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Article Summary

A Guide To Valium Addiction

A popular benzodiazepine, Valium is one of the medications commonly prescribed to treat anxiety. According to recent studies, over 3 million Americans use it medically while many more abuse it on a regular basis.

Also referred to a diazepam, Valium is addictive and comes with long-lasting effects, which might continue causing suffering longer than other medications in the same class. Addiction to this drug, to this end, is highly likely to progress quickly, especially if you use it in a way that wasn't prescribed by a medical doctor.

In the same way, if you take Valium for more than 4 months, your chances of becoming addicted increase. This is even if you use it with a legal prescription from a physician. Over time, it might be harder for your brain to continue functioning normally when you are off the drug. However, most addicts continue using the medication without realizing that they have a problem.

Read on to learn more about Valium:

Understanding Valium

As mentioned above, Valium is a benzodiazepine medication commonly prescribed by psychiatrists and doctors for the treatment of panic attacks and anxiety. Historically, it has been one of the most popular pharmaceutical agents and is widely used for its sedative, anticonvulsive and muscle relaxing properties.

As a depressant, this drug works by strengthening the effects of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitters in the brain. This neurotransmitter works by slowing down activity in the brain. Therefore, the increase in GABA neurotransmission caused by the intake of Valium is highly likely to reduce anxiety and result in lowered activity.

That said, Valium comes with a high potential for abuse. Taking it on a regular basis might also result in such problems as tolerance, physiological dependence, and eventual addiction especially when you use it for a long time, at relatively high doses, or for any reason that wasn't prescribed by your doctor.

In the same way, just because you have a legitimate prescription does not necessarily mean that you might not end up abusing Valium. After all, the drug induces a general feeling of deep relaxation, which is why it comes with such a high potential for abuse and eventual addiction - higher even than other prescription medications in the tranquilizer and sedative categories.

Further, the substance is widely available. In fact, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) reports that Valium was the 4th most prescribed benzodiazepine, with close to 15 million prescriptions issued.

Valium Uses

For medical reasons, doctors and psychiatrists tend to prescribe Valium for the treatment of a wide variety of conditions. The drug works by relaxing the body and mind. Therefore, when you take it according to your prescription, you might experience relief from these conditions throughout the day.

However, if you use the drug to achieve the euphoric high it causes, you are likely to become addicted. That said, below are some of the conditions for which this medication is prescribed:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Withdrawal from alcohol

Valium is particularly effective because it diminishes hyperactive brain functioning, which is why it is prescribed for relieving anxiety and severe stress. The drug is designed for oral ingestion in the form of a pill, and you might be advised to take it 1 to 4 times every day.

That said, this drug is one of the longer acting benzodiazepines. As such, it is highly likely to stay in your body far longer than such short-acting benzodiazepines as Halcion and Ativan. Due to these long-lasting effects, people tend to take fewer doses a day than they otherwise would if the doctor had prescribed the shorter-acting Benzos.

However, you might still have to take the drug on a regular basis for it to be effective. Still, when you take more than your doctor prescribed, or without a legal medical prescription, the risks of addiction will increase.

Valium Effects

According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), several negative effects are arising from using Valium. For starters, the drug works by decreasing nervous system activity, including the way brain communication and signaling occur from one brain center to another.

When you abuse the drug, therefore, you might end up experiencing a high, which may include the following effects:

  • Euphoria
  • Lack of proper coordination
  • Feeling drunk

After this high peaks, you might experience withdrawal in the form of a crash or a comedown. This soft feeling will disappear as your brain starts rebounding and speeding up from the drugged state. In this condition, you are likely to suffer such undesirable effects as:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anxiety (which might be more intense than your original anxiety)
  • Clumsiness
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Further drug abuse
  • Inability to effectively perform the activities you ordinarily enjoy and find pleasurable
  • Irritation
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lethargy
  • Mood swings
  • Problems with concentration and memory
  • Psychological and physical dependence
  • Psychotic experiences
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Sleepiness
  • Slowed respiration
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tendencies toward violence

Similarly, if you take Valium in excess, your risk of suffering an accidental overdose will increase. Such an overdose might result in you going into a coma or even death, particularly if you pair the medication with other drugs and alcohol - which produce depressant effects.

On the other hand, using Valium heavily over a long time might cause powerful effects on your body and brain. These effects might prove to be permanent and fatal. The typical long-term effects of Valium abuse include:

  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slowed pulse
  • Coma
  • Heart attack

When you continue using the medication, you are also highly likely to lose your job, isolate yourself socially, and experience financial difficulties. In case you get into an accident while under the influence of Valium, you might also permanently damage your body.

Valium Side Effects

However, those who use Valium properly might not experience the same effects of abuse. Most of the side effects that come with using the drug according to the doctor's prescription tend to be temporary. As such, they are likely to wane after your body adjusts to the medication.

These side effects include, but are not limited to:

  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in heart rhythm and rate
  • Confusion
  • Decreased memory consolidation
  • Decreased respiratory rate
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble urinating

On the other hand, if you abuse the drug, you might experience the following adverse side effects:

  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Skin rash
  • Slowed breathing
  • Weakness

Still, those who use the drug over the long haul might also develop several co-occurring mental disorders which might not have existed before the introduction of Valium into the system.

