Valium Abuse, Side Effects, & Treatment
Misuse of Valium can result in potentially dangerous consequences to a person’s health, including dependence and addiction.1 Fortunately, Valium addiction is treatable.2
This page provides an overview on Valium use and misuse, its potential side effects, and how to help someone recover if they’ve lost control of their Valium use.
What Is Valium?
Valium (generic name: diazepam) is a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are sedative-hypnotic drugs and central nervous system (CNS) depressants.
Valium initially debuted on the market in 1963, and for nearly 15 years, it ranked as the best-selling drug in America. Today there are more than 500 generic brands of Valium sold in a variety of tablets and other formulations.3
Valium and other benzodiazepines (commonly referred to as “benzos”) decrease excitation in the brain, or slow brain activity, through interactions with the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor.4 Other commonly prescribed benzodiazepines that function similarly include:1, 5
- Xanax (alprazolam).
- Ativan (lorazepam).
- Klonopin (clonazepam).
- Halcion (triazolam).
- Restoril (temazepam).
What Is Valium Prescribed for?
Valium is commonly prescribed to:7, 8
- Treat anxiety disorders.
- Manage symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal.
Why Is Valium So Addicting?
Drug addiction is a complex disease, and there are many variables that factor into its development. Regular use of Valium may result in tolerance to its effects. This means that a person may need more frequent or higher doses to feel its effects. After several weeks of regular use, someone may develop a dependence, which means they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms after abruptly ceasing or reducing use.9
Unfortunately, even taking these medications as directed by a doctor may cause someone to develop a tolerance or dependence to them.2
Like many drugs with the potential for compulsive use, Valium is associated with an increase of dopamine activity in the brain.10 Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that can activate the brain’s reward system and contribute to reinforcing a behavior.11
Chronic substance misuse can cause lasting structural and functional changes in the brain. Researchers believe these changes may explain why some people with substance use disorders are at risk of relapse after long periods of abstinence.12
Researchers have identified some of the factors associated with an increased risk of drug addiction. Common predictors include:13, 14
- Genetics, which may be responsible for at least 50% of someone’s propensity toward addiction.
- Environmental factors, such as high-stress living situations, poverty, or peer pressure.
- Drug or alcohol use at a young age.
- Childhood trauma.
Side Effects of Valium
Using Valium may have unwanted side effects. These commonly include:8
- Muscle weakness.
- Ataxia or incoordination (an inability to coordinate muscle movements)
There is also a risk of overdose when using Valium, especially when using it with opioids, alcohol, or other CNS depressants.1 The combination of benzodiazepines with opioids can be especially deadly: In 2019, 16% of opioid overdose deaths also involved benzos. Due to the dangers of concurrent benzodiazepine and opioid use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines recommending clinicians avoid prescribing them together.4 Similarly, drinking alcohol while using benzodiazepines intensifies their effects and increases depression of the central nervous system and the risk of overdose.15
Signs of Valium Abuse & Addiction
Misuse of prescription drugs is defined as:16
- Taking the medication in a way it was not prescribed (e.g., crushing up Valium pills and snorting them).
- Using the drug for nonmedical reasons (i.e., taking Valium to get high).
- Using a prescription drug illegally (e.g., taking someone else’s Valium or buying it on the street).
While any form of Valium misuse is dangerous, not everyone who misuses Valium has a sedative-hypnotic use disorder, which is the clinical term for a an addiction to Valium or any other benzodiazepine or sedative-hypnotic drug.13 A sedative-hypnotic use disorder is a type of substance use disorder, (SUD) a condition characterized by the compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines 11 criteria medical professionals consult when diagnosing an SUD. These include:2
- Taking higher doses or using for longer periods of time than intended.
- Constantly expressing desire or attempting to quit or reduce use but not following through.
- Spending significant amounts of time seeking, using, or recovering from use.
- Experiencing cravings.
- Failing to fulfill important obligations due to use.
- Continuing to use despite its toll on work or homelife.
- Missing appointments or social activities because of use.
- Using in situations where it is physically unsafe (e.g., while driving).
- Continuing to use despite knowing it has caused or worsened physical or mental health conditions.
- Building a tolerance.
- Going through withdrawal when reducing or ceasing use.
