Table of Contents
Valium Addiction, Abuse, and Symptoms

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. The Basics

This guide explains the effects, trends, and dangers of Valium use, as well as an unbiased analysis of the medicinal and behavioral treatment methods for Valium addiction based on current research and publicly available statistics. In some cases, usage statistics are derived from general prescription sedative use, which includes alprazolam, diazepam, and clorazepate.

Primary Valium Dangers

  • Addictiveness: Nutt et al. studied 20 substances to determine their addictive potential. In addition to illegal substances, such as cocaine and heroin, Nutt and his colleagues analyzed the addictive potential of benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and other prescription medications. After assessing factors, such as the risk of social harm and how likely it is that a user will become dependent on the substance, Nutt et al. determined that benzodiazepines ranked fifth of the 20 substances studied. In fact, benzodiazepines have a higher potential for abuse than tobacco or marijuana.
  • Risk of overdose: Misuse of Valium increases the risk of overdose, especially in users who combine it with other substances. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 30% of opioid overdose deaths also involve benzodiazepines like Valium.
  • Unintended side effects: Misuse of Valium increases the risk of death caused by respiratory depression or lengthy seizures. Valium may also cause unintended side effects, such as amnesia, confusion, depression, and a rapid heartbeat.
  • Legal risks: According to guidelines set forth by the Controlled Substances Act, Valium is a Schedule IV drug. Possession of a controlled substance without a valid prescription is a criminal offense. For a first-time conviction, penalties may include fines, court-ordered drug treatment, or even jail time.

Valium Background Information

 

Derived FromSynthetic manufacturing using a process known as carbonylation
Ways UsedIngestion, rectal suppository, intramuscular injection, crushing
Scientific NameDiazepam
Slang/Street Names for ValiumVallies, Jellies, Eggs, Moggies, Benzos, Nerve Pills, Downers, Tranks (Street names for benzodiazepines)
How Long in Bodily SystemHalf-life: 24-48 hours. Elimination in three to four days but may be up to a week in older users due to a loss of kidney function
Punitive Legal Measures: Using/PossessionIt is illegal to possess Valium without a prescription as it’s a controlled substance as described in the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. A first-time conviction for Valium possession typically results in fines and required participation in a treatment program. Depending on state law, an individual convicted of this offense may also be given a short jail sentence.
Punitive Legal Measures: Selling/DistributingSelling/distributing Valium or possessing it with the intent to sell or distribute is a serious crime. In most states, it’s a felony offense, which means an individual may be sentenced to several years in prison for a first-time conviction. Some states have sentencing guidelines that allow judges to give prison sentences of 20 to 40 years to someone who has been convicted of selling or distributing Valium or another prescription drug.
DEA Drug RatingSchedule IV

II. Signs of Abuse

Behavioral Symptoms of Valium Usage and Abuse

How Valium affects the brain

Valium increases the amount of GABA in the brain. GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, and it’s an amino acid that balances out the effects of glutamate, a chemical used to transmit messages through the nervous system. Increasing the amount of GABA in the brain relieves anxiety, but it also slows down the nervous system, which can produce pleasurable side effects. In some people, the effects of Valium are similar to the effects that occur when someone consumes alcohol. For example, Valium can cause a sense of euphoria and make it difficult to coordinate the movements of the arms and legs.

Behavioral signs of Valium usage and abuse

Once someone develops a dependence on Valium, his or her behavior is likely to change. These behavioral changes occur for several reasons. First, users who feel ashamed about their substance use might start behaving in a secretive manner, so nobody finds out they’re taking Valium. Second, users who abuse Valium and other substances may start to have financial problems as they spend more and more money on the drug. Finally, Valium produces side effects that make it difficult to concentrate and remain productive; thus, some individuals who misuse Valium start having problems at school or in the workplace.

