Valium (Diazepam) Addiction Abuse Symptoms and Warning Signs

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 23rd 2021

Content Overview

There are certain physical, psychological, and behavioural signs that are commonly associated with addiction. Valium addiction is no different. Unfortunately, those who develop this illness often do not spot the signs as readily as others. To prevent yourself spiralling down the path of addiction, it is important to be alert to the dangers associated with Valium abuse and that you can recognise the warning signs when they arise.

Although considered one of the safest of the benzodiazepine drug family, Valium is still addictive when abused or when used over a prolonged period. What often happens though is that most of those taking this drug do not realise when their use has crossed the proverbial line to abuse.

It is not always easy to tell when substance use becomes substance misuse. As most individuals are unaware of what prescription drug abuse actually is, it is easy for an addiction to develop without the user realising what is happening.

It is important that you learn more about Valium abuse so that you can spot the signs. The ability to do this will help prevent you from developing a crippling addiction that will require professional intervention to get better.

How Does Valium Work?

Valium, a benzodiazepine-type drug, works by stimulating GABA receptors in the brain. GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, or brain chemical, whose job it is to calm down certain activity within the brain.

A correct balance of excitatory and inhibitory chemicals is required for optimum mental health. But when an imbalance occurs, too many excitatory chemicals can cause symptoms such as nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia. Valium helps to encourage the production of GABA, which counteracts the overactivity in the brain and relieves symptoms.

Valium Abuse Warnings

It is important to be aware of the warning signs of Valium abuse. If you notice your medication is not having the same effect as it did when you first began taking it, this could mean that you have developed a tolerance. It is quite common for abuse to begin when this happens, but this often leads to a cycle of abuse that can then quickly progress to addiction.

Valium Abuse Causes

There are many reasons for Valium abuse, just as there are for any other type of substance abuse. Some individuals do so deliberately for recreational purposes while others are trying to escape a stressful home environment or painful memories of a traumatic experience.

Be that as it may though, there are many people who abuse Valium without even realising. This is because they just do not understand what is meant by prescription drug abuse. They fail to realise, for example, that taking more of their medication than advised by a doctor is abuse, as is taking Valium that was prescribed for another person.

Increasing your dose of Valium can result in physical dependence and subsequently significantly increase the risk for addiction. Yet this is something that many automatically do upon noticing that they are not getting the same relief as they once did from their medication.

It is important to be aware that when the brain gets used to the presence of Valium it will adjust its production of GABA, which will probably mean that you are not getting the same level of relief. Your response may be to raise the dosage, but this is classified as abuse.

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Valium Warning Signs & Dangers

One of the biggest dangers associated with Valium use comes when it is mixed with other sedative substances such as alcohol or other drugs as this can lead to severe respiratory distress and heart problems, which could end up being fatal in some circumstances.

Additionally, there is the risk that you could develop suicidal thoughts while taking Valium. According to a report in the Daily Mail back in March 2013, Valium was indicated on the death reports of around 300 to 500 people every year, with many of these caused by suicide.

The other danger of abusing medications such as Valium, which we mentioned already, is the risk of addiction. When Valium is abused, it can lead to a physical dependence and crippling addiction, which would facilitate a dramatic change in behaviour. For example, you might become preoccupied with the medication and in finding ways of getting your hands on it.

You may begin visiting multiple doctors to try to get duplicate prescriptions, and if that does not work, you may then look for alternative ways of sourcing the medication. Many individuals look online for prescription drugs, thinking that it is safe to buy them in this way. The reality is that this is extremely dangerous, as indicated in a recent BBC report that highlighted the dangers of fake Valium, which is becoming a massive problem across Scotland right now.

Between April and October 2017, over 30 people in Dundee alone died from drug overdoses, with more than half of these due to fake Valium.

The Signs of Valium Dependence and Addiction

Physical dependence on Valium is typically indicated by the presence of withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit or cut back on usage. You might notice that you experience:

  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • irritability when you haven’t taken your dose
  • cravings

But these symptoms might disappear when you do take it. This is that which leads to a cycle of abuse and withdrawal.

Nonetheless, just having a physical dependence on Valium does not mean you have an addiction. But if you become preoccupied with it and allow your use of it to spiral out of control, an addiction becomes much more likely.

If Valium is starting to interfere with daily life and is causing harm to you and your family members, you may have a problem. If you continue to use it despite knowing the harm it can cause, it is highly likely that you are already addicted.

Signs of Chronic Long-Term Abuse of Valium

So as just mentioned, long-term abuse of Valium can cause a change in behaviour and lead to a full-blown addiction whereby your use of the medication will interfere with your everyday life. You will lose interest in those you love and in doing things that used to make you happy. Your entire world will start to revolve around Valium and you will have little time for anything else. Nevertheless, you should also be aware that aside from the increased risk of addiction, long-term use of benzodiazepine drugs such as Valium can affect mental health. You might experience:

  • memory loss
  • risk of mental conditions including Alzheimer’s
  • brain damage
  • nerve damage
  • chronic insomnia

In another study, it was revealed that when benzodiazepine drugs are prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients for the treatment of agitation, insomnia, and anxiety, there is a 40% higher risk of death than those who do not take them.

