 12 steps of recovery. Twelve-step groups are often a part of formal treatment programs as well.
- Individual psychotherapy: You meet with a qualified mental health and substance abuse counselor, usually once or twice a week. The counselor helps you develop insight into your addiction, provides support, and offers encouragement to help you navigate your way to clean and sober living.
- Group counseling: Groups are mostly led by professional counselors who work to provide a safe, supportive atmosphere while guiding participants through the recovery process.
- Aftercare: After you complete a formal treatment program, aftercare programs can help prevent future cravings and help you stay clean and sober, even when temptation or specific triggers strike. Aftercare usually involves 12-step meetings, weekly or biweekly individual or group psychotherapy, or sober living.
Medications Used to Curb Valium Cravings
Medications may be used in certain cases for Valium withdrawal and cravings. These include:
- Prescription medication such as antidepressants may help alleviate depressive symptoms associated with withdrawal.
- Propanolol, a beta-blocker anti-hypertensive medication, may help with the some of the symptoms of withdrawal, such as tremors, high blood pressure, and headaches.
- Flumazenil, the only drug currently on the market known as a benzodiazepine receptor antagonist, is available mainly by injection only and may help people suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms.
- Other antiseizure medications (such as carbamazepine) may also be used to help manage anxiety, tremors, or seizures.
How to Stop Cravings Naturally
You may be able to stop Valium cravings using natural or self-help methods. However, these methods are often best used in combination with a professional treatment program, especially when dealing with withdrawal symptoms.
- Hobbies. Engaging in pleasant activities can distract you from cravings, help you enjoy life without using, and give you a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
- Spending time with friends, family, or others who are supportive of your recovery. Being around people who support you and whom you care about can provide motivation to stay sober.
- Exercise. A clinical review published in 2012 points out that exercise may help reduce cravings, regulate mood, reduce anxiety and depression, decrease stress, and improve coping abilities in people recovering from a substance addiction. 7 Even just going for a walk when cravings strike may help you fight the urge to use.
- Meditation. In particular, mindfulness meditation, a form of meditation where you focus on accepting “what is” in the immediate moment instead of worrying about the past or future, has been shown to be effective at curbing cravings and preventing relapse. 8
- Breathing Deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, invokes the body’s natural relaxation response and can help reduce feelings of anxiety. 5
- Calming techniques. Progressive muscle relaxation, or prayer, can also help reduce the intensity of cravings and the anxiety that often accompanies them.
- Other Eastern techniques. Acupuncture, yoga, herbal teas, or some combination of these techniques may also help with symptoms of insomnia related to cravings and withdrawal. 6
- Sleep habits. Following a regular sleep schedule and developing healthy sleep habits, such as not staying up late on weekends and getting up at the same time every morning, can leave you feeling rested and less susceptible to cravings. Make sure your room is dark enough and not too warm. Avoid using smartphones right before bedtime. Don’t drink caffeinated beverages if at all possible, but especially from the afternoon onward. Try to distract yourself before bedtime by reading or listening to calming music.
Cravings and Relapse
Relapse is common for many recovering substance abusers. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people in recovery often have one or more relapses. 9 High-dose users generally have the highest risk of relapse, according to one study. 1
Further, a study published in 2007 found that benzodiazepine users who were unable to quit on their own experienced more cravings and had an increased likelihood of relapse. 10
Relapse isn’t inevitable, however. Using some of the techniques mentioned above to manage cravings, seeking professional help, and becoming aware of specific triggers and learning how to deal with them can help you resist the urge to start using again.
Being Aware of Triggers
Some common triggers for relapse include:
- Tiredness or exhaustion.
- Negative emotional states.
- Family or work pressures.
- Being around others who use.
- Being in an environment where you used.
- Relationship problems.
- Stopping treatment programs or aftercare.
Taking Steps to Prevent Relapse
You may be able to prevent relapse by:
- Sticking with your treatment program or aftercare plan.
- Attending 12-step meetings and staying in touch with your sponsor.
- Building a positive and encouraging support network.
- Avoiding or limiting the time you spend with people who drain your energy and staying away from people who use.
- Managing anxiety through healthier means, such as exercise, meditation, or talking to a trusted friend or family member.
- Finding activities that give you a sense of fulfillment and meaning.
- Practicing mindfulness and being aware of your urges without acting on them.
- Creating achievable personal goals, such as learning a new skill or taking better care of your body through diet and exercise.
Find a Recovery Center for Valium Addiction
If you’re interested in learning more about Valium addiction recovery programs, call to speak to a treatment support specialist. This person can help you find the right program based on your needs and insurance coverage.
. Voshaar, R., Gorgels, W., Mol, A., Balkom, A., Breteler, M., Lisdonk, E. Zitman, S. (2003). Predictors of relapse after discontinuation of long-term benzodiazepine use by minimal intervention: a 2-year follow-up study. Family Practice 20 , 370-372.
. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
. Petursson, H. (1994). The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Addiction 89 , 1455-9.
. Ashton, H. (1994). The treatment of benzodiazepine dependence. Addiction 89 ,1535-1541.
. Harvard Health Publications (2015). The Family Health Guide, Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response.
. New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Insomnia and Substance Abuse.
. Zschucke, E., Heinz, A., and Strohle, A. (2012). Exercise and physical activity in the therapy of substance use disorders. Scientific World Journal: 901741.
. Bowen S., Witkiewitz K., Clifasefi, S.L, Grow, J., Chawla, N., Hsu, S., Larimer, M. (2014). Relative efficacy of mindfulness-based relapse prevention, standard relapse prevention, and treatment as usual for substance use disorders: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry 71,547-56, p. E1.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Easy-to-Read Drug Facts. What Is a Relapse?
. Moll, A., Voshaar, R., Gorgels, W., Breteler, M., Balkom, A.J., Lisdonk, E…Zitman, S. (2007). The role of craving in relapse after discontinuation of long-term benzodiazepine use. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 68 , 1894-900.