Users who engage in secretive behavior may isolate themselves in their rooms, refuse to tell family members with whom they’re spending time, or leave the house more often to carry out their activities in private. Users who develop financial difficulties may begin paying bills late or not paying them at all, asking friends and family members for loans, or overdrawing bank accounts just to have enough money to buy Valium. In the workplace, behavioral signs of Valium abuse include arriving late, missing work more than usual, failing to meet deadlines, and having difficulty juggling multiple responsibilities.

Adolescents who misuse Valium may start failing classes, seem less interested in school and extracurricular activities, or stop doing their homework. Skipping classes, breaking curfew, stealing money, and ending long-term relationships are also potential signs of Valium abuse.

Physical Symptoms of Valium Abuse

How Valium affects the body

Once the amount of GABA in the brain increases, activity in the nervous system starts to slow down. One of the major physical effects of Valium is its ability to slow down an individual’s heart rate and breathing rate. After taking Valium, it’s also difficult for some users to coordinate their movements due to the muscle weakness that sometimes develops.

Early physical effects of Valium

Valium starts to work quickly, reaching peak plasma levels in as little as 10 minutes, depending on the route of administration used. Once it takes effect, it can cause a variety of physical symptoms. Although some of these symptoms are pleasant, others can be dangerous.

This table illustrates the possible short-term physical effects of Valium.
Short-term Physical Symptoms
Initial (direct effects of drug, 30 – 60 min.)Drowsiness
Fatigue
Dizziness
Lingering (within an hour of taking the drug)Headache
Dry mouth
Nausea
Slurred speech
Post-Use (several hours to days after use)Constipation
Increased risk for dependence, especially when taken in higher doses

Severe and long-term physical effects of Valium

Once a user has been taking Valium for a long period of time, low doses of the drug no longer produce the same effects. As a result, the user may take larger doses of Valium or take Valium more frequently, increasing the risk of dependence. Taking Valium in higher doses than prescribed or more often than prescribed increases the risk of severe physical effects.

Respiratory depression is one of the most serious physical effects that can occur as a result of long-term Valium use. In some users, respiratory depression causes irregular breathing that eventually returns to normal. However, it’s possible for respiratory depression to cause an individual to stop breathing entirely. The risk of respiratory depression increases when Valium is combined with alcohol, opioids, or other substances that also slow down the nervous system. These substances enhance the effects of Valium, making it more likely that the user will suffer adverse physical effects.

Valium also has an effect on an individual’s motor skills, slowing response times and making it difficult to carry out tasks requiring a high level of coordination. For individuals who work in high-risk occupations, this can be dangerous, as slower response times and a lack of coordination can make it difficult for an individual to avoid harm if a machine malfunctions or an industrial accident occurs.

This table illustrates the possible long-term physical effects of Valium.
Long-term Physical Symptoms
CasualDry mouth
Fatigue
Headache
Constipation
Chronic

Including all of the above effects for casual use

Frequent urination
Difficult urination
Muscle weakness
Changes in sex drive
Shaking
Inability to control bodily movements
WithdrawalIrritability
Increased anxiety
Tremors
Difficulty sleeping
Muscle pain and/or stiffness
Headache
Irritability
Panic attacks
Sweating

Further Resources

Both the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offer in-depth information on the symptoms and treatment of prescription benzodiazepine addiction.

III. Valium Usage

Valium usage has increased worldwide, especially among individuals who use opioids

In Northern Ireland, Valium has been implicated in a number of overdose deaths. According to the 2019 World Drug Report, which is published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 136 drug deaths were reported; almost half of these deaths involved at least three substances. Of all the substances identified, diazepam was the most common. This indicates the dangers associated with combining Valium with opioids and other substances.

Valium has also been implicated in many overdose deaths in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, benzodiazepines were involved in 40% to 80% of the methadone-related deaths that occurred in France in 2017. Furthermore, benzodiazepines like Valium were involved in 50% to 80% of heroin-related deaths that occurred in Germany and the United Kingdom during the same year.