Signs of Short-Term Abuse of Valium

Valium is designed to give relief for various conditions such as insomnia, seizures, and anxiety due to its calming effects. However, abuse of this drug can lead to many short-term side effects, including:

  • dry mouth
  • blurred vision
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • urinary problems
  • restlessness
  • fatigue
  • loss of libido
  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • fever
  • breathing problems
  • irregular heartbeat

It is possible to negate these symptoms and signs if you keep the schedule you were initially assigned by your doctor and keep yourself safe by never mixing this medication with alcohol or other sedatives.

Valium Overdose

Valium overdose occurs when too much of it is taken or when it is taken in a way that was not prescribed. Abuse of Valium increases the risk of overdose, so those who mix it with other substances such as alcohol or other opioid drugs have a significantly higher risk of overdose than those who abuse it by itself.

The reason is that alcohol and opioids are also depressant substances and also cause many physiological functions such as breathing and heartbeat to slow down. In extreme cases, these functions can slow completely, leading to cardiac or respiratory failure.

Valium Overdose Symptoms

An overdose can lead to the onset of symptoms within hours. If you have taken too much Valium or have mixed it with another substance, you should look out for the following symptoms and seek medical care immediately if any manifest:

It is important to get help as soon as possible to prevent fatal consequences.

Valium Overdose Treatment

The treatment administered for a Valium overdose will vary depending on the symptoms being displayed. It might be necessary for artificial ventilation through intubation if you are experiencing breathing problems. If you are in danger of seizure, your doctor might administer anticonvulsant medication.

You are also likely to be hooked up to an IV drip to help replace fluids, which will bring your blood pressure back up.

How to Reverse Valium Overdose

Doctors can also use a medication known as a selective benzodiazepine receptor antagonist to reverse a Valium overdose. Flumazenil is often referred as a benzodiazepine overdose antidote as it binds to the GABA receptors and inhibits the sedative effects of the drug in question. It also helps remove the benzodiazepine from the system, thus preventing a recurrence of any overdose symptoms.

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Valium Withdrawal

When quitting Valium, you are likely to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. With a gradual reduction of the medication instead of an abrupt cessation though, these symptoms can be prevented, or at least the severity of them can be lessened.

So we know that abuse of Valium can lead to a physical dependence, but so too can prolonged use of the drug, even when it is used exactly as prescribed. We have mentioned that the reason for this is that the brain quickly learns to rely on Valium to produce GABA. When the drug is removed, the brain is then unable to produce the required level of GABA to maintain a healthy balance. This then brings about the onset of various symptoms.

Symptoms of Withdrawal from Valium

Valium withdrawal is associated with the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Stomach cramps
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Confusion
  • Severe anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Numbness

Valium Withdrawal and Detox

To withdraw from Valium, a detox programme is recommended, particularly if you already have an addiction. Within a dedicated detox clinic, you will be under the careful supervision of medical professionals who have the knowledge and experience to ensure you are safe and comfortable until free from Valium.

Valium Treatment and Rehab

Once you have completed your detox, you will need to continue with addiction treatment, which means a programme of either inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. Rehab addresses the issues that are not dealt with during the detox process, such as the cause of the addiction and how to avoid a relapse at a later date.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much Valium causes addiction?

You may become tolerant to Valium very quickly, meaning that you do not get the same level of relief from it after a while. When this happens, you might begin to take higher doses than advised by your doctor, which can lead to a physical dependence. If you continue to abuse Valium in high doses, your risk for addiction will increase.

How do I recognise Valium abuse?

The first sign of Valium abuse is taking more of it than advised by your doctor. However, taking Valium that was prescribed for another person is also abuse, as is mixing it with another substance.

When to seek medical care?

If you are taking higher doses of Valium than your prescription states or are mixing it with alcohol or other drugs and notice the signs of overdose, it is vital that you get medical care immediately. Failure to seek help can result in unconsciousness, coma, and even death.

You will also need to seek medical care if you believe you have developed an addiction to your medication. Addiction is indicated by an overwhelming urge to use Valium despite it having a negative impact on your life. If you are finding it difficult to function without Valium, it is crucial to seek help as soon as possible.

How do I get help for Valium addiction?

If you want to quit Valium, you should speak to your doctor for advice on how to access a programme of detox and rehabilitation. He or she will be able to refer you to your local drug treatment centre.
If you would like details of the various programmes that are available in your area, you can find what you need via online information databases or you can speak to use here at UKAT to find out more about our clinics and the programmes we provide.

When do Valium withdrawal symptoms start?

Valium withdrawal symptoms typically begin within one to two days after medication cessation. Nevertheless, if you are a heavy user of the drug, you may find that it takes up to seven days before the first symptoms appear.

How long does Valium withdrawal last?

Valium withdrawal can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. It all depends on how quickly the drug is withdrawn and the type of detox that you undertake. If you have a rapid detoxification, you can expect the withdrawal process to be over much quicker than if you were to gradually reduce your dose over the course of a few months.

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