IRFANA PARVEEN
By Irfana Parveen

B.Sc (Psychiatry Ward)

25 October 2021
Medically reviewed by
Sumayya Salam
Pharm D
Is Diazepam Addictive
Table of Contents

Addiction alters your brain and behaviour to the point where you are unable to control your use of legal or illegal drugs. Leo Sternbach, a chemist from Croatia, synthesized Valium (Diazepam) in 1963 to treat insomnia, seizures, and Anxiety. The use of Valium increased steadily in the United States as stress and Anxiety diagnoses became more prevalent in recent years. 

The drug gained worldwide acclaim very rapidly. According to The New York Times, 14.7 million prescriptions for diazepam were written by doctors in the United States in just 2011. More than 7,900 people died in 2014 from benzodiazepine overdoses, including diazepam.

While there are many medical conditions that this prescription can help with, it's critical to recognize that if misused or for a long time, it can quickly become addictive. The brain soon becomes dependent and addicted to Valium.

Diazepam is a popular prescription medicine for those who use it for recreational purposes. Some people use Valium or other diazepam-based medications to aid in sedation. Many use it to offset the effects of stimulants like cocaine or to avoid having a "bad trip" after using heroin or LSD. Similar to other narcotics, diazepam abuse is illegal and dangerous.

Let's get familiar with the basics first before going deeper into Valium use and addiction.

What Is Valium (Diazepam)?

Valium (Diazepam) was first introduced as an anxiety medication and sedative. Diazepam belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs and is known for habit-forming. It reduces excessive brain activity and helps relax the body and mind. Diazepam is available as a tablet, an oral liquid, an injectable solution, or a rectal gel.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration categorizes Valium as a Schedule IV controlled substance. It indicates that compared to other drugs, Valium is less addictive. It is relatively safe as long as it is not combined with alcohol or other depressants.

Uses Of Valium

  • Treating Anxiety disorders
  • Panic attacks and panic disorder
  • Muscle spasms
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • Restless leg syndrome

How Does Diazepam Work?

Diazepam is a benzodiazepine that works by slowing down the central nervous system. The relaxing and sedative effects of the drug make it popular among doctors and recreational drug users.

In the brain, Valium promotes the activity of the chemical GABA by stimulating various receptor sites. GABA lowers activity throughout brain regions, including those involved in emotion, thinking, memory, and autonomic processes like breathing.

The nervous system's dampening lowers anxiety and relaxes muscles. This causes drowsiness, impaired motor, and cognitive function, and sleep. The drug also helps in bodily and brain relaxation. When used as directed, Valium can provide all-day symptom relief.

Is Diazepam Addictive?

There is a known Abuse potential for benzodiazepines like diazepam. The overuse of these drugs over time might easily lead to addiction. Valium can become addictive if you take it to try to get a euphoric high or combine it with other substances. Even with a doctor's prescription, taking Valium for longer than 4-6 weeks increases the risk of addiction.

In the US, lorazepam, alprazolam, and Diazepam are the three tranquilizers that are most widely abused (SAMHSA). It is a sure sign of Valium addiction when a patient visits more than one doctor and receives multiple Valium prescriptions.

Why Is Diazepam Addictive?

Most people who use valium do so because they need help handling the stress of daily life. Valium abuse can occur for various reasons, but many users don't use it to get high. They use it to feel normal and to ease tension. People also misuse Valium to aid in sleep. 

Particularly with higher doses, valium induces a deep feeling of calm and euphoria. The usual prescription for valium is for short-term, low-dose use only.

Due to its frequent abuse and potent effects on the central nervous system, it is illegal to buy Valium without a prescription. The recommended daily dosage for Valium is 4 to 40 mg.

A team of medical experts discovered in 2012 that Valium blocks a group of neurons known as inhibitory interneurons from preventing dopamine release by increasing GABA. An increase in happiness, excitement, relaxation, and pleasure results from unrestricted dopamine production.

These drugs may stimulate a person's brain so much that they require larger doses and eventually develop compulsive behaviors; this is addiction. By interacting with the GABA receptors and enabling the brain to create dopamine, these substances may cause excessive brain stimulation.

