What to Know About Taking Valium (Diazepam)

What to know about taking valium

Valium is one of the most recognized prescription medications, and millions of Americans take it daily. However, Valium, a diazepam brand name, isn’t a drug for indiscriminate use. It is a powerful drug that requires careful monitoring. What should you know about taking Valium?

What Is Valium and What Is It Used For?

Long popularized in movies and TV, Valium is easily one of the most well-known prescription drugs. Anxious? Pop a little pill. Or so fiction would lead you to believe. However, Valium is a potent drug with the potential for great good if used correctly under a doctor’s care or harm if misused or combined with alcohol and other drugs.

Valium (a Diazepam brand name) is a powerful drug in the benzodiazepine class of medications. It is a Schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The FDA approves Valium for managing anxiety disorders and providing short-term anxiety symptom relief. It is also approved to treat spastic movement in certain upper neuron disorders. As an adjunct therapy, Valium may be prescribed to treat muscle spasms, some epilepsy conditions, recurrent convulsive seizures, and anxiety before an operation.

Understanding Valium

Valium is one of diazepam’s brand names, although it is also sold under many other trade names. Diazepam is the drug’s active ingredient. The drug is known for its ability to relieve anxiety and seizures, relax muscles, and act as an anticonvulsant. It has amnestic properties, meaning it acts as an amnesiac, causing short-term memory loss or amnesia.

For example, if Valium is administered before an operation, afterward, the individual may experience fuzzy thinking and find it difficult to recall things. This is temporary, and the effects wear off during the recovery period.

This medication acts fast and lasts for a long time, making it valuable to provide quick symptom relief. Due to its fast-acting and reliability, Valium may be prescribed to individuals with diagnosed anxiety disorders. About 19.1 percent of adults in the U.S. had any anxiety disorder in the last year.

Uses and Benefits

Valium uses include the treatment of anxiety, agitation, delirium, seizures, tremors, and hallucinations that result from alcohol withdrawal. Valium uses also include relieving muscle spasms in some individuals with neurological diseases and sedating surgical patients.

For those experiencing acute alcohol withdrawal, Valium (a diazepam brand name) helps relieve severe symptoms such as hallucinations, acute delirium tremens, tremors, and agitation. It may be used during alcohol detoxification at a licensed drug and alcohol rehab facility.

Risks and Side Effects

No one should take Valium without first knowing its risks and side effects. Some of these can be severe or life-threatening. It isn’t like taking an aspirin. It should only be taken for short-term relief of symptoms as a doctor prescribes.

Furthermore, never take someone else’s prescription medication, whether it’s Valium, another benzodiazepine, or any other drug. Also, beware of any Valium sold on the street. Counterfeit medicines, drugs altered with fentanyl, or other illegal and dangerous substances aren’t worth it.

What are the Common Side Effects of Taking Valium?

Valium side effects range from mild to moderate in most cases. Common Valium side effects include:

  • Amnesia
  • Anger or rage
  • Balance problems
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Fatigue
  • Incontinence
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle spasms
  • Reactions that are the opposite of what is expected (such as being over-excited)
  • Skin rash
  • Speech difficulties, including slurred speech
  • Stomach upsets

Serious Side Effects

Some individuals may experience serious Valium side effects. These include:

  • Depression
  • Low white blood cell counts ( a condition known as neutropenia)
  • Respiratory depression

Precautions and Considerations

Valium drug interactions include alcohol and other drugs that cause sleepiness or sedation. This can be very dangerous because the combination may increase Valium’s sedative effects.

  • Some drugs (clarithromycin, cimetidine, darunavir, erythromycin, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, itraconazole, ketoconazole, and omeprazole) may extend Valium’s effects by inhibiting the liver enzymes instrumental in its elimination.
  • Valium dosages may need to be decreased with carbamazepine, refampin, and St. John’s wort use. These drugs decrease Valium levels by increasing liver enzyme elimination.
  • Importantly, pregnant women should not use benzodiazepines, which include Valium, because the drug can cause fetal abnormalities.
  • Valium is excreted during breastfeeding. This can affect the nursing infant. Breastfeeding women, therefore, should not use Valium.

