Librium, which is a brand name formulation of chlordiazepoxide, belongs to a class of sedative medications known as benzodiazepines. Librium has been widely used as a treatment for anxiety and for managing the symptoms of alcohol and other sedative withdrawal syndromes 1, 2, 3, 4.
Benzodiazepines are controlled substances due to their high potential for abuse and addiction 5.
Is Librium Harmful?
When used properly and under the supervision of a doctor, Librium is considered safe. However, if Librium is used in higher doses, more frequently, or for a longer period of time than directed by a doctor, it can speed up the onset of tolerance, give rise to number of damaging health effects, and ultimately lead to compulsive patterns of use 1. Tolerance occurs when the individual experiences a diminished response to Librium, thus requiring more of the drug to feel desired effects. Misusing and abusing Librium can also increase the likelihood of addiction.
The potential for adverse effects increases when Librium is mixed with other substances, including certain illicit and prescription drugs, as well as alcohol 1,2. Mixing alcohol or opioids, such as heroin or prescription painkillers, with Librium can increase the risk of overdose and death 5.
Librium’s Short-Term Effects
Librium is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which means that it slows down brain activity. The short-term effects of Librium may include 5:
- Feelings of well-being.
Benzodiazepines can reduce feelings of anxiety and provide these effects relatively quickly, which makes them more likely to be abused by people looking for quick relaxation or an escape from stress and anxiety 6. Many people struggle to deal with emotions and common stressors in day-to-day life, and these individuals may abuse Librium or other benzodiazepines to achieve a state of emotional numbness 5. Other abusers may simply be seeking a sedating “high”.
People who are addicted to or abuse multiple substances may use Librium for other purposes, such as to 5:
- Self-manage symptoms of opioid or alcohol withdrawal.
- Come down from a cocaine high.
- Increase the euphoric high from opioids like hydrocodone or oxycodone.
- Increase the effects of alcohol.
Physical and psychological side effects may occur even with appropriate prescription use of Librium. However, misusing or abusing Librium will increase the risk of experiencing these harmful effects, as well as other complications.
Physical Side Effects
Physical side effects may include 1, 5, 6, 7:
- Dry mouth.
- Slurred speech.
- Coordination problems.
- Unsteady gait.
- Uncontrolled eye movements.
- Changes in appetite.
- Upset stomach.
- Low blood pressure.
- Slowed breathing.
Psychological Side Effects
Psychological side effects can include 5, 6, 7:
- Emotional blunting.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Memory loss.
- Suicidal ideation.
In addition, it’s possible that a Librium user may experience paradoxical disinhibition, which is a reaction characterized by symptoms that differ from its usual anxiolytic and sedating effects profile. These symptoms include 5:
- Increased excitement.
In rare cases, this type of reaction may result in violent or antisocial behaviors 5.
Long-Term Effects of Abusing Librium
Librium and other benzodiazepines are not recommended for long-term use 1. Although Librium is generally considered safe when taken as prescribed by a doctor, chronic Librium misuse or abuse can lead to the following long-term effects:
- Physical dependence: Physical dependence develops due to changes in the brain. The body becomes accustomed to the presence of Librium and users may begin to require the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms. (Note: While dependence may occur in individuals who do not misuse the drug and is a normal effect of continued use of any drug, it can be a contributing factor to the development of addiction.
- Tolerance: The user may require increasing amounts of Librium to experience the same effects. As tolerance develops, Librium users may incorporate alcohol or other drugs to achieve the desired effect.
- Addiction: Many people abuse Librium for the feelings of euphoria and relaxation it produces. This abuse can lead to problematic patterns of Librium use that cause significant impairment and distress in the user’s life.
- Polydrug abuse: Substance users typically abuse multiple drugs. Benzodiazepines are often used concurrently with alcohol or opioids 5. Polydrug use can increase the risk of harmful consequences and death.
Social and Lifestyle Consequences
Long-term Librium abuse can lead to several consequences in a user’s life, such as:
- Impaired work or school performance.
- Excessive absences.
- Job loss.
- Suspension or expulsion from school.
- Loss of friends.
- Child neglect.
- Physical injuries due to accidents.
- Legal problems.
- Overreliance on Librium 5.
- Loss of self-confidence 5.