Depending on many factors, the time can last 30-56 hours. It, therefore, takes an average of 10 days for the entirety of the drug to leave the system.
Risks associated with valium addiction are high. Even persons who use Valium for medically necessary reasons have the potential to become dependent on it if they use it frequently.
The half-life of Valium is approximately 48 hours. Valium, or more precisely, the drug's metabolites, can be found in the body in a variety of ways.
Diazepam may be habit-forming. If you don't take Valium as directed, you could quickly get addicted to it. Over time, your brain's ability to function normally without the drug gets harder.

When Is Diazepam So Addictive?

Valium addiction consists of an urge to seek out the substance regardless of the dangers associated with prolonged consumption. To put it another way, you can be a Valium addict if you use the drug excessively to avoid experiencing psychological or emotional problems or to get euphoric.

However, a drug's level of addiction isn't just determined by its molecular composition. Even though most doctors know the risk of addiction associated with Valium prescriptions, many still use it to treat patients.

The majority of persons who have been given Valium by a doctor in the past and later become addicted to it learn to trick doctors into giving them more Valium. The availability of Valium is also significantly influenced by social and cultural variables. Other elements that contribute to the drug's ease of addiction include: 

  • the attitudes of doctors who prescribe it;
  • accessibility of valium
  • history of illegal diversion
  • state or local regulations on valium; and
  • widespread knowledge of the effects of the drug.

Warning Signs of Valium Addiction

The sooner you identify a Valium addiction, the more likely for a successful treatment and recovery. While some of the Valium addiction signs could be simple to recognize, others might show themselves in less obvious ways. Among the most typical of valium addiction signs include

  • Going to tremendous efforts to obtain Valium
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Strong cravings for the drug.
  • Continued use despite drug-related issues.
  • A loss of interest in once-fun activities.
  • Neglect of personal and professional obligations

Valium Addiction Symptoms

The following are some signs of Abuse of benzodiazepines that may indicate an addiction:

  • memory problems
  • slow reflexes
  • dilated pupils
  • slurred speech
  • difficulty paying attention
  • putting the drug's need ahead of other considerations

Teens Abusing Diazepam

The high rates of diazepam usage reported among teenagers are due to the drug's widespread illicit availability and high prescription rates. In 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducted a poll that revealed more than 20 million Americans over 12 years of age had abused benzodiazepines like Valium at least once.

As part of its Monitoring the Future project, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) releases an annual poll. The findings of the 2015 NIDA survey showed that:

  • In the eighth grade, no students acknowledged ever utilizing tranquilizers.
  • 8% of 10th graders acknowledged abuse during their lifetime.
  • 9% of 12th graders acknowledged abuse during their lifetime.

Education is crucial to stop your teen from doing drugs. Talk to your teen repeatedly about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. When an abuse issue arises, know the warning signs so that you can act swiftly.

You can take the following actions to stop valium abuse:

  • Store all current prescriptions for diazepam in a secure location.
  • Track and monitor usage carefully to detect any missing tablets.
  • To reduce the chance that your adolescent would self-medicate, ask them questions to determine their mental health.
  • Keep an eye out for indications of use, such as empty prescription bottles and missing cash.

Long-Term Exposure To Diazepam

Abusing diazepam for an extended period can seriously harm one's health and general well-being. Notably, tolerance, physical dependency, withdrawal, and addiction are all associated with the misuse and abuse of benzodiazepines.

Inevitably, long-term use of Valium also makes it challenging to abruptly cease using the medication, notwithstanding the decline in the person's quality of life. The Daily Mail warns that Valium is "more addictive than heroin" in this sense, citing the case of a woman who was given diazepam to deal with the despair brought on by the end of her marriage.

That was the beginning of a 10-year habit. She had a heart attack, memory and speech issues, and muscle spasms that prevented her from climbing a stairway when she reduced her dose.

Tolerance

The initial dose of diazepam no longer has the same effects over time as the body gets used to the medication's regular presence. This necessitates either increasing the dosage taken, the frequency of drug use, or both.

Dependence

Once diazepam has become accustomed to the body, it becomes necessary for normal body functions. Even when using diazepam as directed, dependence is still possible; however, dependence can be a sign that someone is becoming addicted.

Withdrawal

When someone dependent on diazepam stops using medication or drastically reduces the dose, the person may feel uncomfortable and go through potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. 

