If you’ve battled extreme stress, anxiety, and panic attacks, you’ve most likely had to use Valium at one point or another.
Introduced in the 1960s, the initial release of Valium was celebrated because it was a safer and less habit-forming alternative to barbiturates. It had fewer side effects too.
To this day, Valium is still a widely used and preferred drug. However, because it’s milder, abuse and dependency happen on a subtler scale. Patients initially use it to address legitimate medical concerns but may soon inadvertently find themselves using it to continue functioning normally.
Since its side effects and withdrawal symptoms are less noticeable, it can be hard for patients to know if they’ve developed an unhealthy reliance on the drug.
In this article, we learn about what it is, Valium side effects, withdrawal symptoms, what to expect, and available treatments for detoxing.
What is Valium?
Valium is the brand name for diazepam. This prescription drug treats anxiety disorders, convulsive disorders, skeletal muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
This anti-anxiety drug belongs to the family of benzodiazepines. In the past, it was used to treat insomnia. Valium for alcohol withdrawal symptoms has also been a proven methodology widely used for medically-assisted alcohol detoxification.
Valium has earned a nickname for being the “blockbuster drug.” Introduced in 1963, this drug became a popular remedy in the medical field. From 1969 to 1983, it was so favored that it was the most-prescribed drug in America.
Its popularity peaked in 1978 with sales peaking to an impressive $2.3 billion.
The Virtues of Valium
Diazepam was a breakthrough in medicine because it was a more effective anti-anxiety medication with a lower risk for abuse and less intense side effects. Because of these advantages, it became the ideal replacement for more dangerous barbiturates.
Between 1980 and 1990, controversies surrounding the drug exploded as doctors overprescribed Valium. Many patients who were taking it began abusing Valium and became dependent on it.
Additionally, it was discovered that some doctors would prescribe the drug for off-label purposes which only served to increase the number of people who became addicted.
While this caused a slight decline in Valium’s popularity, this tranquilizer is still widely used in the US as the most efficient psychoactive drug.
Valium and Xanax
Valium and Xanax are considered minor tranquilizers. They are both brand-name drugs. The generic name for Valium is diazepam while the generic name for Xanax is alprazolam.
Both prescription drugs work by enhancing the efficiency of the transmission of gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, an amino acid that functions as the brain’s neurotransmitter. By doing so, the drug effectively decreases the activity and sensitivity in the central nervous system.
Though they have similar effects, they are not the same thing. However, both can be habit-forming to the point of dependence. If a patient tries to suddenly stop taking them, they may experience diazepam withdrawal and alprazolam withdrawal symptoms.
Valium and Addiction
Valium helps episodes of panic and anxiety, relieves painful muscle spasms, and prevents convulsions and seizures by calming the brain and nerves. It induces a feeling of calm and relaxation in the user that effectively and almost immediately reduces symptoms.
Unfortunately, because the side effects and withdrawal symptoms are milder, it can be harder to become aware of the transition from legitimate use to abuse.
As with all drugs, its frequent and continued use, particularly in increasing doses can result in an addiction. Physical and mental addiction to Valium can happen in as little as two weeks of continuously taking it.
It can be hard to know when you’ve crossed the line between taking Valium for an ailment and taking it due to a growing dependence on the drug but common characteristics of addiction still apply. If you find yourself taking it in increasing doses, taking it more often than you’ve been prescribed, or taking it with other substances like alcohol to magnify its calming effects, you should look for ways to discontinue using it.
Since Valium addiction can be hard to detect, particularly in the early days, we list down signs of addiction below. If you identify with these descriptions, it’s a good idea to discuss your concerns with your doctor and talk about what can be done to address the situation.
- Your appetite has changed. It may have increased or decreased.
- You try but repeatedly fail to cut down your Valium intake.
- You proactively and consciously take diazepam in higher doses and/or more often than prescribed.
- You find yourself craving Valium. You feel weak without it.
- You notice a lack of coordination in your movements.
- You’ve been feeling irritable and depressed for no apparent reason.
- You are distancing yourself from family and friends.
- You avoid your usual responsibilities in your family, work, and school because of your Valium use.
- You need to experience greater effects from the drug and this has caused strained relationships.
- You use Valium even in circumstances where the consequences can be fatal like driving or handling heavy machinery.
- You continuously take the drug despite knowing that it’s had a negative effect on you and your life.
- You want more Valium and will consider doing something illegal just to have access to it.
