Valium is a common prescription that’s used to treat anxiety and sleep problems. But when it’s abused, it can also cause intoxication similar to drunkenness, euphoria, loss of motor control, and poor judgment. When it’s abused, it can cause dependence and addiction. If you’re worried that your valium use has led to a substance use disorder, keep reading.
Valium is a prescription drug in the benzodiazepine class of psychoactive chemicals. It’s also a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that’s used for its sedative, hypnotic, and anti-anxiety effects.
As a depressant, valium suppresses excitability in the nervous system. It accomplishes this goal by affecting a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is designed to bind to GABA receptors and regulate excitement.
However, people with sleep and anxiety disorders may have issues with a chemical balance, which valium can correct in the short term. But if it’s used for longer than prescribed, it can lead to dependence, addiction, overdose, and withdrawal.
Xanax is another common benzodiazepine that is used to treat anxiety. What is the difference between Xanax and Valium? Those who use Valium do so for many reasons, which include skeletal muscle spasms, seizure disorders, acute alcohol withdrawal, and chronic sleep disorders.
It may seem counterproductive to use Valium in alcohol withdrawal, but when administered under medical supervision, the drug can be extremely beneficial. Valium on its own can cause addiction, and a physician must monitor the use of the drug.
Though addiction is a chronic disease that’s difficult to overcome, it can be treated, as cited in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Plus, addiction often comes with warning signs that will alert you about the development of a substance abuse problem.
Valium addiction can be difficult to identify at first, but this disorder will soon take over different parts of your life so that it will become readily apparent to the people around you.
If you’ve been prescribed valium, it’s important to recognize the signs of addiction. The first sign is tolerance. If you overuse valium, your body may start getting used to it, so the normal dosage starts feeling less effective. If you feel a growing tolerance, talk to your doctor about switching medications or cutting back.
If you compensate for tolerance and increase the dose, you may start developing a chemical dependency. This is when your brain and body have come to rely on a foreign substance to maintain normal brain function and balance its chemistry.
Valium suppresses excitability in the CNS, so the brain may start producing more excitatory chemicals to counteract the drug. When you skip a dose or stop using it, the newly unbridled excitatory chemicals can cause your CNS to become overactive. Withdrawal symptoms may include insomnia, anxiety, tremors, seizures, and delirium tremens.
If you’re worried about a friend or family member, there are warning signs. Learning to recognize these signs can help you avoid some of the most severe consequences of addiction.
When a substance use disorder becomes an addiction, it’s characterized by compulsive drug use, despite serious consequences. For instance, someone who’s addicted to valium will continue using it, even if it interferes with work or relationships.
Since 1963, Valium has been one of the most sought out benzo drugs in the country. Heavy Valium users can experience an intensification of the psychological symptoms that caused them to take Valium to start with. Some of these mental and behavioral changes can include:
Someone that is addicted to Valium will show concern about getting and using the drug. The actions can come at the detriment of their health or well-being. It is common for someone to socially isolate as they gradually spend more time using Valium or recovering from its effects.
The individual may start to neglect work and family obligations, or they can lose interest in their favorite hobbies. Personal grooming and hygiene may also be affected. Those addicted to Valium will start to borrow or steal money to get more of the drug to support their habit.
The long-term effects of abusing Valium can cause adverse effects on someone’s emotional, physical, and psychological health. Unfortunately, thousands around the country will become dependent on Valium’s effects. Benzodiazepine drugs cause pleasurable feelings, which include sedation and relaxation. The most severe long-term impact, however, is an addiction, which is the overwhelming need to use the drug, in spite of consequences.
Addiction is a serious disease with no known cure, but it can be effectively treated, which leads to lifelong sobriety. Addiction treatment is a process that involves medical treatment and psychotherapy with the goal of long-term sobriety.
To effectively treat addiction, your treatment plan has to be tailored to your individual needs. To facilitate personalized treatment, clinicians use the ASAM criteria to help determine the best level of care. The criteria include six dimensions that help clinicians assess the level of intensiveness you need. After you enter a program, you’ll sit down with a therapist to go through a biopsychosocial assessment and create a treatment plan. The assessment will help your therapist better understand your biological, psychological, and social needs.
As a benzodiazepine, Valium has some potentially serious side effects, especially when abused. Common adverse effects include impaired motor function, poor coordination, dizziness, depression, and drowsiness. It’s especially potent in older people who are less able to quickly process the drug, which causes accentuated side effects.
Valium can cause intoxicating effects that are similar to drunkenness. It can lead to injuries and accidents. Therefore, it’s important to avoid operating heavy machinery or driving when taking valium or any other benzo.
Ready to get Help?
Talk to a treatment expert
When used in high doses, it can cause an overdose that results in tachycardia and respiratory depression. However, benzos aren’t as toxic as barbiturates, which is partly why barbiturates were replaced by benzos in the 1960s and 70s. Still, benzos can cause deadly overdoses. They’re especially dangerous when mixed with drugs such as barbiturates, opioids, other benzos, and alcohol.
Like all CNS depressants, valium can be dangerous during withdrawal. Valium suppresses excitability in the CNS, and when you suddenly develop a chemical dependency, your CNS may become overexcited. Without medical treatment, withdrawal can cause severe seizures and other fatal symptoms. However, with medical treatment, your chances of experiencing these symptoms are greatly diminished.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2013, January). Benzodiazepines. Retrieved from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/benzo.pdf#search=benzodiazepines
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 15). Benzodiazepines and Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids
US National Library of Medicine. (2016, May 6). Expanding the Definition of Addiction: DSM-5 vs. ICD-11. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5328289/
Calcaterra, N. E., & Barrow, J. C. (2014, April 16). Classics in chemical neuroscience: diazepam (valium). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990949/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 8: Definition of dependence. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/there-difference-between-physical-dependence-addiction