Since the drug is used in the treatment of anxiety, the brain might start relying on it in the regulation of everyday stress. Without Valium, your addicted brain might be imbalanced, and this is likely to cause previously non-existent depressive disorders and anxiety.

Over the long-term, the side effects of repeated abuse of the drug might also be traumatic. Research shows that such long-term use might lead to severe brain damage that could affect cognition and memory.

In particularly, Dr. David Knott, an University of Tennessee physician noted that those who used Valium heavily suffered severe damage to the cerebral cortex, which plays a major role in thought processes, attention, and memory.

Valium Addictive Qualities

As with any other addiction, Valium addict usually starts harmlessly. This means that you might take the drug once or twice as you try to cope with the stresses of everyday life or to help yourself catch up on the sleep you might have missed. Not surprisingly, most people will hide the fact that they have been abusing the drug, which is why it is so hard for loved ones to discover that there might be a problem.

As you become more dependent on the medication, you are likely to increase your dosage. This may make it harder for you to hide your use, which is how your signs of abuse will start showing. The visible behavioral effects of intoxication to this drug are, for instance, quite similar to that experienced by a drunk.

Still, realizing you have a problem might not happen immediately. However, knowing how people progress from Valium abuse to dependence and eventually to addiction will certainly help you discover that the problem is getting out of hand.

Like with other benzodiazepines, for instance, Valium is now known for its potential to create tolerance, dependence, and addiction. After you have taken the medication for a short time, you might need more of it to achieve the same effects you used to feel.

If your doctor prescribed the drug, he/she might at this point need to increase your dosage. However, if you got the medication illicitly, you might take more pills to feel the same effects. Still, this will only enhance the severity of the signs and symptoms of abuse.

Valium Overdose

Most users mistakenly suppose that just because Valium is legal, it must also be safe for regular use than street drugs like cocaine and heroin. In part due to these misconceptions, many people accidentally overdose when they abuse Valium.

Some of the signs of an overdose include:

  • Bluish lips
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Weakness
  • Uncoordinated movement

If you suspect that you are overdosing, or a loved one has overdosed, get emergency medical assistance immediately.

Valium Withdrawal

Anyone taking Valium might experience its adverse withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. If you take the medication for longer than your doctor advised, you might also suffer potentially fatal withdrawals. As such, you require close medical supervision when you try to quit Valium.

Most of these withdrawal effects will be severe among those who have been abusing the drug for long. Heavy and frequent use, to this end, is quite dangerous. The symptoms you experience, however, might vary depending on how long you have used the drug, the frequency of such use, as well as the additional drugs you might have abused.

Some of these withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Anxiety
  • Coma
  • Dysphoria-like manifestations
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Muscle cramps
  • Numbness
  • Panic disorder
  • Personality changes
  • Psychosis
  • Respiratory distress
  • Seizures
  • Status epilepticus (which is a fatal and life-threatening condition where your brain will be affected by a constant seizure)
  • Tachycardia
  • Tremors

Valium Dangers

Apart from the above effects, Valium is quite dangerous. This is especially true if you mix it with other substances that act to depress the CNS (Central Nervous System), including opioid painkillers and alcohol.

The sedative qualities of these substances when combined will be amplified, which might depress your heart rates and breathe to the point of fatal failure. Other dangers are likely to occur when you take Valium in excess doses, more frequently than your doctor prescribed, or via other methods like crushing and snorting the drug, or injecting it to enhance its effects.

Signs And Symptoms Of Valium Abuse

Abusing diazepam and becoming addicted to it tends to cause a variety of signs and symptoms, which might include the following:

1. Mood Symptoms
  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Irritability
2. Behavioral Symptoms
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in physical appearance when you fail to pay particular attention to your personal hygiene
  • Doctor shopping
  • Engaging in illicit and illegal activities to obtain the drug
  • Engaging in risky behavior to get the drug
  • Slowed movements
  • Slower reaction times
  • Using the drug on a daily basis, sometimes more than once per day
  • Visiting different pharmacies to refill your prescription
3. Physical Symptoms
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Drooling
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Skin rash
  • Slurred speech
  • Spinning sensation
4. Psychological Symptoms
  • Amnesia
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Memory problems
  • Poor judgment
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions

Treatment For Valium Addiction

Most of the treatment centers specialized in Valium rehabilitation may help to mitigate the adverse withdrawal effects that arise when you try quitting the drug. However, you should never try to detoxify your body without medical help, as this might cause you to relapse.

After detoxification, you are likely to undergo inpatient or outpatient treatment. During such treatment, you might focus on recovery while undergoing different therapeutic interventions to heal your body from the adverse effects of Valium abuse and addiction.

Overall, recovering from Valium abuse is a long-term commitment that will require continuous medical assistance and support. Contact with your loved ones, health community support, and participation in the 12 step program might provide the additional assistance you require to recover fully.

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