Overdose rates increased from 0.58 to 3.07 per 100,000 adults between 1996 and 2013.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports a 4.3-fold increase in the total number of deaths due to benzodiazepine overdose between 2002 and 2015 2. And according to a study published in 2016 in the American Journal of Public Health, overdose rates increased from 0.58 to 3.07 per 100,000 adults between 1996 and 2013 3. With these alarming rates in mind, it’s crucial to do everything you can to prevent a Valium overdose in yourself or a loved one.
Signs and Symptoms of Valium Overdose
Being aware of the signs and symptoms can help you get assistance for yourself or a loved one who might be suffering from a Valium overdose. One of the more common signs of a Valium overdose is a deep, difficult-to-rouse-from sleep or coma-like state with maintained breathing (though it may progress to respiratory distress in short order). Other possible signs and symptoms may include 4:
- Blue lips or nails.
- Blurry or double vision.
- Confused mental state.
- Feelings of depression.
- Dizziness, unable to stay upright.
- Uncoordinated movements.
- Breathing difficulties or complete cessation of breath.
- Unresponsiveness; not seeming alert.
A person experiencing an overdose may exhibit just a few of these signs. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, seek medical attention immediately.
Used alone and as directed by a physician, benzodiazepines like Valium are generally considered safe. However, your risk of overdose may increase if you 5,6:
- Use Valium in combination with alcohol.
- Use other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as Xanax.
- Use other drugs with Valium (polysubstance abuse).
- Take high doses of the drug.
- Take Valium more frequently than intended.
- Stop the drug suddenly and then resume using it with the same dose. If you take the drug for a certain period, your body develops tolerance. If you stop using it, your tolerance decreases. When you resume using the same dose as before, your body will likely not be accustomed to it, which can result in an overdose.
What to Do If You Overdose on Valium
If you think you or someone you care about might be experiencing a Valium overdose, you can help by following a few important steps. Try to remain calm and call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room immediately (never drive yourself if you are experiencing the overdose).
In addition, you can assist a person by 4,7:
- Gathering vital details about them, such as weight, height, and physical condition.
- Obtaining information about the dose and the last time the person took the drug. If possible, bring the container—even if it is empty—with you to the ER or give it to the EMTs.
- Putting the person on their side if they are breathing, but appear unconscious.
- Preventing them from taking any more Valium.
- Avoiding lecturing or giving your opinion about the person’s drug use.
Preventing Valium Overdose
The best way to avoid a Valium overdose is to avoid abusing Valium to begin with. Valium should not be used for purposes other than originally prescribed.
You can also take several additional steps to help prevent an overdose, such as 7:
- Knowing exactly what you are taking, including the dose. Keep the packaging that the medication came in.
- Educating yourself about the signs and side effects of an overdose.
- Throwing away old or expired medications.
- Avoiding combining Valium with alcohol or other substances.
- Taking a lower dose of Valium if it has been a while since you last used it.
- Using it in the presence of another person. If you do happen to overdose, that person can reach out for help.
- Avoiding using Valium or other drugs from unknown sources.
If you think you might have an addiction to Valium, talking to your doctor and seeking professional substance abuse treatment may help prevent an overdose. Getting professional help before it’s too late can also help you get started on the path to clean and sober living and help you take back control of your life.
Some of the types of treatment you might consider to overcome your Valium addiction include:
- Detox. This is often the first step in a comprehensive treatment plan to address Valium addiction. Since withdrawal from benzodiazepines such as Valium may be severe, many are advised to select a medical detox center, which provides expert medical attention and offers medication to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. If clinical suspicion for a complicated withdrawal process is low (as may be the case with those with relatively mild addictions), and if a treatment professional endorses it, a non-medical, or social detox—which relies more on social support and a healthy, positive, drug-free environment—may be an option. You can choose to attend detox at either the inpatient or outpatient level.
- Inpatient. You might opt for a short-term inpatient facility that requires a stay of a few weeks, or a long-term facility, which may require a stay of several months. In either case, inpatient facilities provide 24/7 care and support and offer treatments such as individual and group therapy, 12-step programs, vocational rehabilitation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and relapse prevention classes.
- Executive. Those with demanding careers or high-profile positions may opt for an executive treatment facility, which provides similar treatment modalities as inpatient facilities, yet also offers more luxurious accommodations and amenities. Many permit time to work, meet clients, and even travel for work purposes.
- Luxury. If you want your recovery to feel a bit like a vacation, you might choose a luxury treatment facility, which offers 5-star amenities such as spa treatments, gourmet meals, holistic therapies, and private rooms, as well as the standard inpatient treatment modalities.
- Outpatient. Depending on your specific needs, you can choose from a few different outpatient treatment types. Partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient are more structured and intense forms of treatment where you live at home and attend treatment several times per week for several hours a day. Standard outpatient is usually best suited for those who do not require as high a level of support—in most cases, you attend treatment 1–2 days or evenings per week for 1–2 hours.
- Male- or female-only. Some people feel an environment without the presence of the opposite sex is more conducive to their recovery. Male- or female-only treatment might also eliminate the temptation to start a relationship with someone of the opposite sex during treatment, which can be counterproductive and distracting to the recovery process.
- Veteran. Veteran treatment facilities provide comprehensive, multifaceted care that not only focuses on treating the addiction but also addresses any unique co-occurring disorders and health or social issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or career concerns.
An addiction to benzodiazepines like Valium is usually best treated with a combination of gradual dose reduction and psychological therapies 7. In addition to detox, research has shown that behavioral therapies, such as contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy, can help people make positive life changes and better manage relationships with others, learn new and healthier ways of thinking and adapting to their environments, and help prevent relapse 8.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Benzodiazepines.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Overdose Death Rates.
- Bachhuber, M.A., Hennessy, S., Cunningham, C.O. & Starrels, J.L. (2016). Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996–2013. American Journal of Public Health, 106 (4), 686–688.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. (2015). Diazepam overdose.
- Longo, L. & Johnson, B. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines—Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives. American Family Physician, 61 (7), 2121–2128.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2008). Valium Prescribing Information.
- Victoria State Government: Better Health Channel. (2014). Drug Overdose.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). How Can Prescription Drug Addiction be Treated?