Benzodiazepine use is also a concern in Asia and Africa, as evidenced by the fact that 47 tons of diazepam, the generic form of Valium, were manufactured illicitly in 2017. Additionally, 6.3 tons of diazepam were seized by law enforcement officials in 2016. More than half of the diazepam was seized in Africa; large amounts of diazepam were also seized in Asia. China, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, and India are among the main sources of illicit diazepam.

Prescription Sedative Use Throughout the World
HighestSecondThird
Regions with the Highest Number of Prescription Sedative UsersMiddle EastNorthern AfricaEastern and Central South America
Major Sources of Illicit DiazepamChinaHong KongRepublic of Korea

Valium Usage Demographics in the U.S.

Benzodiazepine use is increasing in the United States

In 2016, approximately 0.2% of the U.S. population age 12 and older were considered current misusers of sedatives like Valium. This represents about 497,000 individuals, indicating the extent of the problem.

A 2018 National Institute on Drug Abuse report indicated that benzodiazepine abuse is highly prevalent in the United States. Nearly half of the individuals surveyed reported that the main reason they use benzodiazepines is to relax. The second most common reason U.S. residents use benzodiazepines is to encourage sleep. The most concerning statistic in this report was that more than 11% of the individuals surveyed stated that they use benzodiazepines like Valium to experience a high. People also use benzodiazepines to control their emotions or increase/decrease the effects of other substances.

Among adolescents, tranquilizer use has decreased among 12th graders but increased among other age groups. According to the Monitoring the Future Study, 6.1% of the 12th graders surveyed in 2019 reported that they had used tranquilizers at some point in their lives. This is a decrease from 6.6% in 2018. Although this data is heartening, the news isn’t all positive. In 2019, lifetime tranquilizer use increased from 3.5% to 4% in 8th graders. Furthermore, past-year use of tranquilizers increased in two of the three groups surveyed.

Demographics of Prescription Usage
Past Year (2019)Lifetime
8th grade (14-15 yo)2.4%4%
10th grade (15-16 yo)3.4%5.7%
12th grade (17-18 yo)3.4%6%

IV. How to Find Help

Valium increases the amount of GABA in the brain, slowing down the central nervous system and causing some users to experience a sense of euphoria. In an effort to repeat these results, users may take higher doses of Valium, choose unsafe routes of administration, or take Valium more often than recommended. As a result, some users develop a dependence on Valium that can be difficult to break.

Even if a user no longer wants to take Valium, it’s hard to stop because of the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that are likely to occur. Thus, it’s important for Valium users to seek treatment from licensed professionals who can guide them through the withdrawal process. A multistep withdrawal process allows the user to eliminate Valium from the body as safely as possible, which can help prevent unpleasant side effects and make the withdrawal process more comfortable. To learn more about this multistep process, review our comprehensive Valium rehabilitation guide.

Staging an Intervention

If you have a loved one who’s struggling with addiction, staging an intervention is often the first necessary step towards sobriety, but it’s important to be strategic and loving in your approach. Even the most well-meaning of interventions can have a negative effect if they aren’t handled correctly.

5 Tips for Staging an Intervention

1. Don’t Do It Alone. A professional interventionist is always the most qualified to guide a successful intervention. Also, rely on non-addict family and friends – especially those who have a close relationship with you or the addict.
2. Research Ahead of Time. It’s best to do plenty of research ahead of time to gather insight on the addiction and how it affects the addict. Also, be prepared with local resources for getting help.
3. Write Out Your Statement. During the actual intervention, emotions will likely be running high, so it’s best to have a statement of how the person’s addiction has impacted you and your relationship with him or her. These statements should be honest, yet written from a place of love – no personal attacks.
4. Offer Help. It’s important for everyone attending the intervention to offer tangible help and support as the person works through detox and rehabilitation.
5. Set Boundaries. If the person refuses to seek help and take the next steps outlined, it’s important that they understand that everyone present will end codependence and enabling behaviors.

V. Sources