Valium Withdrawal Symptoms
If you ingest benzodiazepines regularly, it can become a habit and your body will develop a tolerance for and dependency on it.
When this happens, your body learns to operate only when Valium is in your system. Psychologically, you also feel that you cannot function normally without it.
Can you have withdrawal symptoms from Valium? If you stop or decrease your dose abruptly, you can experience diazepam withdrawal symptoms.
The different Valium withdrawal symptoms can be nerve-wracking and dangerous. While different patients can all suffer from Valium addiction, each person will experience different intensities of benzo withdrawal symptoms.
The severity of withdrawal will depend on the following factors:
- The length of time you have been dependent on the drug. The longer you’ve been using Valium, the worse and more intense your withdrawal symptoms will be.
- The amounts you have been taking. If you’ve been exceeding the prescribed dose by a large margin, your symptoms may be more serious.
- Your overall physical, mental, emotional, and psychological well-being. If you have poor health with existing comorbidities, you may find it more difficult to handle the symptoms.
- Your state of mind and level of motivation. If you are prone to feeling apprehensive, you may experience panic attacks and the psychological impact will be greater. On the other hand, a strong will and determination will help you pull through and complete the detoxification process.
- Whether you’re also dependent on other drugs and alcohol. Ridding yourself of Valium is challenging. If you are also battling alcohol and other types of substance abuse, you’ll have a more difficult journey ahead.
What are the withdrawal symptoms of Valium?
The withdrawal symptoms of Xanax and Valium both have physical and psychological components but the withdrawal symptoms of Valium are often less intense than the more potent Xanax. Here are the common withdrawal symptoms of Valium:
- Cold flashes
- Dilated pupils
- Mouth sores
- Muscle and bone pain
- Profuse sweating
- Runny nose
- Tearing in the eyes
- Uncontrollable leg movements
- Unusual thinking
Psychological symptoms include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
- Trouble controlling emotions
What Happens During Valium Withdrawal?
The main reason your body is reacting badly to the loss of Valium in your system and withdrawal makes you feel anxious and depressed is due to your developed dependency on the drug.
Valium withdrawal side effects stem from a chemical process referred to as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.
Whether you are a recreational user or using Valium because it was prescribed to you, you can go through withdrawal. The higher the doses you habitually took, the more intense your benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.
Your body’s reliance on Valium is the foundation for addiction and eventually triggers withdrawal.
The loss of Valium in your system is like a shock to your brain and body that then leads to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that range from mild to more dangerous.
Valium Withdrawal Timeline
How long do benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms last? There is no fixed benzo withdrawal timeline because of the many factors that affect the severity and length of withdrawal.
Diazepam Withdrawal Symptoms (Short-Term Use)
If you haven’t been using diazepam for a long time, withdrawal symptoms can subside in four weeks. However, this can also be longer based on the factors we mentioned before.
It is worth noting that Valium can stay in your body for 30 to 56 hours and it takes an average of ten days for the drug to leave your system.
Here is a general alprazolam withdrawal timeline that you can refer to:
Expect your first withdrawal symptoms to occur within two to four days after your last Valium intake. Here, the experience among patients is different: some experience mild symptoms in the first week while others have severe symptoms right away. You may notice high and/or elevated blood pressure and fever.
Withdrawal symptoms are at their worst during the second week. This is the peak of withdrawal and the dangers of Valium withdrawal usually happen at this stage.
It’s good to have easy access to medical supervision at this time just in case physical and psychological symptoms may become too much to handle.
Some of the symptoms to watch out for are extreme cravings for Valium, tremors, disorientation, anxiety, hallucinations, seizures, insomnia, and depression.
By the 21st day, your symptoms are less and now more manageable. The cravings are still there but not as intense as the previous week. You will still have episodes of depression, fear, and anxiety, but your body has fewer physical symptoms.
The Fourth Week
After an unpleasant and rough month, your symptoms are far more manageable and your body and state of mind are getting better. The physical symptoms have improved or are completely gone.
Psychological symptoms, however, can last indefinitely. There is really no definite answer to how long does benzo withdrawal last.
When going through benzodiazepine withdrawal, you are likely to also go through Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS. This can also be referred to as protracted withdrawal, and it must be mentioned in a benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline.
PAWS is part of the alprazolam withdrawal syndrome, but you can still experience it even months after you have stopped taking Valium. PAWS is basically the continued manifestation of withdrawal symptoms that primarily consist of psychological and emotional symptoms.
