How to Treat Diazepam Addiction

Table of Contents

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), is the fourth most popular benzodiazepine in the US. Diazepam is prescribed for the treatment of 2,3:

  • Anxiety.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Seizures.
  • 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 an Addict

If you do 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.

Educate Yourself

consultation for Diazepam addiction

Understanding diazepam and its effects on a user will aid in your ability to effectively approach your loved one.

It can be helpful to understand the physical changes produced by diazepam. For example, once consumed, diazepam interacts with chemical messengers in the brain to enhance the effects of gamma- aminobutyric acid (GABA). In this process, GABA works to slow the brain activity, which leads to the drug’s depressant effects 1.

Knowing and recognizing thesigns of intoxication will also help you to understand the extent of the problem—that is, you’ll be able to better assess the frequency and intensity of use. People abusing diazepam may appear drunk, as many effects overlap with alcohol use. They will likely appear sedated and, in some case, they may confused or appear to be in a stupor 1,3,8. Even though these symptoms may not sound appealing to someone who doesn’t use Valium, the pleasurable sensations triggered by this sedative often lead to the desire to repeat use.

Also, know that diazepam shares many properties with other benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin 1, so your loved one may be abusing other benzos interchangeably as their needs and the availability of the drugs change. These drugs all provide similar effects but will differ slightly in how quickly these effects are felt and how long they last.

Lastly, learning about addiction will provide the opportunity to develop realistic expectations of your loved one and create a plan. However, it’s important to understand that addiction changes the brain and can alter normal decision-making; so, despite your efforts, your loved one may initially refuse your offers to help 4. This is not a sign to give up, though. Continued support and communication will increase your chances of eventual success.

Communicate Effectively

Effective communication

Once armed with accurate information and a period of observation, you may approach your loved one from an educated position to communicate your concerns and goals.

Remember—it is not enough to understand the problem. You must be able to communicate compassionately and nonjudgmentally at the best time in a place that promotes feelings of safety, calm, and support.

Be sure to choose a time that your loved one is not intoxicated and your feelings are under control. If you enter the situation with intense emotions, your loved one is more likely to respond with anger, shame, and worry 4.

While you can’t predict how a conversation will go, there are certain ways you can communicate to raise your chances of getting your loved one to accept help 5:

  • Approach your loved one with a calm, nonjudgmental stance that emphasizes teamwork and a common goal.
  • Have a plan and direction for the meeting while remaining flexible.
  • Ask many questions to understand their perspective and struggles.
  • Communicate your position clearly and follow up with consistency.
  • State your belief in their abilities and the positive characteristics they possess.


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 calledCommunity 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.
  • Encourageprofessional treatment when opportunities emerge.


A formal intervention is a group meeting where 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 anformal or staged intervention should understand the potential drawbacks 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 that organizes and leads the meeting 4.


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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 significantsymptoms 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.

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. 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 activiteis, 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 thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the individual are connected to and influence use.
  • Communication-Based Family therapy. To treat the individual and the people in their environment, family therapy will include significant supports to address communication and overall family functioning.

Is Diazepam Addictive?

Am I Addicted to Diazepam?

Consider these indications that you are addicted 4:

  • You have experienced a shift in your friends, interests, and priorities.
  • You spend more time working to obtain and use diazepam.
  • People have repeatedly asked you to stop.
  • You have tried to end or cut back your use with no success.
  • You have encountered problems with school, work, money, or the law due because of your use.
  • Your mental health and physical health have been declining.

Yes. Even when the substance is used as prescribed, it has the potential to be addictive. As use increases beyond the 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 1.

Call Our Hotline Today

Diazepam addiction doesn’t have to rule your life or the life of someone you love. Call 1-888-744-0069 today to take your first step toward finding help today.

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Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, is a professional counselor who has been working for over a decade to help children, adolescents, and adults in western Pennsylvania reach their goals and improve their well-being.

Along the way, Eric worked as a collaborating investigator for the field trials of the DSM-5 and completed an agreement to provide mental health treatment to underserved communities with the National Health Service Corp.

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