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Valium Addiction: Signs, Effects, and Treatment

Valium (diazepam) is a benzodiazepine that acts as an anticonvulsant and can help with anxiety, sedation, muscle relaxation, and amnesia.1 Like other benzodiazepines, it has the potential for misuse and dependence and can be dangerous when used with other substances (polysubstance use).1, 2 In 2020, nearly 5 million people misused prescription benzodiazepines.2

The following article will explore what Valium is, how it works in your body, the potential dangers of Valium misuse, and where to get help for Valium addiction.

What is Valium?

Valium is a brand name for the benzodiazepine diazepam, which is typically prescribed for treating certain anxiety disorders, short-term anxiety symptoms, and insomnia.1, 2, 7 It can also be administered to help ease anxiety before a medical operation.1

Diazepam is considered a Schedule IV substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 because of its potential for misuse and the ability to cause physical dependence.3

Valium is available as a white or yellow tablet, while diazepam can be administered in tablets, injections, intravenously, or rectally.1, 3

How Does Valium Work?

Valium, like other benzodiazepines including Xanax and Ativan, is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which works by inhibiting or calming down an over-excited nervous system.1 Benzos interact with GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors, which are inhibitory neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, and found throughout the brain and body.1, 3 When they interact together, GABA works more efficiently to inhibit signals of excitation.

Valium acts quickly once administered and has a longer duration of action (it is considered a long-acting benzodiazepine), which means its effects can last longer than short-acting benzos.1, 7

Effects of Valium

Central nervous system depressants like alcohol, opioids, and Valium have a general calming effect on the body.1 As a result, taking too much Valium can have potentially dangerous side effects, particularly when combined with other CNS depressants like opioids or alcohol.3 Short-term effects of benzodiazepines like Valium can include:1, 13

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor concentration
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Issues with movement and memory
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing

Potentially serious effects can include:1

  • Extremely slowed breathing
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Development of dependency and risk of misuse
  • Dangerous withdrawal symptoms
  • Complete dysfunction of your heart and circulatory system
  • Dangerously slow heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting

Is Valium Addictive?

Valium and other benzodiazepines do have the potential for misuse, dependence, and addiction.8 Even if Valium is prescribed by a doctor, people can become dependent, which is why it is recommended for short-term use only.3

Dependence is the body’s physiological adaptation to a substance like Valium. The body gets so accustomed to having Valium present in the system that when a person reduces their dose or quits Valium, withdrawal symptoms can occur. With significant levels of physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively use Valium or other drugs to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.3, 7, 9

Though benzo prescriptions have gone down since 2018, the widespread legal use of benzodiazepines can make it easier for those who are not prescribed to gain access to them.4 About 80% of people who misuse benzodiazepines receive them from friends or relatives while only 20% misuse prescriptions from their doctors.5

Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

Valium withdrawal symptoms occur when a person who is physically dependent on the drug stops using it abruptly.9 Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous.1 Thus, once dependence develops, it can be extremely difficult to stop using benzodiazepines without medical or professional assistance.

Withdrawal symptoms for benzos like Valium may include:1, 3

  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in your sense perception
  • General feelings of unease
  • Psychosis
  • Increased agitation or irritation
  • Feeling restless
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Digestive disturbances and vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

While they are less common, seizures during benzodiazepine withdrawal can be life-threatening. A longer history of Valium use, at higher doses, and more abrupt cessation of taking the drug increase the chances of experiencing withdrawal seizures and other dangerous symptoms.1, 3

Valium Overdose

If you think that someone has overdosed on Valium or another substance, call 9-1-1 and get help immediately. Staying to help them could be the difference between life and death.

Though it is possible to overdose on benzodiazepines alone, the majority of deaths occur when they are combined with other drugs.10 Combining Valium with alcohol, opioids, or other benzodiazepines significantly increases a person’s risk of overdose.1, 14

In 2020, 91.4% of deaths by benzodiazepine overdose involved opioids.10 Opioids and benzodiazepines can have similar effects and slow down the body’s functions.1, 14 For example, a person taking Valium with an opioid may have their breathing or heart rate slowed by multiple mechanisms, which can quickly lead to coma or death.1, 3, 14

Treatment for Valium Addiction

When a person has a Valium addiction or another benzodiazepine misuse, there are several treatment options available. In general, it is recommended that people who have been on a benzodiazepine for a more significant period of time should undergo supervised detox and withdrawal to focus on the tapering of Valium.12 Valium detox can occasionally involve the use of other benzos or a drug called phenobarbital during the tapering process.12

Inpatient and outpatient treatment settings often offer detox and other interventions to help a person recover from Valium addiction or other substance use disorders.11, 12 Outpatient treatment can last from a few hours a week up to 20 hours per week. You’ll receive the same types of interventions and assessments that are available in inpatient treatment, but you can go home at night and on the weekends.11 Inpatient treatment requires people to stay overnight in the facility during treatment to receive around-the-clock care.11

Finding a treatment plan that best supports you and can address all your unique needs is important for recovery.

Find Valium Addiction Treatment

If you or your loved one is struggling with Valium addiction or misuse, contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) at to speak with our caring admissions team. AAC offers treatment for co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders at locations across the United States. We’re here to help you find the right treatment, check your insurance coverage, and assist you in beginning a new path.