When diagnosing a sedative-hypnotic use disorder, 2 or more of the above criteria must be observed within 1 year. (Should a person be prescribed Valium and using it as directed, tolerance and dependence does not apply as criteria toward a diagnosis of sedative-hypnotic use disorder.)
Valium Addiction Treatment & Rehab Options
Addiction treatment is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor: there are many different routes to recovery. That said, there are evidence-based methods that have helped many people get sober and remain in recovery.12, 17
Treatment often begins with detox, which is followed by rehabilitation. Once a patient completes rehab, they often benefit from aftercare programs like joining 12-Step support groups or moving into a sober living facility.17
Medical Detox & Valium Withdrawal
Addiction treatment typically begins with medical detox, which enables patients to go through withdrawal under the care of medical professionals. A supervised medical detox may be needed for someone addicted to benzodiazepines to keep them safe and limit the risks of withdrawal complications such as seizures.17
Upon admission to a detox or treatment program, medical staff will evaluate a patient to learn:17
- Which substances the patient has been using and the concentration levels in their bloodstream. Despite the dangers, polysubstance misuse is common and can complicate withdrawal.
- The patient’s physical and mental health condition.
- The patient’s social situation and living environment.
Not only will this information help staff ensure a patient detoxes safely, but it will also be used in outlining an individualized rehabilitation plan.17
Valium withdrawal often begins 1–2 days after the last dose, though symptoms may take a week to develop. The symptoms of Valium withdrawal tend to peak around 2 weeks after cessation, before tapering over the following 2 weeks. In some cases, increasingly mild symptoms can last months.2
Valium withdrawal symptoms may include:2
- Sweating and increased heartrate.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Hand tremors.
- Nausea or vomiting.
The possibility of seizures is a very serious concern as someone withdraws from Valium or any other benzodiazepine. During medical detox, staff may taper dosages of long-acting benzodiazepines to reduce the risk of seizures.17
While detox is often an important initial step in the recovery process, it does not encompass all of addiction treatment. Continued treatment following detox will greatly improve the chances of sustained long-term recovery.
Rehab for Valium Addiction
In rehabilitation treatment, patients gain the skills needed to get and stay sober. This is typically done through various forms of behavioral therapy.12
Rehab can be performed in a variety of settings. The level of care and duration for a person will depend upon the severity of the addiction and other individual needs.12, 18 Oxford Treatment Center provides the following types of addiction treatment:
- Medical detox.
- Residential care.
- Partial hospitalization (“day treatment”).
- Intensive outpatient.
- Standard outpatient.
- Sober living.
Therapies used in addiction treatment help patients recognize triggers that may lead them to misuse Valium or other substances, repair negative thought and behavioral patterns, and motivate them to remain in recovery.19 Treatment may also concurrently address co-occurring disorders if they are present.
Many patients benefit from continuing care, sometimes called “aftercare,” once they finish a rehab program.20 At Oxford Treatment Center, aftercare planners meet with each patient near the end of treatment to make sure they have adequate support when their current form of treatment ends. For some, this may mean a less intensive form of treatment (i.e., stepping down from inpatient to outpatient care). For others, this may mean staying at a sober living facility, attending therapy, or joining a mutual-help or 12-Step support program.20
You don’t have to do it alone; help is just a call away. Call us at and we can help you find the right rehab program for you or your loved one. Whether you choose to attend our Mississippi drug abuse treatment program at Oxford Treatment Center or at one of American Addiction Centers’ other rehab facilities across the United States, we will be there with you at every step of the way.
Paying for Valium Addiction Treatment
Cost is frequently cited as an obstacle for people seeking addiction treatment. While rehab can be expensive, the costs associated with not getting treatment are much steeper.21
Thanks to coverage expansions stipulated in the Affordable Care Act, most people’s health insurance can be used for addiction treatment. However, coverage may be limited to facilities within the insurer’s network. Anyone interested in receiving care at Oxford Treatment Center can quickly verify their insurance benefits by filling out this confidential .
For people struggling with addiction that do not have insurance, or if inadequate coverage creates unaffordable out-of-pocket costs, there are other ways to pay for addiction treatment, such as personal loans or credit cards. Many rehab facilities, like Oxford, offer financing options to make these costs more manageable.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s not too late to get help. Call an admissions navigator at and start the road to recovery today.