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Withdrawal & Detox from Valium (Diazepam) Addiction
Valium Withdrawal Symptoms
While Valium is considered one of the safer benzodiazepine drugs, it is only ever recommended for temporary use. When abused, it can be a dangerous and addictive drug and a tolerance to its effects can develop rather quickly.
If you are using Valium differently to how it was prescribed by your doctor, for example, or if you continue taking it for longer than four months, you could already have developed a physical dependence or addiction.
When you first started taking Valium, it may have provided the relief you desired. Nevertheless, after a while, you might have noticed that the effects were beginning to diminish. Taking more of the medication will have provided relief for a while, but it will also have increased your risk of physical dependence. Subsequently trying to quit or even cut down on your use probably meant the onset of withdrawal symptoms, including some of the following:
Causes of Valium Withdrawal
When you started taking Valium, the medication worked by helping your brain produce the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid), which acts as an inhibitory chemical that calms down overactivity within the brain. For your reference, it is an imbalance of chemicals that leads to conditions such as anxiety, nervousness, seizures, and insomnia.
Continuing to use Valium, even at the dose specified by a doctor, increases the risk that your brain will adapt and learn to rely on the medication for the production of GABA. It might then get to the stage where the brain is unable to function normally without Valium so when you stop taking it, it can lead to a surge of activity that can trigger a range of withdrawal symptoms.
Your brain will need time to readjust to not having Valium and will have to learn how to produce enough GABA by itself to maintain the balance. It is for this reason that a gradual reduction of medications such as Valium is both advised and preferable over a sudden discontinuation.
How Long to Valium Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
It is impossible to tell exactly how long withdrawal symptoms last but know that as Valium is a long-acting drug, the symptoms do tend to last longer than those associated with other types of benzodiazepines.
The symptoms are unlikely to appear as soon as you quit or cut back on your use. Due to it being a long-acting drug, it tends to linger in the system for longer, meaning that the onset of symptoms might take a few days.
Heavy Valium users may not notice the first symptoms for around a week. You can expect the withdrawal process to continue for around six weeks, during which time the intensity of symptoms can rise and fall.
Managing Withdrawal Symptoms
The symptoms experienced during Valium withdrawal will vary from one person to the next. If you are trying to detox from Valium in a detox facility, several methods may be used to help you manage the symptoms.
For example, it may be appropriate to provide with a substitute benzodiazepine drug, which will help your brain and body to adjust more slowly to the removal of Valium. Irrespective of whether you are given a substitute benzodiazepine or not, it is likely that you will be advised to reduce your dose of Valium slowly over the course of a couple of weeks as this can help to lessen the impact of detox.
Symptoms can also be managed with various other medications if this is appropriate to the situation. For instance, if you are suffering from the symptoms of depression or anxiety, your doctor may feel that you would benefit from taking medications such as antidepressants or a beta-blocker. Nutritional supplements can also be able to help reduce the severity of some symptoms or even prevent others from occurring.
There are other methods that can be utilised during the detox process to help with the management of symptoms. Relaxation techniques like meditation or mindfulness have proven very effective at curbing cravings and relieving the symptoms of anxiety associated with the withdrawal process.
Contributing Factors to Valium Withdrawal
The way in which your Valium detox progresses will be influenced by several factors. For example:
Psychological Withdrawal from Valium
Your brain will need time to adjust to the removal of Valium. Developing an addiction to this drug likely means your brain needs it to function normally. As touched upon above, it will need Valium for the production of GABA, and without it, it will struggle to maintain the balance of chemicals that are necessary for the prevention of conditions such as anxiety and insomnia.
This means that when you try to quit or cut back on your use of Valium, you are likely to experience a range of psychological symptoms such as:
- mood swings
- panic attacks
Physical Withdrawal from Valium
While you are likely to experience a range of psychological symptoms when quitting Valium, you could also experience a few physical symptoms as your body, and in particular your central nervous system, adjusts to the removal of the medication it has come to rely on for normal functioning.
