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Valium Addiction

Written by Jonathan Strum

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Candace Crowley, PhD

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 12/28/22

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Key Takeaways

  • Valium abuse can lead to tolerance, dependence and addiction
  • Several physical and behavioral signs can be used to identify Valium abuse and Valium addiction in loved ones
  • When Valium is used alongside substances such as alcohol and opiates, severe side effects can occur
  • Young adults aged 18 to 25 report the highest rate of benzodiazepine misuse
  • Benzodiazepine misuse is strongly associated with misuse of other substances such as opioids or stimulants

Valium addiction is a common and serious challenge that many people face. While treatment is challenging, full recovery is possible.

Valium is the brand name for diazepam, a prescription medication commonly used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, sleep disorders, panic attacks and seizures. Valium is also sometimes used to control agitation during alcohol withdrawal.

Diazepam is a benzodiazepine, a class of medications that function as depressants and calm brain activity. People prescribed Valium may wonder, “Can you become addicted to Valium?” It can become addictive when Valium abuse occurs over extended periods. Although Valium addiction is a serious condition that many people deal with, recovery can be achieved with the proper treatment.

How Is Valium Abused?

Valium is misused by taking pills orally at a higher dose, more often or for a more extended period than prescribed. In some cases, Valium is used by people without a prescription who obtain it by forging a prescription or buying them illicitly.

Are there other ways to take Valium? For instance, can you snort Valium? Indeed, Valium is sometimes crushed and snorted or smoked. These routes allow the drug to rapidly enter the brain, resulting in faster and more intense symptoms. However, snorting or smoking Valium can lead to a potentially fatal overdose and can quickly lead to dependence and addiction.

Signs of Valium Abuse

Detecting Valium abuse may be difficult, particularly in people with a prescription. There are several physical and behavioral signs of Valium addiction and abuse that can be identified in loved ones.

Physical Signs

Several physical signs may indicate that someone is misusing Valium. Physical Valium abuse symptoms include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Dilated eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Double vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Tremors

Behavioral Signs

In addition to the physical signs of Valium abuse, several behavioral symptoms may indicate that someone is misusing Valium. Common behavioral signs of Valium abuse include:

  • Amnesia or memory problems
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-injury
  • Hyperactivity
  • Agitation
  • Hostility

Side Effects of Valium Abuse

Both short- and long-term Valium addiction effects exist. While Valium is an effective treatment for anxiety, side effects of Valium addiction can be severe. Knowing the consequences that accompany addiction can help people be aware of their health and risk level for developing an addiction.

Short-Term Side Effects

Short-term side effects of Valium use vary based on the dose, administration route and duration of use. Common Valium abuse side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea

Long-Term Effects

Continued Valium use can lead to many adverse health outcomes, including tolerance to the drug, physical dependence and addiction. Long-term Valium abuse effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Changes in sex drive or ability
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of control of body movements

Side Effects of Polysubstance Abuse

Polysubstance abuse is the misuse of more than one substance. When Valium is used alongside other substances, severe side effects can occur due to drug interactions and differing physical impacts on the body. Due to the loss of judgment caused by the drug, a person using Valium may decide to mix Valium with alcohol or opioids such as heroin.

Using Valium and alcohol or Valium and heroin together can be dangerous. Since alcohol and opioids also slow breathing, mixing these substances with Valium can lead to severe side effects, including breathing difficulties and death. Therefore, it is essential that people take Valium only as directed and do not mix it with any other substances.

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Causes of Valium Addiction

Causes of addiction to Valium include both physical and psychological factors. Valium misuse and addiction are common in people who suffer from mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, panic disorders and sleep disorders. The calming effects of Valium help ease the symptoms of these conditions. Valium can be habit-forming if taken at higher doses, for a more extended period or more often than prescribed. Over time, tolerance to Valium may develop. Tolerance means that it takes a higher dose of Valium to achieve the same effects initially produced.

Valium exerts its effects by increasing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Increased GABA activity causes the drowsy and soothing effects that make the drug useful for anxiety and sleep disorders. These effects make Valium use enjoyable but also contribute to misuse and addiction. With repeated use or high doses of Valium, physical dependence can also occur. Dependence develops when the body adapts to repeated exposure to the drug and only functions correctly when Valium is present. When the Valium is removed, severe physical reactions can occur.

Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

Prolonged Valium use — with or without a prescription — leads to physical dependence. Withdrawal occurs when a person who has developed a physical dependence on Valium stops using it. Valium addiction withdrawal symptoms can be severe and even life-threatening if a person does not taper off the drug slowly. Many people require a medical detox to stop taking Valium after extended misuse.

