What Is Valium?
Valium is a benzodiazepine prescribed by medical doctors and psychiatrists to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Historically, Valium has been a popular pharmaceutical agent--widely used for its muscle relaxant, anti-convulsant, and sedative properties.
The substance is also known by its generic name, diazepam. Valium is a depressant drug that strengthens the effects of a neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA works to slow down brain activity, so increasing GABA neurotransmission will result in less activity and reduced anxiety.
Valium is a potential drug of abuse that can result in problems like physiological dependence, tolerance, and addiction when used for an extended period of time, at high doses, or for reasons other than prescribed.
Having a legitimate prescription does not eliminate the potential for abuse.
The general feeling of relaxation that Valium induces is what has made it one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the sedative or tranquilizer category.
Another factor is the availability of the substance. In 2011, Valium was the fourth most-prescribed benzodiazepine in the US, with 15 million prescriptions written, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Valium Abuse question 1
Signs and Symptoms
Gaining awareness that you have a problem with Valium is not going to happen immediately, but knowing the progression from abuse to addiction will aid in your understanding. Being prescribed the substance can make the abuse process more covert and confusing to both the user and those around them.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Consider the following questions regarding the signs and symptoms of abuse:
- Do you use the drug every day?
- Do you use the substance in ways other than prescribed?
- Do you always have some Valium on hand?
- Do you feel anxious when your supply begins to run low?
- Do you feel the need to take Valium to get your day started?
- Have you tried to stop using the substance with no success?
- Will you do something illegal to get it?
- Have aspects of your life become more negative due to the substance?
- Are you taking it even though you have no medical reason to do so?
- Do you continue to take the substance even though you've faced negative consequences?
- Do you need to keep taking a larger dose to get the same results?
The answers to these questions will provide more information regarding the potential risk of addiction and dependence.
While the questions above speak to someone abusing the medication, the following are signs that you might notice in someone else. They include:
- A change in appearance/hygiene.
- Slow movements and speech.
- Change in eating habits.
- Loss of coordination.
- Frequent somnolence, or excessive sleepiness.
Effects of Valium Abuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns of some of the negative effects of Valium. They include:
- Clumsiness and inability to perform the physical activities you enjoy.
- Mood swings and bouts of depression.
- Problems with memory and concentration.
- Tendencies toward aggression and violence.
- Slowed respiration and reduced blood pressure.
- Lethargy and/or sleepiness.
- Lack of motivation.
- Physical and psychological dependence on the drug with severe withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use.
Taking excess amounts of Valium increases the risk of an accidental overdose. This could end in a coma or even death, especially if it is paired with other drugs like alcohol, which also produces depressant effects on the body.
Valium Abuse question 3
To gain a better understanding of Valium, the amount of people abusing the drug, and the risks associated, consider the following statistics also from the DEA:
- A 2011 survey found that more than 20 million people over the age of 12 in the US had abused a benzodiazepine like Valium in their lifetime.
- Valium is frequently moved to the illicit market, with over 6,500 reports of the substance to forensic laboratories in the US during 2011.
- The Drug Abuse Warning Network reported that 345,000 emergency room visits in 2010 were related to benzodiazepines such as Valium. Many of these were in combination with alcohol.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports prescription painkillers, which would include Valium, are responsible for more than 36,000 fatal overdoses. This number surpasses the number of deaths attributed to heroin and cocaine.
Learn more at our article, Valium History and Statistics.
Valium Abuse question 4
...I went in for 47 days, and it made Betty Ford look like a cakewalk...My hair turned grey 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.
Realizing you have a problem abusing Valium can be a scary, confusing, intimidating experience. Depending on the intensity and frequency of your usage, the experience could also be dangerous because benzodiazepine withdrawal can trigger unwanted symptoms including:
- Gastrointestinal upset.
- Discomfort and aches.
- Panic attacks.
In more extreme situations, withdrawal can lead to seizures or death.
With the inherent risks, Valium withdrawal should be overseen by specialists to ensure safety and comfort of the patient. Treatment usually begins with the detoxification process where the medical staff will prescribe a tapering schedule, to wean the patient off the amount of Valium in a way that minimizes withdrawal symptoms. This can be accomplished in a number of inpatient and outpatient settings.
Following the detoxification process, many elect to attend either inpatient residential rehab or outpatient treatment.
Inpatient treatment options like rehabilitation centers will require residence at the facility for a period of time ranging from one month to a year. While there, the patient will focus on recovery from substance abuse while undergoing various therapeutic interventions to improve mental and physical health. A large part of rehab will focus on determining the reasons behind the addiction and learning methods of coping without Valium use after treatment.
In an outpatient setting, the patient continues living at home for the duration of treatment. Outpatient treatment may include mental health visits and drug and alcohol counseling that can range from one hour weekly to day-long or half-day programs. Individual and group treatments may be recommended to maximize the resulting benefit.
Recovery from a drug of abuse like Valium is a long-term commitment that requires continual support and assistance. Healthy community supports, contact with loved ones and participation in 12-step programs can provide additional assistance to someone recovering from Valium abuse.
Valium Abuse question 5
Valium Abuse question 6
Teen Valium Abuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse report for 2014 shows that 4.7% of high school seniors had used some type of tranquilizer for recreational purposes during that year and 7.4% of them had abused these substances in their lifetime.
The Department of Health and Family Services says teenagers who have used sedatives for nonmedical reasons get them from friends or family members who have a valid prescription; most are given to them at no cost, which makes the drug more available to try and cheaper to obtain.
Resources, Articles and More Information
For more information, check out the following related articles:
You can also visit our Forum to join the conversation about benzodiazepine abuse and addiction today.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Benzodiazepines.
- Newsweek. (2011). Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac on her Pill Addiction.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.) Prescription Depressant Medications.