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Valium is a popular type of benzodiazepine often prescribed to manage convulsive disorders. While the drug is truly amazing in delivering the claimed benefits, it also carries a high potential for addiction. As a sedative drug with long-lasting effects, addiction to Valium can quickly occur, especially in people who are not using it the way it has been prescribed. Over time, it becomes harder for such people to function without having Valium in their system. Yet, many fail to realize that they have a problem until it significantly worsens. If you or someone you know has been fighting Valium addiction for some time, know that help is available to manage this condition and lift its adverse effects from life.
An Overview of Valium and its Uses
Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine (diazepine) with anti-anxiety and relaxing effects. Like other benzodiazepines, it works by activating a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. As GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, its increased levels lead to calming down an overexcited nervous system. Although Valium is extremely beneficial when used for its intended purposes, it is very likely to be misused. Misuse may include various circumstances, such as taking someone else’s prescription Valium, using it in very high doses, or combining it with other drugs, such as alcohol. Some people also misuse this drug by crushing and snorting the pills instead of swallowing them orally as they should.
It is important to remember that diazepine, the active ingredient in Valium, is a Schedule IV substance according to the Controlled Substances Act. This means that the drug carries a known potential to cause misuse and dependence. Thousands of people have been abusing this drug for the past many years, and the prevalence of this drug abuse continues to rise, paving the way for Valium addiction.
The FDA originally approved valium for short-term relief from anxiety. It also helps manage muscle spasms and keep convulsive disorders in check. Additionally, some experts also prescribe Valium to people detoxing from alcohol to manage its withdrawal symptoms. In addition to its approved uses, many people may use this medication for a number of reasons which include the following:
To get high or experience euphoria, either by taking Valium alone in very high doses or by combining it with opioids or other substances to increase its euphoric effects.
- To manage the side effects of cocaine and other drugs
- To help with sleep
- To relieve stress and tension
Valium Addiction Signs
Addiction to Valium is a type of sedative use disorder that can only be diagnosed by a qualified healthcare professional. However, it is helpful to be aware of its diagnostic criteria so that you can know when to seek help. As outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), an individual must fulfill at least 2 of the following criteria for at least 12 months to get a diagnosis of Valium addiction:
- Using Valium or other sedatives in progressively increasing amounts for a time period longer than intended
- Putting a lot of effort into obtaining, using, or recovering from the drug’s effects
- Persistentlyfailing to stop or cut down the use of Valium despite feeling a constant desire to do so
- Experiencing intense cravings or urges for Valium use
- Continuing to use the drug despite acknowledging its adverse effects on social, work, or personal life
- Continuing to use the drug despite knowing that it has led to addiction
- An inability to fulfill major responsibilities at work, home, or school because of Valium use
- Giving up important work, social engagements, or recreational activities to use more Valium
- Recurrent use of the drug in situations where it is risky to do so, such as while driving or operating heavy machinery
- Developing tolerance where a person needs more of the substance to experience similar effects
- Experiencing withdrawal, i.e., adverse effects as soon as a person stops using valium
Keep in mind that the last two criteria are automatically omitted for a person who has been using Valium as a prescription medication.
Side Effects of Long-Term Valium Addiction
The importance of managing Valium addiction cannot be stressed more, not only because it financially and mentally drains a person but also because it may lead to physical side effects. The drug initially works in a dose-dependent manner to trigger a euphoric high. Along with this pleasant sedation, some other effects that users feel with the initial use of valium include the following:
- Increased physical and mental relaxation
- Reduced stress
- Intense feelings of pleasure and happiness
While many people enjoy the impacts of Valium mentioned above, they may start experiencing the bad side of using this drug very soon. Moreover, these side effects continue to worsen with consistent drug use. Some examples of Valium side effects include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Blurry vision
- Slurry speech
In addition to affecting physical health, Valium dependency also takes a toll on mental health with the following psychological symptoms:
- Agitation and irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
Valium Abuse and Addiction Treatment: What Happens in a Rehab?
