After seven long years of watching him struggle with drug addiction, Ginger went to bed relieved that her son, Ian, had told her he has decided to stop. When she woke the next morning to go for a run, Ginger heard Ian’s television blasting from his room, louder than normal. When she went to check on him, she found Ian dead. After their chat the night before, Ian went back to his room and used heroin and Valium, the brand name for the prescription drug diazepam.
Valium is a commonly abused benzodiazepine that slows down brain activity in the central nervous system by increasing the presence of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid.
Doctors prescribe Valium to sedate overactive brain functions such as anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. Unfortunately, the same reasons that make Valium a legitimate treatment option for heightened anxiety have also increased the use of the low-cost drug as an escape mechanism for people struggling to deal with the uncertainties of life.
When taken inappropriately, Valium is a dangerous benzodiazepine, a class of drugs used to treat anxiety and panic attacks, seizures, and difficulty sleeping. Other uses for Valium are as general anesthesia before surgery, muscle relaxation, alcohol withdrawal, nausea and vomiting, as well as depression.
Studies show about one in every five people who take Valium, Xanax, some other benzodiazepine are misusing the potentially addictive medication. Those same statistics report that benzodiazepine use among adults has more than doubled in the last few years.
It’s no coincidence that overdose deaths related to benzos have increased dramatically in the past decade in lockstep with the steady growth in prescriptions. These deaths have gone from 1,135 to 8,791 between 1999 and 2015, according to the to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Equally alarming is the link to America’s ongoing opioid epidemic. Nearly one in three overdoses caused by opioids also involve benzos, according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. The risk from Valium and other benzodiazepines alone is concerning, but it is exacerbated when the misuse includes opioids because they suppress respiration among other debilitating health conditions.
Although older adults are most commonly prescribed Valium and other benzodiazepines, young people between the ages of 19-25 are becoming addicted as well. To self-treat symptoms of stress or anxiety, many young people turn to these sedatives because clinical therapies are too expensive, inaccessible, time-consuming, or they carry a stigma.
The problem for these people occurs when Valium and other benzodiazepines are taken without a prescription and in higher frequencies and doses than prescribed.
While many younger adults may feel overwhelmed or stressed by work, school, and family obligations, much of the concern with benzodiazepines focuses on older adults who may be at increased risk to falls, memory loss, and automobile accidents when under the influence of Valium. Chronic misuse of Valium can lead to severe physical dependence and addiction. When Valium use is abruptly stopped, serious withdrawal symptoms can be expected, including the extreme anxiety or seizures that the medication was originally prescribed to treat.
What is Valium Withdrawal?
Anyone who stops taking Valium and, as a result, fails to meet tolerance levels that the body has grown accustomed to, will experience withdrawal. When Valium is no longer present, the body wants to react as if it is still there. That means Valium withdrawal may occur when use is stopped abruptly or even gradually in smaller, less frequent doses. As the body struggles to adapt, a person addicted to Valium may experience strong cravings to curb the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Valium withdrawal symptoms will emerge when an attempt is made to cut back or completely stop using the benzodiazepine. Depending on the dose, length of use, and personal health, any of these symptoms can be severe and cause for alarm:
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- Muscle spasms
- Abdominal cramps
- Sensory hypersensitivity
- Rebound anxiety
Valium withdrawal can be dangerous and the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to predict. If left unmanaged by a medical professional, valium withdrawal can lead to seizures and delirium tremors, which may include the severe confusion, shaking and hallucinations typically associated with alcohol withdrawal. To avoid complications, do not stop taking Valium abruptly. Slowly taper off the medication under the care of a medical professional instead.
What are the Stages of the Valium Withdrawal Timeline?
Unfortunately, users are often the last to know when the negative consequences of Valium dependency begin to outweigh any medicinal benefit of the drug. A decision to completely stop taking Valium or, at the very least, gradually reduce the dosage is a good idea.
People who are dependent on Valium will experience withdrawal when use is stopped. This reason alone will often force an individual to resume taking Valium. For most, Valium withdrawal will last 1-4 weeks. A timeline and stage of Valium withdrawal can vary depending on the individual, genetics, frequency of use, and dosage. A general timeline might follow:
Because Valium has a half-life of about 12 hours, symptoms from withdrawal may surface within 24 hours of the last dose. For the next couple of days, symptoms are likely to include anxiety, appetite loss, nausea, and difficulty sleeping. Changes in heart rates, blood pressure, mood swings, depression, and cravings are also likely.
Insomnia, anxiety and nausea discomfort begins to lessen after the first two days. The possibility of seizures and hallucinations is not to be dismissed during this stage.
Following the first 5-7 days, symptoms will continue to decrease. However, the potential for nausea, anxiety, and irritability can remain for up to two weeks.
After the first two weeks, some individuals will experience the return of acute symptoms.
Depending on the individual, Valium withdrawal symptoms can last for several weeks. For this reason, tapering off the medication or detoxification under the care of a medical professional is strongly recommended.
Treatment for Valium Withdrawal
A doctor may prescribe a longer-acting benzodiazepine other than Valium to taper off the drug and mitigate unpleasant side effects. To reduce the risk of complications from Valium withdrawal, doctors may prescribe medications like carbamazepine and valproate to manage seizures as well as clonidine or propranolol for blood pressure, heart rate, and tremors. Trazadone and other antidepressants can help with insomnia experienced during withdrawal.
Why Should I Detox?
The best way to step away from Valium addiction or dependency is to gradually reduce dosages. A medical detoxification facility can provide the safest environment to help you taper of Valium and begin to get your life back in order. Here, doctors can prescribe medications to minimize the side effects associated with Valium withdrawal, and highly trained staff can monitor progress to reduce the risk of complications and relapse.
What is the Next Treatment Step?
The body, generally, needs 3-5 weeks to eliminate all traces of Valium. What steps you choose after detox will make or break your chances for sustained recovery. Clients dependent on Valium will likely continue treatment at an residential substance abuse facility, where the unique issues and circumstances surrounding their addiction can be addressed. During this stay, patients are exposed to group therapy, one-on-one counseling, educational lectures, and workshops as part of a comprehensive recovery program.