Drug Guide to Valium Addiction Treatment

in Drug Insights
Published Oct 20, 2020

This is a comprehensive guide to Valium Addiction Treatment that includes key facts about Valium use, risk factors for dependence and substance use disorder, signs to watch out for, Valium detox and withdrawal symptoms, how to treat addiction to Valium, and the next steps to take.

What is Valium?

Valium (also known as by its generic name, diazepam) belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These drugs work by depressing the central nervous system, slowing down brain activity and producing feelings of calm, euphoria, and relaxation. 

Valium is used to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures. It can also be prescribed to relieve muscle spasms and provide sedation before medical procedures. It is available in tablet, solution, injection, and gel forms.

Due to its relaxant and sleep-inducing effects, Valium is prone to abuse, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms. The long-term use of benzodiazepines for sleeping difficulties is strongly discouraged. There is also a high risk of severe side effects if the drugs are stopped suddenly.

Facts and statistics about benzodiazepine use

While Valium can be effective at managing anxiety, taking it for reasons other than what it was prescribed for increases the risk of addiction — a risk associated with taking any benzodiazepine. 

Benzodiazepine use as a whole is a serious problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 30 percent of drug overdoses involving opioids also include benzodiazepine use. NIDA reported that between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults filling a benzodiazepine prescription increased 67 percent, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million.

Causes & risk factors of taking Valium

The effects of long-term benzodiazepine use include:

  • depression
  • disinhibition
  • impaired memory and cognitive skills such as response times and coordination
  • brain damage
  • increased risk of car crashes and hip fractures

Like other benzodiazepines, regular use can lead to withdrawal symptoms because the body develops a tolerance to the drug. Continued use can lead to both physical and psychological dependence, which causes the person to crave the drug, and addiction (or sedative use disorder). Taking Valium for longer than two weeks can lead to dependence on the drug.

Pharmaceutical company Roche (the manufacturers of Valium) have issued a black box warning that the drug can cause serious side effects, especially if taken with other drugs such as opioids. Some of these side effects include trouble breathing (respiratory depression), profound sedation, coma, and death. 

In addition, some medications may increase the effects of Valium, including: Ketoconazole (Nizoral®), itraconazole (Sporanox®), nefazodone (Serzone®), fluvoxamine (Luvox®), and cimetidine (Tagamet®). 

Symptoms & diagnosis of addiction to Valium

As indicated above, prolonged use of Valium can lead to increased tolerance and dependence, causing a person to take more than is clinically indicated in order to feel the same effects. Once dependence occurs, patients experience side effects, some of which are severe. Addiction may occur when users of the drug favor its effects over the consequences of taking an excess of this drug, for example to their home life and relationships. 

Side effects of increased and prolonged Valium use include unsteadiness, shakiness, trembling or other problems with coordination.  In some cases, side effects include: drowsiness, anxiety, confusion, depression, memory loss, insomnia, tremors, and depression. If any of these effects are experienced, a patient should seek medical assistance immediately.

Valium detox & withdrawal

Ceasing use of Valium results in a period of adjustment called withdrawal. It can be quite distressing both physically and psychologically, as the body and brain need time to adjust and recover. During this period, a strong support system of medically trained professionals and recovery support is important. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be severe, even dangerous, if the drug is stopped too abruptly.

How long does Valium withdrawal last?

Valium has a long half-life (from 20 to 100 hours) which depends on the age of the person taking the drug and their liver function. Typically, withdrawal begins within 24 hours of the last dose. Initial symptoms include difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.

The acute phase of withdrawal, known as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, is said to last between five and 28 days. The person usually experiences a peak of severity around one to two weeks post-withdrawal, after which symptoms return to a pre-withdrawal phase. In some cases, the person may experience a protracted withdrawal (also known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or “PAWS,” for short), which lasts for months and sometimes years. 

What are the symptoms of Valium withdrawal?