People who are addicted to diazepam and misuse it frequently can benefit from a valium addiction treatment program at a professional rehab. While the exact plan of action differs from one facility to another, most programs begin with initial detoxification to help clients stop their acute drug use. This process is often included as a part of residential treatment; however, individuals can also join a specialized unit. During detox, valium addicts completely stop using the drug with gradual tapering. The tapering process takes place under expert supervision to ensure no rebound side effects occur. However, some people may still develop certain withdrawal symptoms as their bodies rid themselves of valium actively. These withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle stiffness and pain
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Blurry vision
For some people, these withdrawal symptoms are manageable, while for others, it can be highly intense. The severity usually depends on how much valium a person had been using in the past. In rare cases, some people may develop the following life-threatening valium withdrawal symptoms:
- Catatonia (a lack of communication and movement)
- Suicidal thoughts
- Delirium tremens
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, medically-managed detox can benefit people chronically using valium at very high doses. Joining this program significantly cuts down the risk of acquitting potentially life-threatening withdrawals and makes a person more compliant with the recovery process. The detox process often involves using certain controlled pharmaceutical medicines to control the withdrawal symptoms, making the process comfortable. Remember that some people may not need this initial step, especially the ones who do not abuse Valium so severely and have supportive family members and friends at home.
Despite being the first and most crucial step, detox is often not enough to help people get over Valium addiction. This is because detox is only to help addicts get over the physical part of the addiction and does not address the underlying triggers leading to addiction. Hence, as clients complete this process, they eventually transition to inpatient or outpatient rehab to ensure long-term recovery and sobriety. Regardless of the level of care, this phase of treatment makes use of various therapies to make a recovery achievable for everyone. These therapies include:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) enables clients to identify and tackle high-risk situations and life stressors that may trigger addictive patterns. With the help of CBT, these clients also learn how to positively alter their behavior, take on the responsivity for recovery, and live sober lives with maximum relapse prevention.
Motivational interviewing: This therapy aims to increase clients’ motivation levels to get over their Valium abuse and make positive changes in life. The proper use of this therapy also makes relapse prevention and good compliance with the treatment program possible.
Is Valium Addictive?
Yes, Valium carries a very high potential for addiction which may be severe enough to negatively affect health and force an individual to miss their responsibilities at school, work, and home. Using this medication and other benzodiazepines can also lead to tolerance which means that you need to continue using them at higher doses to experience similar effects. In the long run, this tolerance leads to dependence. In this physiological dependence, the body becomes habitual of the presence of Valium in the body and experiences a withdrawal if the drug levels reduce. Both tolerance and dependence eventually pave the way for addiction to set in.
What happens if you mix Valium with other drugs?
Mixing Valium with other drugs can lead to harmful consequences and may potentially increase the risk of an overdose. This is particularly true for people who combine it with opioids, alcohol, or other central nervous system depressants. What makes this polysubstance use more dangerous is that you cannot predict how using them together will affect the body. Keep in mind that this fact holds true if you are mixing other prescription medications with Valium. So always talk to a doctor before combining two drugs.
Can you overdose on Valium?
As long as an individual is using them as directed, the risk of overdosing is minimal. Most overdose cases occur in people who mix Valium with other substances, such as alcohol. However, it is still essential for all people using Valium to be mindful of the symptoms of an overdose. The drug may lead to confusion, lethargy, and drowsiness in mild cases of an overdose. In rare cases when a person takes too much of Valium intentionally or unintentionally, the following symptoms may appear:
- Ataxia (a degenerative disease of the nervous system)
- Low muscle tone
- Diminished reflexes
- Low blood pressure
Can you get high off Valium?
Yes, Valium can get an individual high and euphoric within minutes. These pleasant effects are often short-lived and convert into an energy and mood crash when the effects of Valium start to wear off.
How much Valium causes addiction?
There is no fixed amount of Valium that can trigger addiction in an individual. This factor varies from one person to another depending on various factors, such as age, gender, genetics, tolerance to drugs, history of Valium use, previous addiction history, etc.