These symptoms might include:
- abdominal pains
- muscle cramps
- high blood pressure
- rapid heartbeat
- breathing problems
Substance Use Disorders and Detoxification
As you may have gathered by now, the first part of recovery from any substance use disorder is detox. In a nutshell, detoxification is the process that occurs when a mood-altering substance is stopped. So the body realises that no more of this substance is forthcoming, it will begin expelling any remaining toxins that have accumulated over time. This is the process that leads to the variety of withdrawal symptoms.
Detoxification can vary from person to person, depending on the substance being abused, the length of time the person was using this substance, and the severity of the addiction. Other influential factors include age, how the substance was being used, and the presence of any underlying physical or mental health problems.
When first starting to take a particular substance, your brain and body react by either speeding up or slowing down in response to the effect that the drug was having (depending on whether the substance in question is a stimulant or sedative). After a while though, you develop a tolerance to the effects which caused it to be less effective.
Many people then increase the dose to achieve the same level of relief or satisfaction as before. What they do not realise at this stage is that this cycle continues; before long, that higher amount will also be less effective. Taking higher doses of a substance increases the risk of physical dependence and consequently the presence of withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit or cut back on your use.
Valium detox is necessary where an addiction has developed. If you have been abusing Valium for recreational purposes, and possibly combining it with alcohol or other drugs, your risk of addiction is high. Nonetheless, even prolonged use of Valium at the dose recommended by a doctor can result in physical dependence and addiction the longer it is taken. Moreover, when Valium builds up within, your body will naturally cut down on its production of GABA chemicals.
As discussed above, when your body becomes physically and psychologically dependent on Valium, you are likely to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop taking it. As withdrawing from Valium can be dangerous, it is important to detox slowly.
Valium detox can vary in length depending on the way in which the process is carried out. For example, in some detox clinics a rapid discontinuation of Valium takes place and an infusion of a selective benzodiazepine receptor antagonist is administered. This medication helps prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms, meaning that a detox can be completed in just over a week.
However, this type of detox is not suitable for everyone and so most clinics prefer to use a gradual reduction method instead. With this type of Valium detox, it is more likely that your medication dose will be tapered over the course of a couple of weeks and any symptoms you experience can be effectively managed under the supervision of experienced medical staff.
How to Detox Safely?
The safest way to withdraw from Valium is with a reduced dosing schedule. As we have alluded to already in this article, it is dangerous to suddenly stop taking Valium, especially without medical supervision. This is because there is a risk of symptoms such as respiratory distress, seizures, or coma.
Without supervision, a sudden cessation of Valium could even end up being life-threatening. Whether detoxing at home or a special detox clinic, it is safer to implement a gradual dose reduction, which is why most providers utilise this method.
A home detox from Valium will usually take much longer than a detox in a supervised clinic. While you can detox in as little as two weeks in a clinic, it is more likely that a detox will take between six weeks and six months if done at home.
The reason for this is that in a supervised facility, medical staff are on hand to help with the management and prevention of the different withdrawal symptoms. They have the experience and required knowledge to effectively and safely manage Valium withdrawal over a shorter period of time.
Withdrawal Timeline and Length of Detoxification
The actual timeline for Valium detox and withdrawal will depend on a range of factors including the severity of the addiction and how quickly you are withdrawing from the drug. If you were a heavy user, you might find that withdrawal symptoms take longer to appear, and the process could last for longer.
If you are reducing your dose of Valium over a longer period, you can expect the withdrawal process to take longer as well. Nevertheless, the following will give you an idea of the withdrawal timeline for Valium in the average person:
- Week 1 – In the first week after quitting Valium, you can expect the initial withdrawal symptoms to begin. These may appear as early as 24-48; as mentioned before, this can be delayed if you were a heavy user. The earliest symptoms are usually restlessness and anxiety, which may be mild when first appearing but which can become more intense over the coming days and weeks.
- Week 2 – During the second week of withdrawal, symptoms tend to reach their peak and you are likely to experience the bulk of your symptoms at this stage. These can include nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, sweating, and insomnia.
- Weeks 3 to 4 – Your symptoms may continue for up to four weeks but tend to start easing off at this stage.