Side effects Of Valium Overdose

The misconception that Valium is safer and less addictive than illegal substances like heroin or cocaine stems from the fact that it is legal. You might unintentionally overdose on the substance as a result of these beliefs.

Among the warning indications of a Diazepam, overdose are

  • Bluish lips
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Weakness
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Impaired reflexes
  • Coma
  • Death

Precautions of Diazepam

The use of valium can result in misuse, addiction, physical dependence on the drug, and withdrawal symptoms. Overdose or death can result from abuse or misuse of benzodiazepines when used with other medications like opioids, alcohol, or illegal substances.

Therefore, take suitable measures to prevent undesired side effects of the drug. Always prescribe benzodiazepines for the shortest time possible and at the lowest effective dose.

Before using Diazepam, inform your doctor or pharmacist if you-  

  • Have a lung, liver, or kidney condition.
    Have glaucoma.
  • Substance abuse history, recreational drug use, or a history of alcoholism or drug addiction.
  • Take medications, including herbal remedies, over-the-counter medications, and medications you buy without a prescription.
  • Have seizures or convulsions, depression, or suicide attempts.
  • Have galactose intolerance.
  • The dosage plan should be gradually tapered under strict supervision to avoid abrupt termination, even if the treatment is for a short time.
  • Tapering should be tailored for the individual patient. 
  • If you are pregnant, avoid using Diazepam unless your doctor advises.
  • Diazepam passes into breast milk. Therefore, avoid using Diazepam if you are breastfeeding.
  • Elderly patients should refrain from using VALIUM over an extended period.
  • Keep VALIUM in a safe location to prevent misuse or theft.

What Medicines interact with Diazepam?

When used as prescribed, valium is a drug with a low risk of side effects. The use of Valium with other medications or substances that affect the central nervous system increases the risk of side effects noticeably. 

These side effects may include drowsiness, memory loss, confusion, breathing problems, hallucinations, sadness, overdose, coma, and even death.

Valium Drug Interactions

Phenothiazines: These medications carry a significant risk of drowsiness, vertigo, falls, and memory loss when used with Valium.
Antipsychotics: When taken with Valium, side effects may include weakness, drowsiness, confusion, and lack of coordination.
Anxiolytics: Benzodiazepines, SSRIs, and SNRIs are a few drug classes used to treat anxiety. Extreme CNS depression could ensue from combining these medications.
Sleep Medications-  Zolpidem, eszopiclone, Dayvigo, Belsomra, and zaleplon are examples of some sleep medications. These are available only on a doctor's prescription. Combining Valium with these sleep aids raises the chance of CNS depression.
Opioids- Medications include oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl, methadone, tramadol, and morphine. Use of VALIUM and opioids at the same time can cause death, respiratory depression, coma, and extreme drowsiness.
Alcoholic Beverages: Avoid concomitant use of alcoholic beverages and benzodiazepines like Valium. It increases the risk of sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death.
Fluoxetine- Concurrent use of Valium with fluoxetine may increase the potency of Valium. Combining Valium with Fluoxetine increases the risk of drowsiness, confusion, and loss of coordination.
Sedative Antihistamines- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), chlorpheniramine, and hydroxyzine are examples of sedative antihistamines. While taking Valium, follow your doctor's directions for these medications and look for any symptoms of drowsiness, loss of coordination, disorientation, or sedation.

Bottom Line from Practical Anxiety Solutions

While Valium has many medical merits, prolonged use of this drug increases the risk of addiction and dependence. Diazepam's effects might make the drug use pleasurable in the short term but harmful in the long run. Stopping Valium may cause withdrawal symptoms in people who are reliant on it.

Without medical support, those who try to discontinue using Valium have the risk of rebound symptoms, such as seizures, anxiety, and muscular spasms. Using a tapering approach is one way to detox from Valium addiction.

Over a few weeks or months, the drug is tapered off gradually. A patient typically experiences withdrawal symptoms when going through detox. Although these side effects might not be pleasant, detox is an essential part of the recovery process.

A crucial aspect of recovery is that it is not a process to be rushed. The key at this time is to remain composed and patient. Remember, even a tiny step in the right direction might help you recover.

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