Stopping benzodiazepine medications without professional intervention, such as medical detox, can cause a number of unpleasant and prolonged side effects. Because of the nature of benzodiazepines, which alter the brain’s chemistry causing things to slow down, ceasing long-term benzodiazepine use can cause too dramatic a change in brain activity, leading to unpleasant side effects.

In addition to the side effects mentioned above, withdrawal symptoms of Valium include:

  • Tremor
  • Muscle cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Tension
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion 
  • Irritability
  • Numbness
  • Hypersensitivity to light
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Symptoms of protracted withdrawal (PAWS) include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Perceptual symptoms: ringing in the ears (tinnitus), tingling, numbness and pain in hands and feet
  • Motor symptoms: muscle pain, weakness, tension, painful tremor, shaking attacks, jerks, spasms
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps
Risks of home detox

In this instance, detox is the process of stopping using substance and detoxifying the body at home, without medical intervention. Due to the number of health risks associated with home detox, it is not advised by medical professionals. It can be particularly dangerous to suddenly stop drinking or taking drugs cold turkey, rather than tapering off.

Home detox is rarely successful because the side effects of stopping are so unpleasant that the risk of relapse is high.

It is strongly advised by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to seek professional intervention, especially if the person has been using substances persistently, to ensure they overcome risks of home detox.

“For alcohol, sedative-hypnotic, and opioid withdrawal syndromes, hospitalization or some form of 24-hour medical care is generally the preferred setting for detoxification, based upon the principles of safety and humanitarian concerns.” SAMHSA Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Improvement Protocol, TIP 45

Again, there are a number of risks of home detox. This is particularly prevalent with alcohol detox and benzodiazepine detox. Medically-monitored detox centers are a crucial aspect of the recovery process. It ensures that the person is treated safely and reduces the risk of complications that might arise from the detox process. According to SAMHSA, almost 80 percent of professional detoxification uses medication to ease withdrawal symptoms.

Valium addiction treatment 

There are various types of benzodiazepine detox. Depending on the severity of use, a detox is usually recommended. According to medical experts, treatment for any Valium dependence should not discontinue the drug too early and a successful withdrawal strategy should be implemented. Ensuring sufficient medical and therapeutic support and effective withdrawal management reduces the risk of protracted withdrawal. 

A medically supervised detox occurs in an inpatient medical detox center or hospital. The benefits of admission are that medically trained professionals are able to closely monitor a person’s progress, administer any medications when necessary, and provide a safe and comfortable environment for the often painful and difficult process of withdrawal.

The Gallus Method of Valium detox

Gallus Medical Detox provides the comfort of a residential facility, but with clinical expertise that is far superior to most detox facilities. We offer safe, effective, and personalized treatment. In fact, we are so proud of our proprietary method that we named it The Gallus Method.

The key features of Gallus Medical Detox include:

  • Individual treatment plans, with a focus on personalized sobriety
  • Psychological, physical, and social assessments
  • IV Therapy Program
  • 24/7 medical supervision
  • Cardiac telemetry and video technology
  • Ongoing adjustments to treatment plans in order to suit our patients’ needs
  • An individual aftercare plan identifying resources and next steps toward a long-term recovery

Gallus also offers a unique outpatient benzodiazepine taper support program with medical supervision, physician visits, and individual therapy. 

We have addiction treatment centers in Arizona and Colorado, with more opening in coming months.

What our patients say about Gallus Medical Detox

Our patients are the best judge of the quality of our care. Here is what they have to say:

“This place is nothing short of exceptional!”

“I can’t be more pleased, impressed, and grateful with the entire Gallus team.”

“I cannot express in words my deep appreciation for the kindness and very individualized care delivered by motivated and professional caregivers.”

“My stay in this facility was by far the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced. The staff was extremely thoughtful, warm, and informative. Thank you very kindly, everyone.”

Next steps

While detox is usually the first step in recovery, it’s not a cure for addiction. Immediately following detox, behavioral therapy and other addiction treatments should occur while the person is ready to engage in recovery. You might find our blog Vital Steps to Take After Detox helpful. 

For more information on benzodiazepine treatment, click here