- Weeks 5 onwards – Some people who go through Valium withdrawal will experience what is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). This causes symptoms of withdrawal to appear suddenly many months or even years after the drug has been ceased. Symptoms tend to appear without warning.
Valium Detox Protocol
When you choose to detox from Valium in a special clinic, it is likely that a protocol, or plan, will be put in place to ensure your safety and comfort. The Valium detox protocol will include the correct procedures that are to be followed during the process.
Before this plan is created, a full assessment of your physical and mental health will be conducted. This will give your care team the information they need to decide on the best type of detox for you. The detox protocol will contain information on the way in which your medication is to be reduced, if a gradual dose reduction is deemed the most appropriate way for you to withdraw from Valium.
Any medication or nutritional supplements that are to be used during the detox will also be included, and all staff members will be expected to be fully familiar with the detox protocol before the process begins.
Any measures that should be taken in case of an emergency will also be included, as this will help to ensure you are at little risk throughout the process.
Medical Detox for Valium Use
A medical detox is one of the safest ways to withdraw from drugs such as Valium. In a dedicated facility, medical staff will be able to ensure that you are safe and comfortable throughout the process.
As stated above, when having a medical detox, you might be prescribed a substitute benzodiazepine drug that can help to reduce the severity of any symptoms you may experience, and which can often prevent the worst symptoms from occurring.
The way in which you detox from Valium will depend on your requirements and the preference of the provider. Some providers prefer abrupt cessation where appropriate, while others believe a gradual dose reduction is the better option.
What you can be sure of though is that during medical detox, the risk of complications will be extremely low. With medical staff on hand to administer medications that will lessen the severity of symptoms, you can rest assured that you will be safe throughout the process.
Valium Detox Medications
Valium tends to be used as a substitute drug to help with withdrawal from other benzodiazepines. This is because it is a longer-acting version and it can help to lessen the impact of withdrawal by allowing the other drug to be reduced slowly.
However, the same procedure is often used where an addiction to Valium has occurred. Another long-acting benzodiazepine such as Klonopin or Librium may be introduced while Valium is being withdrawn. This can help you to withdraw from your medication without experiencing any serious side effects. Once you are free from Valium, the other benzodiazepine can be slowly withdrawn as well.
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, your doctor might use a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to help relieve these symptoms. The hormone melatonin is also used to ease symptoms of anxiety and can help you sleep if suffering from insomnia.
It may also be necessary to use anticonvulsant medications for the treatment and prevention of seizures. Furthermore, some doctors will prescribe a muscle relaxant known as baclofen to help reduce potential cravings.
Gradual Dose Reduction for Valium Withdrawal
Due to the complications associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal, most detox providers use a gradual dose reduction method rather than a sudden discontinuation, as this is generally accepted as the safest way to withdraw from Valium. We touched upon this in the preceding paragraphs.
If you do not yet have an addiction to Valium but are worried your use is getting out of control, your doctor will probably give you a tapering schedule to allow you to slowly withdraw over the course of a few weeks or months.
In a detox facility, you may still be given a tapering schedule, but this is likely to be over a couple of weeks instead. The idea behind gradual reduction is that it allows the brain and body to slowly adapt to the removal of Valium. This helps keep withdrawal symptoms to a minimum.
Psychological Interventions for Valium Withdrawal
While there are certain medications that can be used to help manage Valium withdrawal, it may also be necessary for psychological interventions to be used. These methods usually involve talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy.
Psychological interventions are useful if you are suffering severe symptoms of anxiety and depression or when experiencing panic attacks or suicidal thoughts. Talking therapies can help to give you a better understanding of what caused your illness.
With certain techniques, your counsellor or therapist can help you recognise the negative thoughts and emotions driving your behaviour. If you can learn how to challenge your thoughts, you should be able to overcome them.
Pharmacological Interventions for Halcion Withdrawal
As previously mentioned, there is often the need for certain medications to be used during the detox process to help limit how severe the symptoms are or to prevent many of them from occurring.
But it should also be noted that there may be occasions where other pharmacological interventions are necessary.