If you’ve been prescribed opioids, taking a benzodiazepine such as Valium can result in severe and life-threatening respiratory depression, extreme sedation, coma, and death.

Valium may not be appropriate for specific individuals. This includes those with kidney or liver disease, respiratory disease, sleep apnea syndrome, psychiatric disorders, a history of addictive disorders, or substance abuse.

Is Valium Addictive?

As with other powerful benzodiazepine drugs, the use of Valium, a Schedule IV controlled substance, may lead to a dependence addiction. This can occur when an individual takes higher medication dosages over an extended period. This does not mean Valium uses aren’t likely to be considered, especially if you have an anxiety disorder. Still, it does mean that caution and adherence to prescribed dosages are necessary.

  • Elderly individuals may require lower medication dosage to minimize side effects and the risk of dependency and addiction.
  • Individuals who are addicted to alcohol or drugs should be carefully monitored when they are prescribed Valium (diazepam’s brand name). Someone who has been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, opioid or substance use disorder, or other disorders is predisposed to dependence and is habituated to substance-taking.
  • In 2022, an estimated 4.8 million adults in the U.S. (1.7 percent of those over the age of 12) misused prescription benzodiazepine drugs such as Valium.

Dosage and Administration

Valium is most commonly prescribed in tablet form, available in 2 mg, 5 mg, and 10 mg tablets. The drug is also available as a liquid nasal spray, an oral solution, a rectal gel, and an intravenous or intramuscular injection. Oral tablets are more reliable than intramuscular injections for absorption and provide a controlled release.

A common question among those newly prescribed Valium (the Diazepam brand name) is how long does it take for the medication to start working?

How Long Does It Take to Work?

A common question among those newly prescribed Valium (a diazepam brand name) is how long it takes for the medication to start working. Oral tablets start working in 15 minutes to one hour, and Valium administered intravenously starts working in one to three minutes.

The prescribing doctor may recommend taking Valium in split doses. In this case, the largest dose should be taken immediately before bedtime. Following the doctor’s dosing schedule is essential for your safety and achieving the medication’s maximum effect.

Do not double or alter the dosing amount if you forget to take the medication. Only do what your doctor recommends.

Treatment Duration and Withdrawal

When the prescribing doctor determines that the time is right to discontinue Valium, the process involves careful consideration of tapering the medication and the timing of the withdrawal. Those who’ve been taking benzodiazepines, such as Valium, under long-term therapy have a greater risk of physical dependence. Other benzodiazepines are chemically similar, whether taken for their tranquilizing or sedative effects.

However, when someone abruptly stops taking Valium, there may be minor to severe withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Confusion
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Lightheadedness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures (in severe cases)
  • Sweating
  • Tension
  • Tremor
  • Vomiting

What Should I Discuss with My Doctor Before Taking Valium?

Many people are reluctant to take medication, even those their doctor deems the best choice to help them cope with symptoms while undergoing counseling or other treatment. Before taking Valium, you should discuss all your concerns with your doctor. This includes asking if another medication works better, has fewer side effects, or is non-addicting.

Bringing a list of all the medications and supplements you’re currently taking, including over-the-counter medicines, is crucial. It is essential to let your doctor know if you’ve been prescribed opioids since taking these drugs simultaneously with Valium may result in severe or life-threatening consequences.

Making the Decision

The decision to take Valium (diazepam’s brand name) is between you and your prescribing doctor. They may have a good reason for choosing to prescribe it as opposed to another medication.

What if you’re worried about long-term use or feel like you’ve become dependent on Valium? You may be wondering how to discontinue taking the drug, tapering down, or whether other medications may work that have less potential for dependence or addiction. Our experts at Restore-Mental Health can answer your questions and discuss potential treatment options. Contact us anytime for a free, confidential discussion.