In our society, it seems as though any ailment we have has a remedy in the form of a pill. Do you have heartburn? There’s a pill for that. Can you not sleep? There’s a pill for that. Trouble in the bedroom? Look no further; there’s a pill for that. Throughout the existence of human beings, we have always sought out ways to improve our well-being.
In the 1900s, drugs called barbiturates were created to help ease symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, and seizures. They were beneficial in the ailments they treated, but a less likely side effect occurred: addiction.
Over time, scientists searched for new ways to help those in need to solve some of these problems they struggled with.
It’s safe to say those who struggle don’t always become dependent on drugs or use them recreationally, but with such easy access to drugs, it increases the odds of being placed into the wrong hands. Over the next couple of decades, scientists discovered benzodiazepine drugs as an alternative to the highly addictive barbiturates.
The most common mental health disorder in the United States is anxiety, and it affects 40 million adults age 18 and older (18.1 percent) each year. Statistics like these show why anti-anxiety drugs like Valium are sought out. When someone has a disorder that paralyzes them from social activity, you can empathize with them for needing relief.
People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor, and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not have anxiety disorders. These statistics are the reason barbiturates needed a more beneficial successor, and in 1963, they got just that, or so they thought.
Valium was introduced by Roche Labs, a Swiss drug company that stirred up controversy when marketing their product to women. It was so popular that it became the first billion-dollar drug, and it accounted for 81 percent of all tranquilizers on the market. It was initially thought of as safe, and doctors ignored any claims that it could be dangerous. The era known as the benzodiazepine craze created many addicted people.
Valium was found to be addictive over time, and the claims that it was nearly impossible to take a lethal dose by a suicidal person was proven to be false. During its rise to fame, the famous band The Rolling Stones made a song called “Mother’s Little Helper” to highlight the abuse that was taking place. The song became extremely popular and demonstrated how common Valium was.
Valium, also known as diazepam, is a benzodiazepine that is used to treat anxiety and nervousness. In some cases, it is also used to treat alcohol withdrawal, relax muscles, and manage specific types of seizures. It falls into a group of medications called central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which are medicines that slow down the nervous system.
This medication should only be taken as prescribed by your doctor, and it should never be taken more often, or longer than the doctor recommended.
Benzo drugs work similarly to barbiturates and even alcohol. They suppress the nervous system by interacting with gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating excitability in your brain. People who have problems with anxiety or sleep disorders require a GABA boost. A drug like Valium will bind to the brain’s GABA receptors and increase its efficiency. The result is a feeling of relaxation, sedation, and hypnotic effects.
Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease, and Valium addiction can come with outward signs and symptoms that indicate a substance use disorder. Like most addictions, it may be difficult to spot at first if someone is prescribed the medication, but addiction is hard to hide for long. If you are concerned that a friend or family member is growing dependent on Valium, there are behavioral signs that you may notice.
Valium abuse is similar to alcohol intoxication, and symptoms can include:
Once a chemical dependence to Valium has been achieved, they may start showing behavioral signs that include:
If Valium use is turning into a substance use disorder, you will notice some physical or psychological symptoms. As the chemical dependence continues to develop, you will feel a desire to increase the dose to counteract a tolerance. If a dose is missed, you may feel withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, tremors, anxiety, or confusion.
An addiction will occur with compulsive use of the drug. Even if it causes serious consequences, such as problems at home, work, with the law, or with your health but you continue to use, you may have a severe substance use disorder.
Addiction treatment is a process of medical and psychotherapies designed to address a substance use disorder and any underlying symptoms. Upon entry to an addiction treatment program, the client will go through an intake and assessment process intended to determine their most pressing needs.
The first and perhaps the most challenging stage of treatment is medical detox. Detox is considered to be the highest level of care in addiction treatment and will require the client to stay from three to seven days under 24-hour supervised care. Clients with a substance use disorder involving Valium will need medical detox due to the dangerous symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Upon successful completion of detox, there are several different levels of care that include residential treatment programs, intensive outpatient treatment, and outpatient services. These steps will allow you to go through psychotherapy sessions in the form of individual, group, family therapy, and many useful types of therapy. Treatment will be customized to meet the client’s unique needs and will be reassessed often to ensure everything is going according to the plan.
Compared to barbiturates, Valium has a lower level of toxicity. In high doses, despite earlier claims, it can lead to a deadly overdose. It would take a lot more of the substance to reach that point than if you consumed barbiturates though. If you take higher doses than prescribed, you can experience feelings of sedation, confusion, muscle weakness, and depression. These effects can cause accidents or injuries as a result.
Valium is much more dangerous for those who suffer from depression. The drug by nature is a depressant and can make depressive symptoms worse. If you are using Valium, even as prescribed, but are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you must contact your doctor immediately.
Valium is the most dangerous when used in conjunction with other drugs like alcohol or opioids. The combination of drugs can suppress your nervous system to the point of suffocation. This combination can lead to oxygen deprivation, brain damage, coma, and even death. More than 30 percent of overdoses that involve benzos also involved an opioid.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 15). Benzodiazepines and Opioids. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids
Facts & Statistics. (n.d.). from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics