Valium is a popular medication and drug that is easy to find in the United States. Unfortunately, this medication does have a potential for abuse, and patients may become tolerant, dependent and addicted to it in some cases. It’s important for anyone who is struggling with drug addiction to know that there is help available. Professional help with Valium detoxification and withdrawal symptoms is important to prevent a relapse or unexpected, and dangerous, overdose.
What Is Valium?
Valium, which is also known as diazepam, is a kind of benzodiazepine medication and prescription drug. This is one of the most recognizable medications in the country today, since it is among the best-selling drugs in the U.S.
Valium is a benzodiazepine derivative. It’s normally colorless to light yellow and is available in tablet form. Usually, diazepam comes in dosages of 2 mg, 5 mg or 10 mg.
Why Is Valium Used?
Valium is a potent medication that is used to treat withdrawal from other benzodiazepines, to manage seizure activity, to treat muscle spasms and restless leg syndrome, to assist with insomnia and to treat alcohol withdrawal. It is often used for anxiety and related disorders.
Valium is often used to treat the symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal. When used in this way, it treats tremors, acute or impending delirium tremens as well as agitation and hallucinations.
Does Valium Have a Potential for Abuse and Addiction?
Like any other benzodiazepines, Valium does have a potential for abuse and addiction. The drug is listed as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, which means that the medication can only be purchased with a prescription and has the potential for addiction and dependency.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration reports that Schedule IV drugs have a low potential for abuse and dependence, but that does not mean that the drug cannot be abused or that some people will not struggle with a tolerance or addiction, especially when the drug is taken consistently over longer periods of time.
Does Valium Cause Physical Dependencies or Withdrawal Symptoms?
Valium can cause physical dependency or withdrawal symptoms, although the likelihood is lower than with other benzodiazepines. The level of physical dependence a person has will depend on how long they’ve taken the medication, how often they took it and how high the dosage was.
Tolerance is the first thing that patients typically see. Tolerances occur when the patient suddenly needs to take more of the medication than usual to get the same effects, whether they are therapeutic or not.
Developing a tolerance is normal once a person has taken a medication or used a substance regularly for a few weeks or longer. When that tolerance also comes with symptoms of withdrawal, this shows that the body now has a physical dependence on the substance.
Is a Physical Dependency the Same as an Addiction?
Physical dependency is not the same as having an addiction. Many people do take medications for a long period of time under the watchful eye of their medical providers. If they develop a tolerance to the medication, they may have to take something new or go through a tapering program to get off the medication without withdrawal symptoms.
The difference between a dependency and addiction is that the individual does not abuse the medication. Addictions lead to many consequences that dependencies may not, and they have significant implications in the individual’s life beyond simply needing more of the medication or having to go through some withdrawal symptoms because of their body’s tolerance levels.
Do People with Dependencies, but not Addictions, Still Go through the Same Treatment?
In terms of detox, the treatment is similar. Regardless of if the drug is causing a physical dependency or addiction issues, the individual will likely be placed on a tapering program to slowly remove the drug from their body and to minimize the risk of serious withdrawal. In cases where they’re taking far more of the medication than is safe, other drugs may be used to minimize the impact of withdrawal.
Can Any Medications Help With Valium Withdrawal?
Certain medications may help with valium withdrawal. Some of the medications that may be used to minimize the symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Muscle relaxants, such as baclofen, Lioresal, Gablofen, and Kemstro, which have been shown to minimize cravings for addictive substances such as benzodiazepines.
- Melatonin, which is a hormone naturally produced in the body. This hormone can help reduce anxiety and encourage better sleep. In some people, the hormone could help minimize withdrawal symptoms and assist in managing the patient’s tolerance levels.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are also known as antidepressants. These medications, which include drugs like citalopram or Zoloft, have been shown to help reduce rebound anxiety and to minimize withdrawal effects caused by benzodiazepine withdrawal in some instances.
- Anticonvulsant medications. These medications may help prevent seizures in the case that these occur due to withdrawal.
Some specific medications that have been used to treat withdrawal include:
- Flumazenil, which is used to treat severe withdrawal symptoms
- Propanolol, which is an anti-hypertensive medication that helps with headaches, high blood pressure, and tremors
- Carbamazepine, which eases seizures, tremors, and anxiety
It’s important for these medications to be monitored closely, especially if acute symptoms of withdrawal are already present or expected. They may be used in combination with a tapering program in some cases.
What Should Patients Expect During Valium Withdrawal?
During withdrawal from valium, it’s a good idea for patients to go to see their medical providers for monitoring and assistance. In some cases, patients may want to enter into a detox program at a clinic, so that they have 24-hour monitoring through the worst of the symptoms.
The timeline for valium withdrawal has two stages. The acute stage is first, and it is followed by the general withdrawal stage.
Acute Withdrawal Stage
During the acute withdrawal stage, patients have the most severe symptoms. This stage begins approximately one to four days after stopping the use of Valium, which may catch some people off-guard.
It’s important to understand why this stage happens with a delay. Valium has a half-life of around 48 hours long, so by day three or four, the amount of the medication in the body will be low enough to cause withdrawal symptoms.
How soon these symptoms appear depends on how long the person took Valium, the dosage they took, and if they were taken in combination with any other medications or substances. Individual metabolisms and psychological issues may also impact this withdrawal stage.
What Are the Symptoms of Acute Withdrawal from Valium?
The symptoms of acute withdrawal from Valium include:
- Neurological symptoms, such as the possibility of seizures and confusion. Patients who have seizures need immediate medical attention, as they can be life-threatening.
- Physical symptoms, like stomach pain, cramps, vomiting, nausea, headaches, and tremors.
- Psychological symptoms such as mood swings, panic attacks, cravings, rebound anxiety, and depression.
- Cardiovascular symptoms like an increased heart rate or higher blood pressure than normal.
Some additional severe withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Severe agitation
- Hypersensitivity to touch, light, or sound
- Numbness in the extremities
- Tingling in the hands, feet, fingers, and toes
Fortunately, with tapering or medications, many of these withdrawal symptoms can be managed and minimized.
General Withdrawal Stage
General withdrawal is the next stage. During general withdrawal, symptoms will be less severe, but the phase will last around 10 to 14 days. It takes around 10 days for Valium to leave the body completely, and the remnants of the drug may still remain in the liver for longer. That’s why this stage may be completed in a detoxification facility or rehabilitation clinic. There, medical providers may offer assistance through 24-hour care or other treatment plans, so patients are kept as comfortable as possible.
What Are the Symptoms of the General Withdrawal Stage?
Some of the common symptoms during this general withdrawal phase include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- A general sense of melancholy or dissatisfaction
- Rebound anxiety
- Mild headaches
- Mild fevers
The good news is that these symptoms will start to go away slowly over the 10-to-14-day period.
How Does Valium Withdrawal Affect Patients in the Long Term?
In the long-term, patients may go through post-acute withdrawal syndrome. This is a longer period of time in which they may have generally mild symptoms of withdrawal such as irritability, depression, or changes in their mood. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome can last anywhere from a few weeks to several years, but it is not well-understood.
Can You Quit Valium Cold Turkey?
It is not a good idea to quit Valium cold turkey. When a patient who is addicted to or dependent on Valium quits cold turkey, the reality is that the body does not have a good reaction to that. As a result, the withdrawal symptoms may be more severe and potentially life-threatening.
Attempting to quit cold turkey is more likely to result in a relapse and potential overdose. That’s why it’s a better idea to detox in a medical facility or to work with a medical provider on a tapering program.
What Kinds of Treatments Are Available for Valium Addiction?
People who are struggling with Valium addiction should start with detoxification. Detoxification is essential before entering into a rehabilitation program, because most programs do request that patients no longer have the offending drug or substance in their system when they begin.
After detoxification, some of the possible treatments available for Valium addiction include:
- Medication-assisted treatment to minimize withdrawal symptoms.
- Inpatient treatment, which offers around-the-clock care.
- Outpatient treatment, so patients can maintain responsibilities outside the program.
- Dual-diagnosis treatment, which assists patients with co-occurring mental health disorders or substance use disorders.
- Holistic therapy, which uses alternative and complementary treatments like acupuncture, 12-step education, yoga, chiropractic and acupuncture care or other services.
…and many others.
Get Help for Valium Withdrawal at Harmony Place
At Harmony Place, we know how difficult it can be to stop taking benzodiazepines and other addictive substances. We believe that everyone deserves an opportunity to live a drug-free lifestyle and to detox from drugs safely. Our programs are varied and include clinical support, medication-assisted treatment, holistic therapies, and relapse prevention among other helpful treatment options.
We are here to help and would like to assist you in getting into a detoxification program and rehabilitation treatment plan that works for you. Call today to speak with a helpful addiction treatment expert at 1 (855) 652-9048.
National Library of Medicine (2004). Issues in the clinical use of benzodiazepines: potency, withdrawal, and rebound
 Hood, S. D., Norman, A., Hince, D. A., Melichar, J. K., & Hulse, G. K. (2014). Benzodiazepine dependence and its treatment with low dose flumazenil. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 77(2), 285–294.