Valium withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Sleeping problems
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe cravings

Valium Abuse Facts and Statistics

Valium abuse facts and statistics provide useful information on how Valium addiction impacts different groups of people. According to results published in the American Journal of Public Health, benzodiazepine overdoses increased from 0.58 to 3.07 per 100,000 between 1996 and 2013. Some vital Valium statistics from the 2015 and 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health include:

  • Over 12.6% of adults in the US used benzodiazepines such as Valium in the past year, and prescription drug misuse accounted for more than 17% of overall use
  • Young adults aged 18 to 25 reported the highest rate of benzodiazepine misuse
  • Women were more likely than men to report using benzodiazepine such as Valium, while men were more likely than women to report misuse
  • Benzodiazepine misuse is strongly associated with the misuse of other substances such as prescription opioids or stimulants

Valium Abuse and Treatment Trends in South Florida

Valium addiction and misuse is a problem both nationally and in Florida. According to a report from the Florida Medical Examiners, which investigated drugs present in deceased persons in 2016, 183 deaths were caused by diazepam. The occurrence of diazepam in deceased persons also increased by 10% from 2015 to 2016. According to Florida Health’s 2016-2017 Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Annual Report, nearly 3500 hospital discharges were recorded for benzodiazepine poisoning in 2016. Benzodiazepine use, including Valium use, was highest in those aged 65 and over according to this report.

To help combat drug misuse, newly created community drug take-back programs allow people to bring unused drugs, including Valium, to a central location for safe disposal. Pharmacists, local law enforcement departments or trash and recycling services can provide information on available take-back programs.

Valium Overdose

Valium overdose occurs when someone takes more than the usual or recommended dose. However, exactly how many Valium does it take to overdose? How much Valium that it takes to overdose varies from person to person and depends on biological factors as well as Valium usage history. Although a definitive overdose of Valium is not known, the maximum daily dose of Valium should not exceed 40 mg.

Valium overdoses, whether accidental or intentional, are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has difficulty breathing or is unconscious, immediately call 911. Flumazenil is a medication that medical professionals can administer to treat Valium. Signs of a Valium overdose may be challenging to see at first but will quickly escalate in severity without treatment.

Valium Overdose Symptoms

Signs of Valium overdose symptoms include:

  • Bluish-colored lips and fingernails
  • Blurred vision, double vision
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Hyper behavior
  • Hiccups
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Rash
  • Stomach upset
  • Exhaustion
  • Tremor
  • Weakness and loss of coordination

How to Help Someone Addicted to Valium

If someone is concerned that their loved one is misusing Valium, it is essential to watch for signs and symptoms of Valium addiction. They should encourage their loved one to seek professional addiction treatment immediately to avoid dangerous health effects. It is vital they offer support without judgment or placing blame. Becoming informed about Valium addiction can also help build an understanding of what their loved one is going through.

An intervention can be an effective way to encourage a loved one to seek treatment. During an intervention, friends, family and colleagues come together and confront a person who is addicted to Valium. During the intervention, they try to persuade their loved ones to seek help for their addiction. Professional intervention specialists or treatment facilities can also help plan an intervention for Valium addiction.

Valium Addiction Treatment Options

Seeking treatment for Valium abuse and addiction is an essential step in achieving recovery and regaining a healthy body and strong relationships. Choosing a suitable treatment option for Valium addiction depends on the person’s needs and life situation. Valium addiction treatment options include:

  • Detox: Valium withdrawal symptoms can be severe, so medical detox is recommended. During Valium detox treatment, medical professionals closely monitor the patient and administer supportive therapy and medications to ease withdrawal symptoms.
  • Residential: After completion of detox, patients may enter a residential rehab program. During residential programs, patients live at the facility full-time and receive continual medical supervision while participating in counseling sessions and group therapy.
  • Outpatient: After completion of residential treatment, or as an alternative to residential programs, patients join an outpatient program. Outpatient treatment programs involve regular clinic visits and group therapy meetings while the patient returns to their normal life.
  • Dual Diagnosis: Valium addiction commonly occurs alongside mental health conditions such as anxiety disorder, sleep disorders and mood disorders. The frequent co-occurrence of Valium addiction with mental health conditions makes treatment more difficult. However, full recovery is possible with dual diagnosis treatment tailored to both conditions. Dual diagnosis treatment centers are capable of managing this level of care.

View Sources

MedlinePlus. “Diazepam.” May 15, 2019. Accessed July 15, 2019.

Get Smart About Drugs. “Benzodiazepines.” February 10, 2019. Accessed July 15, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Prescription CNS Depressants.” March, 2018. Accessed July 15, 2019.

Bachhuber, Marcus; Hennessy, Sean; Cunningham, Chinazo; Starrels, Joanna. “Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996–2013.” American Journal of Public Health, April, 2016. Accessed July 15, 2019.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners.” November, 2017. Accessed July 15, 2019.

Florida Health. “2016-2017 Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Annual Report.” December 1, 2017. Accessed July 15, 2019.

Florida Health. “When the prescription becomes the problem.” (n.d.). Accessed July 11, 2019.

MedlinePlus. “Diazepam Overdose.” May 15, 2019. Accessed July 15, 2019.