How to Treat Diazepam Addiction
Diazepam is the generic name for the anxiolytic medication, Valium. Diazepam is a member of a large class of substances called benzodiazepines and, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), it is the fourth most popular benzodiazepine in the US. Diazepam is prescribed for the treatment of:2,3
- Muscle spasms.
- Acute alcohol withdrawal.
The DEA reported 15 million prescriptions for diazepam in 2011 alone.1 With millions of people holding prescriptions for a medication with such a strong abuse potential, you may already know someone who is suffering from the effects of Valium addiction.
How to Approach a Valium Addict
If you know someone addicted to diazepam, you may be struggling with how to approach them in a way that gives you the best chances of both improving their situation and preserving your relationship. Addiction makes doing this difficult and renders the outcome unpredictable; however, you can take measured steps to improve your odds of success. For the best results, consider a two-part approach based on education and communication.
If you worry about your ability to effectively approach your loved one, you can find support in a form of psychotherapy aimed at loved ones of addicts. This specialized treatment is called Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). CRAFT strives to teach you to:6
- Identify substance use.
- Understand how substance use develops.
- Modify your reactions and responses to the addicted individual.
- Improve your communication skills.
- Provide consistent limits.
- Care for your own well-being.
- Encourage professional addiction treatment when opportunities emerge.
Intervention for Diazepam Misuse
A formal intervention is a group meeting wherein the diazepam user is confronted by those who love them and asked to end their substance use and seek treatment immediately. Through the use of positive peer pressure and by explaining future consequences of continuing to abuse the drug, interventions work to promote treatment.
Those considering a formal or staged intervention should understand the potential drawbacks of doing so before attempting to plan one. Due to the intense emotions expressed during an intervention, relationships may be damaged, and the user may feel defensive and resistant to accepting help. To reduce the risk of harm, consider the use of an interventionist—a trained professional who organizes and leads the meeting.4
Valium Addiction Treatment
Ending diazepam addiction is not always dangerous, but it does pose unique challenges in the form of increased risks of agitation, seizures and delirium.8 Because terminating use can bring about significant symptoms of withdrawal, medically assisted detoxification is often recommended as the most appropriate course of treatment. Detoxification allows the body to process and remove diazepam from the system while a medication team assesses vitals, improves comfort, and manages any medical complications that may come about during the process.8 Learn about 3-day, 5-day and 7-day detox programs.
Medical treatment of diazepam addiction may include:8
- Gradually reducing the dose over a period of weeks or months (particularly important for users taking high doses).
- Switching to another benzodiazepine medication with a slower onset of action and potentially less abuse potential such as chlordiazepoxide (Librium) in order to mitigate seizure risks during withdrawal.
- Switching from diazepam to a long-acting barbiturate, such as phenobarbital.
Following detoxification, the recovering individual will continue addiction treatment through behavioral interventions, such as:9
- Motivational nurturing and interviewing. This treatment works to nurture and develop intrinsic motivation to end drug use and enter into a period of recovery rather than relying on incentives from outside sources.
- Extrinsic reward factors/contingency management. Instead of focusing on intrinsic motivators, this style rewards the individual with tangible reinforcers and prizes for completing recovery-focused behaviors like attending appointments, engaging in community activities, and submitting clean drug tests.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy/coping strategies. An effective treatment for a range of mental health and substance abuse issues, this treatment investigates how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the individual are connected to and influence substance use.
- Communication-based family therapy. To treat the individual in their environment, family therapy will include significant supports to address communication and overall family functioning.
Is Diazepam Addictive?
Yes. Even when Valium is used as prescribed, it has the potential to be addictive. As use increases beyond recommended doses, the likelihood of addiction grows significantly.
Like other substances of abuse, diazepam triggers a very pleasurable, rewarding feeling for the individual. Someone seeking to recreate these feelings time and again may find themselves taking more and more diazepam over time and neglecting other healthy activities that naturally provide a sense of pleasure and reward.
What Are the Signs of Addiction?
Addiction to diazepam is both problematic and all-too-common. According to the DEA, nearly 20.5 million people reported lifetime abuse of benzodiazepines in 2011.1
Noting the signs of addiction can be complex and uncertain for anyone, and when the drug is legal and/or prescribed it can be more challenging to identify the problem in yourself or someone you love. Remember, you or your loved one is abusing diazepam if:10
- The prescription is used in ways not recommended by the prescriber.
- The substance is used only to get intoxicated.
- The substance is consumed to enhance or counteract another substance, for example to boost opioid effects or reduce the unwanted side effects of cocaine use.1
How to Find Diazepam Addiction Treatment
Diazepam addiction doesn’t have to rule your life or that of someone you love. Professional treatment can start anyone battling substance misuse on the path to a happier and healthier life. American Addiction Centers (AAC) runs trusted rehab facilities across the country. Call AAC for free at to take your first step toward finding help today.
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