The Rolling Stones wrote a song about it. Betty Ford launched an addiction treatment centre because of it. In the seventies and early eighties, Valium was the most widely prescribed drug in the Western world. Following concerns about its addiction potential Valium’s popularity waned, yet British doctors still issue almost 18 million prescriptions of it every year.
The use of benzodiazepines, like Valium, is now much more tightly controlled, yet worldwide rates of misuse continue to remain high. As benzo-related overdose deaths and emergency visits rise, we take a closer look at how Valium becomes addictive, the impact it has on health and wellbeing, and what sufferers can do to get help.
Get support for Valium addiction. Speak to Delamere
Valium is the brand name for diazepam, a type of benzodiazepine that works as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Usually prescribed for treating anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy or alcohol withdrawal, it has a calming and sedative effect on the brain.
Introduced in 1963, Valium quickly became a popular alternative to barbiturates due to its fast-acting properties and perceived lower risk. But by the 90s, several studies had been published linking diazepam with abuse, addiction and long-term irrational use in the elderly (1).
Here are some reasons why Valium is so addictive:
Everyone has different responses to Valium. The potential for benzodiazepine addiction is influenced by many factors, from genetics to coexisting disorders. If you’re worried about Valium addiction in yourself or someone else, it’s important to seek professional advice.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Take a Valium’ when someone needs to calm down. Its sedative effect on the brain and nervous system means diazepam has both a physical and mental impact on the body.
Mental effects of Valium
Physical effects of Valium
Feeling sluggish. Struggling to concentrate. Being detached. The physical and mental side effects of Valium can impact a person’s home, work and social life. The effects will vary in severity based on the dosage, frequency of use, tolerance and any existing health problems, but here are the ones to watch:
As a CNS depressant, Valium can cause drowsiness, confusion and impaired cognitive function which affects someone’s ability to concentrate, focus and perform tasks. This can make both work and home tasks more difficult.
Lack of energy
With less get up and go, Valium can lead to people feeling unenthusiastic or disengaged. They might let household chores slip or underperform at work due to low energy levels and lack of motivation.
Poor physical performance
Valium can impact coordination, causing dizziness, unsteadiness and slowed reaction times. This can impact a person’s ability to perform physical tasks, such as operating machinery.
While Valium can relieve symptoms of anxiety and stress, this can have negative effects long-term. If the brain becomes used to being desensitised, this affects people’s ability to feel emotion and can impact relationships with colleagues, friends and family.
Dependence and addiction
Long-term Valium use can have a severe impact on work and home life due to poor judgement, financial problems, strained relationships and an overall inability to function.
People who are addiction prone, take Valium long-term or in high doses have the potential for building up a tolerance and becoming dependent. Despite its low toxicity and high safety profile, diazepam can have severe adverse and toxic effects. (2)
Common adverse effects of diazepam include fatigue, confusion, memory loss, depression, irritability, nausea, constipation, loss of libido, tremors, incontinence and menstrual problems in women. An overdose or excessive use of Valium poses several risks:
Central Nervous System Depression
While Valium relies on depressing the Central Nervous System to work, too much can cause this effect to go into overdrive. This can lead to heavy sedation, extreme drowsiness, confusion, slowed breathing and even loss of consciousness.
Impaired Coordination and Motor Function
At high doses, Valium can make it difficult to walk, balance or use fine motor skills, such as eating, writing and getting dressed. This can increase the risk of accidents and falls, particularly among the elderly.
Slowing down the respiratory system plays an important role in counteracting anxiety, but breathing can become dangerously slow and shallow when Valium is abused. In the worst cases, an inadequate supply of oxygen to the body can lead to organ damage.
Coma and death
In some instances, a Valium overdose can lead to coma. If the sufferer has also been abusing alcohol or other CNS depressants, the outcome can be fatal. A systematic review of benzodiazepine misuse over the last 10 years revealed a 400% increase in overdose deaths and a 300% increase in A&E visits. (3)
These statistics are shocking. Yet benzodiazepines are still generally considered low risk by the scientific community and policy makers. More research is needed to identify those at risk of Valium addiction, especially young people and the elderly, who would benefit the most from prevention and professional intervention.
People who are suffering with Valium addiction require a multidisciplinary team of specialists who can address their physical, mental and emotional needs. At our wellness retreat nestled beside Delamere forest, we help people to overcome reliance on benzodiazepines with tailored recovery programmes.
A clinical detox is often the first step, where we can help you to withdraw from Valium safely and comfortably with constant medical supervision. Our holistic therapists will then help you make sense of your addiction through one-to-one psychotherapy and group counselling sessions.
We use a combination of evidence-based techniques, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and advanced somatic healing practices to help you find the best way forward. You will have a rewarding and enriching experience that provides the tools you need to live life free from the constraints of Valium addiction.
If you are concerned about Valium addiction, contact Delamere confidentially to speak to a member of the team today.
1. Lopez, E., Jeanne, G., Lefort, L. H., Autissier, C., Picot, M. C., PeyrièRE, H., et al. (2021). Characterization of benzodiazepine misuse and comorbidities in patients with alcohol use disorder. Fundam. Clin. Pharmacol. 35, 1133–1140. doi:10.1111/fcp.1267.
2. Dhaliwal JS, Rosani A, Saadabadi A. Diazepam. [Updated 2022 Sep 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from here.
3. Victoria R. Votaw, Rachel Geyer, Maya M. Rieselbach, R. Kathryn McHugh. The epidemiology of benzodiazepine misuse: A systematic review, Drug and Alcohol Dependence,Volume 200, 2019,Pages 95-114,ISSN 0376-8716.
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