Side Effects of Diazepam Abuse—Short-Term and Long-Term Effects
Diazepam is a benzodiazepine commonly prescribed under the brand name Valium. This substance depresses the central nervous system (CNS) to manage:1,2
- Muscle spasms.
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Is Diazepam Harmful?
Despite diazepam’s ability to effectively treat the issues listed above, it can be harmful. The substance is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance, indicating its potential for abuse and dependence.
The risk of harm associated with diazepam use increases when:1,2,3
- Use continues for a period longer than 4 months.
- The medication is used in ways other than prescribed (higher doses, more frequent administration, or alternate methods of diazepam use such as injection).
- A user takes diazepam that is not prescribed to them.
- The medication is used with the intention of getting high.
Unfortunately, abuse of the drug is all too common. Consider that:2
- In 2010, nearly 27,000 emergency room visits were related to its use.
- More than 20 million people have abused benzodiazepines like diazepam in their lifetimes.
Diazepam abuse can be fatal. In fact, more than 7,900 people died from benzodiazepine-related overdoses in 2014.3 The risk of death increases when Valium is combined with other substances like alcohol or other CNS depressants (e.g. opioid painkillers like OxyContin). If you’re abusing diazepam, don’t wait to get help. Call for free at to find a treatment program today.
You can also learn more about Valium overdoses.
Short-Term Effects of Valium Use
When it is abused, the sedating effects of Valium use are heightened, and the drug can cause a high marked by:2,3
- A pleasurable or euphoric sensation.
- A state of intoxication similar to that of being drunk, with slurred speech and a lack of coordination.
Valium is sometimes used to intensify the highs of other drugs (e.g. opioid painkillers) or to counteract the side effects of other drugs (e.g. cocaine, amphetamines).2 Abusing multiple substances in this way increases the risk of adverse effects.
Side Effects of Diazepam Use
Whether the medication is prescribed or abused, diazepam can generate a long list of side effects that range from uncomfortable to dangerous and may include:1
- Dry mouth.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, diarrhea).
- Feeling restless, excited, or fidgety.
- Urinary problems.
- Blurred vision.
- Reduced sex drive or sexual functioning.
The following side effects may be dangerous if left untreated:1,2
- Problems walking.
- Feeling shaky or having tremors.
- Problems breathing.
- Irregular heart rate.
With excess doses of diazepam, the risk for and intensity of side effects increases. The likelihood of serious dangers is also heightened any time diazepam is combined with other drugs, such as:3
- Alcohol or alcoholic beverages.
- Prescription painkillers.
- Certain cold or cough medications, like dextromethorphan (DXM).
Long-Term Effects of Diazepam Abuse
Diazepam can contribute to numerous physical and mental symptoms over the long term, including memory problems. Diazepam use and abuse is specifically associated with anterograde amnesia, which entails the inability to remember events that occur after the drug is consumed.2,8
Someone who continually abuses diazepam might also experience:2
Valium Dependence and Addiction
Beyond the physical and mental health risks that come from abusing diazepam over time, continuously misusing this drug may easily lead to addiction, which may be reflected in the following:5,6
- Changing priorities and problems managing responsibilities.
- New and different social circles or increased conflict with loved ones.
- Spending more time focused on getting and using diazepam.
- Financial or legal problems associated with using diazepam.
- An inability to quit use despite efforts to do so.
Addiction is a frequently encountered problem for people abusing diazepam, as is physical drug dependence.
Physical dependence can develop even when a person is taking diazepam as prescribed. Dependence is the body’s adaptation to the constant presence of the drug in the system. Over time, this artificially high level becomes the new normal. Unfortunately, this means that the supply of diazepam must be steady in order for the body to operate optimally.5 Again, physiologic dependence may eventually be present in anyone using the drug for a certain duration of time; however, it may be quicker to develop in those who misuse the drug.
In most cases, those who have become dependent on diazepam will experience a withdrawal syndrome upon attempting to cease or reduce use. Withdrawal from sedatives like diazepam may be dangerous and often necessitates medical monitoring to ensure the safety of the detoxing individual. Symptoms may include:2
- Inability to sleep.
- High levels of anxiety called “rebound anxiety.”
- Dysphoria (a general feeling of dissatisfaction).
- Shakiness and tremors.
Symptom severity will depend on the dose and duration of use. Concurrent use of other substances may further complicate withdrawal and treatment.7
Learn about 3-day, 5-day and 7-day detox programs for Valium addiction.
Diazepam Withdrawal and Addiction Treatment
In many cases, addiction treatment specialists or other medical professionals may recommend a supervised, medical detoxification for people attempting to curtail or altogether quit their use of diazepam. This level of treatment will allow for the safe removal of the remaining medication from the body. Medical providers or staff will be able to address any complications and risks as they arise.
There are several medically managed approaches to diazepam withdrawal treatment. These include:7
- Weaning the individual off of their current dose over the course of weeks or months.
- Switching to another, longer-acting benzodiazepine (e.g. chlordiazepoxide or Librium).
- Substituting phenobarbital in those with especially lengthy periods of high-dose benzodiazepine abuse.
Anticonvulsants and sedating antidepressants like trazodone may be used to manage symptoms of diazepam withdrawal, as well.
Following detoxification, diazepam addiction treatment should begin. Treatment will include behavioral therapies to manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with substance use, while finding ways to build motivation and reward the individual for periods of abstinence. Options include:7
- Engaging the family system in therapy. A positive and effective way to promote recovery.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Working with the individual to understand triggers of use and methods to prevent relapse.
- Interpersonal interviewing techniques. Building an internal sense of motivation and commitment towards recovery.
- Behavior modification therapy and management. Provides rewards for recovery-focused behaviors like community activities and attending treatment.
If you are struggling with Valium misuse, help is available and recovery is possible. Professional treatment can start anyone battling addiction on the path to a happier and healthier life. American Addiction Centers (AAC) runs trusted rehab facilities across the country. A trusted admissions navigator with AAC can guide you through the rehabilitation and recovery process and answer any questions you may have about treatment. To begin the process of exploring Valium addiction treatment options for you or a loved one, call us free at .