Is Valium Harmful?
Valium, a popular sedative-hypnotic prescription drug, has numerous effects on the body, many of which can be dangerous when the drug is misused or abused. Valium (diazepam) is prescribed for sleeplessness, anxiety, muscle spasms, and sometimes for the management of alcohol withdrawal.
Valium is in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Valium and other drugs like it act to potentiate the effects of a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system known as GABA—resulting in depression of a number of brain processes. It has historically been prescribed in the short-term for its anticonvulsant and anti-anxiety properties.
Like many of the benzodiazepines, Valium has become popular amongst those seeking to get high as a result of its depressant effects. Many abusers of Valium take it combination with alcohol and/or other substances. Abuse occurs when a user:
- Takes excess doses.
- Takes more frequent doses than prescribed.
- Takes it via alternate methods (such as injection or via crushing and snorting it to enhance the high.
A marked physical dependency to Valium can result quite quickly when abused.
How do you know if you or a loved one is addicted? Find out here.
Short-Term Effects of Valium
Valium decreases activity in the nervous system, including the way brain signaling or communication takes place between various brain centers. When a user abuses the drug, they experience a high that includes:
- Lack of coordination.
- Feeling of being drunk.
After the Valium high peaks, there can be a period of withdrawal—experienced as a comedown or crash. The mellow feeling begins to disappear as the brain rebounds and speeds up from its drugged state and produces other undesirable effects, such as:
- Anxiety (sometimes more intense than the original anxiety).
- Rapid heart rate.
- Stomach cramps.
Most addicts counteract the crash with more Valium or another drug to slow down the body and produce once again the sluggish, happy feeling.
The danger of continually taking Valium, however, is that the body quickly builds a tolerance that makes it harder and harder to reach the euphoric state with the same amount of Valium, so the user will need to take increasing doses—upping the risk of severe addiction and overdose. The compulsion to take ever-increasing amounts of Valium is one of the signs of addiction.
When used properly, Valium does not produce the same effects as it does when abused/misused. Valium has side effects with proper use, but these are temporary and should go away after a few standard doses.
The Dangers of Valium
- For 13 years, Valium was the most prescribed drug in America.
- Valium is used in veterinary medicine. Many users obtain Valium through veterinarians, rather than doctors.
- Diazepam has over 500 different brands worldwide.
- It is commonly believed that over 1 million people have been prescribed benzodiazepines their entire adult lives.
Some of the most common side effects of Valium include:
- Dry mouth.
- Decreased respiratory rate.
- Changes in heart rate/rhythm.
- Slurred speech.
- Delayed reflexes.
- Appetite changes.
- Trouble urinating.
- Blurred vision.
- Decreased memory consolidation.
Valium Long-Term Effects
Heavy use of Valium over an extended period of time can have powerful effects on the brain and body. These effects can be permanent and, in some cases, life-threatening. The long-term effects of Valium include:
- Memory loss.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Slowed pulse.
- Heart attack.
Valium addiction can also cause social isolation, job loss, and financial difficulties. It can even lead to permanent physical damage from accidents that occur while under the influence of the drug.
Lasting health effects of Valium
Chronic use or abuse of sedatives such as Valium is associated with:
- Aggressive behavior.
- Cognitive deficits.
- Psychotic experiences.
- Further drug abuse.
Between 2005 and 2011, nearly 1 million emergency room visits involved either benzodiazepine use or benzodiazepines in combination with opiate painkillers or alcohol.
-SAMHSA, DAWN Report (2014)
After a relatively short period of time, Valium use can become a Valium addiction. The brain can quickly become dependent on the effects the drug provides.
With increasing use, tolerance builds, making ever-increasing doses of Valium required for a high. Addiction also takes hold once the user becomes convinced they need Valium to face the world. Once this happens, the user will begin facing withdrawal whenever the use of the drug is abruptly ceased. Learn more about withdrawal symptoms below.
Valium withdrawals are not exclusive to drug addicts; they can be experienced by anyone taking the drug, prescribed or otherwise. Patients who take the drug longer than advised can experience potentially dangerous withdrawals when suddenly ceasing Valium use. Close medical supervision is advised in any benzodiazepine withdrawal situation.
Addicts who experience withdrawals usually do so after prolonged use. Frequent and heavy Valium use can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms including:
…If I didn’t take it, my hands started to shake. I felt like I had a neurological disease or Parkinson’s…I went in for 47 days, and it made Betty Ford look like a cakewalk…My hair turned gray and my skin molted. I could hardly walk… I was terrified to leave, and I came away knowing that that would never happen to me again.
- Respiratory distress.
- Personality changes.
Withdrawals are best treated under the care of medical staff at a detox center. There, the physician can stabilize the symptoms and lessen the effects of withdrawal. It’s important to understand that withdrawal from Valium can be exceedingly uncomfortable, so many users may abandon their detox efforts and return to use in order to allay the symptoms of anxiety or seizure.
Not everyone gets the help they need for drug addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 23.5 million people needed treatment for illicit drug addiction, but only 2.6 million actually received it. Don’t be one of the large numbers of people who let addiction control their lives. You can get the help you need today.