Some patients will suffer auditory or visual hallucinations, which can be very frightening. This can, in extreme cases, cause individuals to become violent or aggressive. This is the main reason pharmacological intervention is necessary. Your doctor may need to sedate you to prevent you from harming yourself or others.
It is important to be aware that even where the worst symptoms are prevented, Valium detox can be an unpleasant experience. It is because of this that it may be appropriate for pain medication to be administered or for other interventions that help to relieve symptoms such as anxiety or depression.
Possible Complications from Valium Withdrawal
The way in which benzodiazepine drugs affect the brain can cause severe symptoms to occur if withdrawal is not effectively managed. If you were to stop using Valium suddenly on your own, you would be at risk of developing severe symptoms such as respiratory distress or seizures, which could prove fatal.
It is for this reason that medical detox using a gradual dose reduction is generally accepted as the safest way to quit medications such as Valium.
Rebound symptoms can also be a problem for many people. It is quite common for the symptoms that you started taking Valium to treat initially return, but with much more intensity. This can lead many to relapse as once Valium is taken again, the symptoms will usually disappear.
An additional complication that many individuals are not aware of is PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome). PAWS can cause the return of symptoms without warning, many months or even years after Valium is discontinued.
Valium Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Upon completing a Valium detox, you will be ready to get started on the second stage of the recovery process. You might be aware that quitting Valium alone is not usually enough to help you overcome your addiction.
Addiction recovery is a three-step process that begins with a detox, follows up with a programme of rehabilitation and then concludes with aftercare. It is advisable to make sure that all three elements form a part of your recovery programme as this is the best way to ensure that you avoid relapse.
Treatment for Valium addiction takes place either on an inpatient or outpatient basis, and the type of programme you choose will depend on individual circumstances and the severity of your illness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Physical dependence can occur when Valium is abused, but even if you have been taking it exactly as prescribed you may still become physically dependent on it. If so, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it.
If you stop taking Valium and begin to experience symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, headaches, and nausea, it is likely that you are experiencing withdrawal.
It is rare for Valium withdrawal to be fatal, but that does not mean the risk is not present. To minimise the risk of life-threatening withdrawal symptoms such as seizures or respiratory distress, it is important to seek medical advice before trying to quit the medication. Never stop taking Valium on your own, as this could result in fatal consequences.
When you take Valium, it works by stimulating the GABA receptors in the brain. By doing this, it calms down activity within the brain. Nevertheless, over time, your brain will adapt and rewire itself around the presence of Valium so that it learns to rely on it for the production of GABA. When you stop taking your medication, the brain is unable to produce the amount of GABA that it needs to maintain the balance of chemicals. With a sudden increase in excitatory chemicals and not enough GABA to calm things down, there is a risk of seizure.
There are many different symptoms associated with Valium withdrawal, depression being one of them. This can be the result of the imbalance of chemicals in the brain when Valium is withdrawn, but it can also occur in those who experience PAWS, as they often feel as if there is no end to their symptoms.
Valium withdrawal is different for everyone and what it feels like really depends on how effectively it is managed. If you are a heavy user of Valium or have been using it for a prolonged period, you may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. However, in a detox facility, the process can be managed so that the worst symptoms do not occur. Additionally, medical staff can administer medication to ease any discomfort you are experiencing.
Various medications can assist the easing any discomfort associated with Valium withdrawal, but you can also use distraction or relaxation techniques to keep your mind off any symptoms that you are experiencing. Your doctor might also prescribe anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants to relieve these symptoms.
In a detox facility, your comfort and safety are assured. Staff will monitor your progress at all times and will be able to help ease any symptoms that you experience with the use of medication, nutritional supplements, and relaxation therapies.
The best way to minimise Valium withdrawal is with a gradual dose reduction. Rather than quitting the medication suddenly, which can be extremely dangerous, it is recommended you taper the dose slowly over the course of weeks or months. This will help prevent severe symptoms from occurring.
If you choose to detox from Valium under medical supervision in a detox clinic, your risk of harm will be minimal. Nevertheless, Valium withdrawal can be extremely dangerous if it is not managed correctly. You should therefore never try to quit your medication by yourself. Doing so could see the onset of severe and life-threatening symptoms.