- Drug-seeking behaviors 5.
Addiction is characterized by continued Librium use despite the aforementioned consequences. If you or a loved one suffers from an addiction to Librium, call 1-888-744-0069 to learn about different treatment options.
Dependence and Addiction
Librium is a medication that can precipitate substance abuse, especially when taken in any way other than prescribed 1. Chronic use of Librium is associated with an increased risk of tolerance and dependence. Dependence is the state in which the body has come to rely on Librium to function as expected. Once tolerance and dependence develop, the user may get caught in a vicious cycle of compulsively using and increasing the dose to dangerous levels in order to achieve the “high” and avoid withdrawal symptoms 5.
Long-term Librium abuse can lead to physiologic dependence on the drug, and can ultimately lead to an addiction or Librium use disorder. Warning signs of Librium addiction can include 7:
- Combining Librium with alcohol or other drugs to achieve the desired effect.
- Experiencing strong cravings for Librium.
- Feeling unable to quit using Librium.
- Failing to meet responsibilities at school, work, or home.
- Continuing to use Librium despite physical, psychological, and interpersonal problems.
- Feeling the need to use Librium regularly.
- Participating in risky activities while under the influence (such as driving).
- Reducing social activities that don’t involve Librium.
- Taking larger doses of Librium or for longer periods of time than prescribed or intended.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit.
An acute Librium withdrawal syndrome can occur after use is stopped or suddenly reduced. Some of the symptoms are unpleasant or uncomfortable, while others can be life-threatening.
Librium withdrawal is typically comprised of acute or short-term symptoms and protracted or post-acute withdrawal symptoms 5. Acute withdrawal symptoms typically develop within a few hours to a few days after quitting Librium use 7. These symptoms may include 5,7:
Protracted withdrawal symptoms, which may last several months, include 5:
- Prolonged anxiety.
- Chronic insomnia.
- Hand tremors.
- Rebound anxiety.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- Unintentional and repetitive movements.
- Rebound insomnia.
- Increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli.
These prolonged symptoms may result from chemical changes in the brain due to chronic Librium use 5.
Since Librium withdrawal is associated with seizures and delirium tremens similar to that of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, the safest approach to quitting Librium is to detox under the supervision of a doctor or in a specialized detox facility. These facilities ensure that you are closely monitored by trained medical staff while withdrawing from Librium. A professional treatment team can help to alleviate unpleasant, physical symptoms and provide emotional support throughout the process.
The detox program typically involves gradually tapering the medication, while monitoring withdrawal symptoms 8. A detox facility provides the patient with a safe and controlled environment free of stressors and triggers. The treatment team will create an individualized detox plan based on your needs and will address any underlying conditions, such as an anxiety disorder 8. Besides tapering, management of Librium withdrawal may be conducted in other ways, including 8:
- Preparing the patient for detox in a low-stress environment.
- Using anti-seizure medications, such as carbamazepine or valproate.
- Administering antidepressants with sedative effects, such as trazodone or imipramine.
When combined with cognitive and behavioral therapies, medication-assisted detox can benefit those recovering from benzodiazepine dependence. It’s important to note that detox is just the first step on the road to recovery. Transitioning to an extended treatment program, such as an inpatient or outpatient program, once detox is completed can help you to address the underlying issues influencing your addiction and build coping skills for the future. There are multiple types of treatment for those seeking to get help for Librium addiction, including inpatient or residential programs, partial hospitalization, and other outpatient substance abuse treatment programs.
If you or someone you know is abusing Librium or other drugs, call our helpline at 1-888-744-0069 to learn about these various treatment types.
Resources, Articles, and More Information
For more information, check out the following related articles:
- Finding Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction.
- The Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse.
- 7 Things About Benzo Withdrawal You Might Not Know.
- Are Benzos Overprescribed?
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2012). Chlordiazepoxide.
- University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. (2010). Chlordiazepoxide.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2015). Drugs of abuse.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Well-known mechanism underlies benzodiazepines’ addictive properties.
- Longo, L.P., & Johnson, B. (2000). Addiction: part I. Benzodiazepines – side effects, abuse risk and alternatives. American Family Physician, 61(7), 2121-2128.
- Mayo Clinic. (2014). Drug addiction.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Treatment Guide for Clinicians.