Signs of PAWS vary for every person, but some of the common ones are:
- Challenges in handling stress
- Difficulty remembering, learning, and problem-solving
- Sleeping problems
Valium Withdrawal Treatment
Many people opt to take on the entire process of withdrawal on their own without going through medically supervised benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment or alprazolam withdrawal treatment. This is a risky choice.
Where addiction is considered, getting professional help and supervision is always the safest option and results in the best chance for recovery.
Here are the different supervised treatment plans you can consider:
Inpatient Valium Treatment and Outpatient Programs
Remember that the diazepam detox protocol for inpatient facilities entails 24/7 monitoring and supervision from medically trained professionals. In case medical intervention is required, you’ll have the knowledge, expertise, and necessary equipment on hand. This alone makes this treatment option the best one.
Inpatient valium treatment provides you with ways on how to ease benzo withdrawal while addressing any underlying medical and mental issues you have.
You will have a treatment plan tailored to you and your situation and a strict diazepam withdrawal schedule that includes participating in support groups, attending therapies, creating new and better routines, and preparing you to rejoin society.
Plenty of patients choose to work with outpatient programs because of time constraints and the costs involved in inpatient treatment.
This is also a feasible option especially for receiving continued support as you transition from a detox facility to resuming your regular activities outside.
Should you decide to be part of an outpatient program, you need to be committed to the program and have a strong support system in place.
Here are some outpatient programs that you can look into:
- 12-step program
- Outpatient therapies
- Support groups through organizations and your local church
- Life coaching sessions
- Life skills development training
If you’re torn between inpatient and outpatient care, partial hospitalization may be the solution for you. This is a feasible solution for people who are unable to join an inpatient program but still need guidance and treatment.
This treatment plan is almost similar to rehab treatment and offers the same benefits. The only difference is partial hospitalization allows you to return home at the end of the day.
Helping Someone Cope with Valium Withdrawal
If someone you love is going through valium withdrawal, it is always recommended to get professional help. Treating the symptoms on your own is risky and can compromise the health of the patient.
There are instances where even our best intentions fall short such as the possibility of the patient relapsing and severe withdrawal symptoms. Situations like these are best handled in a detox facility where the staff has adequate medical resources, knowledge, and training to deal with them.
Detox facilities also offer counseling, support groups, and other therapies to address the psychological component of addiction.
As much as possible, it is essential that you or your loved one detoxifies with an inpatient detox facility. The benzo withdrawal help that such facilities extend is invaluable.
Offer plenty of support and encouragement. Boost their motivation and self-confidence by letting them know that this is the best decision for them.
During their detoxification, avoid bringing up stressful or contentious topics so they can focus on getting better. Refrain from blaming them or engaging in anything negative while your loved one is trying to get better. Help them look to the future with hope and love.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I detox from Valium at home?
You can, but withdrawal is not easy, especially without any medical assistance. You might be thinking of using home remedies, but these are not effective for detoxing. Consider the possibility of severe symptoms that need immediate medical intervention.
A medically assisted and supervised detox is always the best option for detoxing since they’re equipped to provide medical guidance as well as psychological and mental support.
For recovery to work, it should address the body and mind. If one of these remains unaddressed, the possibility of relapse is much greater.
Can you die from Valium withdrawal?
There are always risks in any treatment, withdrawal from Valium included.
Some withdrawal symptoms are severe. Without medical intervention, they can cause extreme side effects that are difficult to manage.
You also need to consider complications such as existing health conditions like heart problems that can be triggered while going through the withdrawal symptoms.
When this happens, you can die from valium withdrawal which usually occurs during the peak of the withdrawal symptoms.
Can you completely recover from Valium addiction?
Recovering from valium addiction is possible, but it is not an easy and predictable journey. It takes a lot of effort, discipline, and commitment to complete the process.
You have to be prepared for setbacks because one wrong decision can easily waste months and years of sobriety.
If there’s one good thing that can be said about Valium withdrawal, it’s that it’s usually less severe than withdrawal from other more potent substances. Since it’s a milder drug with fewer side effects, its withdrawal symptoms are also less intense and dramatic compared to other drugs.
However, detoxing and weaning yourself off from drug dependence is always a serious matter that is best done under medical supervision in an inpatient facility. Regardless of the drug you’re taking, try to get yourself the best care possible so that you can make a complete recovery that’s free from relapse. At Divine Detox, we’re proud to possess a team of compassionate professionals ready to help you on your path to recovery – don’t hesitate to call us any time for assistance with your struggle, we’re here for you!