Valium is the brand name for the prescription medication Diazepam and is classified as a benzodiazepine, a grouping of drugs that possesses sedative qualities that make them medically useful for treating the symptoms of disorders such as anxiety and insomnia.
Unlike other benzos, Valium has a fairly wide range of other uses and is regularly prescribed to help with:
- Muscle spasms
- Restless leg syndrome
- Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
- Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome
DON’T GO THROUGH THE PROCESS OF RECOVERY ALONE. GET IN TOUCH WITH SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP.
DON’T GO THROUGH THE PROCESS OF RECOVERY ALONE. GET IN TOUCH WITH SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP.
That last one may seem surprising, but Valium is the drug of choice for weaning someone off an addiction to other stronger or more dangerous benzos. Because Valium has a very long half-life, it makes it easier to taper down dosage with less discomfort from withdrawal symptoms.
Still, even though Valium can be a very useful drug when used correctly under the proper circumstances, it is commonly acknowledged as having a high risk for both addiction and abuse. Even when it’s being used in medical maintenance therapy for benzodiazepine withdrawal, it is administered in very low doses for only a short period of time, as people can build up a tolerance to Valium within less than a week of regular use.
What is perhaps most dangerous about misusing Valium, as well as any other benzodiazepine, is that people who are abusing it are rarely ever abusing just Valium. When someone is using Valium with other drugs, they are much more likely to overdose or suffer an adverse or even life-threatening reaction to mixing these substances.
People will often use Valium as a way to come down from stimulants like cocaine, or even just take Valium as a way to ease social anxiety at parties, not realizing the potentially fatal effects of mixing Valium with alcohol.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2015, the United States had more than four times as many overdose deaths caused by benzos when compared to 2012, and as one of the most over-prescribed class of drugs in the country, those numbers may continue to climb even higher.
What Are the Symptoms of Valium Withdrawal?
Valium works in the same manner as other benzos, binding itself to the brain’s gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA, receptors. GABA is the name of a chemical in the brain that controls how your body responds to things stress, fear, and anxiety, blocking the nerve impulses responsible for those feelings in order to calm the body down.
What Valium does is increase the amount of GABA in the brain, creating a much stronger block against those feelings of anxiety and instead, producing feelings of sedation and relaxation.
The problem is what happens when someone stops taking Valium after their body becomes dependent on the amount of GABA the drug produces, causing a kind of system crash that causes the symptoms that correspond with valium withdrawals.
Symptoms associated with withdrawal from Valium are very much the same as from other benzodiazepines. While they are usually milder in comparison to stronger benzos like Xanax, they can still be very severe and incapacitating if someone has been abusing a large amount of Valium over a long period of time.
Common Valium withdrawal symptoms include:
- Fluctuations in weight
- Unstable moods
- Panic attacks
- Elevated heart rate
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle cramps
- Rebound anxiety
Can Valium Withdrawal Kill You?
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines, in general, are among some of the most unpleasant withdrawal experiences, with symptoms that can range from just extremely uncomfortable to life-threatening.
For many people undergoing a Valium detox, rebound anxiety can be one of the most difficult symptoms to manage, as symptoms of anxiety are the reason why a large number of people abusing Valium starting taking it in the first place.
The way rebound anxiety works is that when an individual who had been using Valium as a means to treat anxiety stops using, their anxiety symptoms not only return but come back significantly more intense than they were before. These symptoms are typically far worse than the feelings of anxiety they experienced before they had started taking Valium in the first place.
The symptoms produced by Valium withdrawals also become even more severe and also last a good deal longer if someone has what is known as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, which can also cause extremely dangerous symptoms not commonly associated with Valium withdrawal to manifest, including:
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
- Total psychosis
Those who end up suffering from benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome during their withdrawal from Valium were, prior to detox, engaging in extremely heavy Valium abuse packed into a fairly short time frame, such as two to three months.
As a result of rebound anxiety, benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, and the host of other symptoms, those going through withdrawal from Valium are highly susceptible to relapse in order to ease these symptoms and are more likely to take too much and overdose.
Beyond that, several of the symptoms themselves can be deadly without the aid and intervention of a medical detoxification specialist. Many include the potential for self-harm as a result of delirium, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts, as well as the possibility of Grand mal seizures, which can happen when someone tries to quit Valium cold turkey all at once.
Suddenly cutting off the flow of Valium and increasing GABA levels that came with it triggers an overwhelming shock to your body, which is what can cause these deadly seizures.
Attempting to do a Valium detox on your own not only makes for a far more painful and protracted withdrawal process than necessary, but there is also more of a chance that it can kill you without professional medical supervision.
Controlled medical detox can not only help to mitigate the discomfort of Valium withdrawal symptoms, but a doctor will also make sure to put you on a tapering schedule that slowly reduces your dosage of Valium until it is safe to stop taking it.
What Are the Stages of the Valium Withdrawal Timeline?
While there is an established timeline of stages of withdrawal from Valium based on symptoms, how the drug typically stays in someone’s system and the experience of undergoing a Valium detox is going to differ from person to person based on key facts such as:
- How long someone has been abusing Valium
- How much Valium they were abusing
- Whether they were abusing it with alcohol or other drugs
- How they were taking Valium (as a pill, snorting it, injecting it, etc.)
- If they have a history of prior addictions or mental health issues
- Their overall current health
- If they get benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome
- If they are stopping Valium cold turkey or tapering usage
As previously mentioned, along with more severe symptoms, benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome also greatly lengthens the withdrawal period. Otherwise, the typical timeline for Valium withdrawal is as follows:
One of the reasons Valium is often used in tapering someone off of a different benzodiazepine is that it has a much longer half-life than most other benzos. This means that it can take as long as 48 hours after the last use to leave the body and that some people may not start feeling Valium withdrawals until three days after their last use. These early symptoms will generally be confined to difficulty concentrating, mild anxiety, and an irregular heart rate.
The next seven to 10 days after those first three are when all of the symptoms, psychological and physical, will be at their peak strength, including rebound anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, hallucinations, drug cravings, and more. This is also the stage when people are most vulnerable to having a relapse.
Again, because of how long Valium stays in your system, the withdrawal can take quite a long time. At roughly the one-month-mark, many symptoms will still be present but will have at least greatly diminished in strength and become easier to manage.
Typically, by this time, the majority of the Valium withdrawal symptoms should have dissipated, although anxiety and other psychological symptoms may remain.
However, people withdrawing from Valium and other benzos are extremely susceptible to post-acute withdrawal system, or PAWS, which is when the following symptoms can come and go intermittently even months after detoxing from Valium:
- Mood swings
- Drug cravings
- Increased sensitivity to stress
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty sleeping
- Inability to concentrate
- Decrease in coordination
While there is, unfortunately, no established timeline for how long PAWS can last, at The Palm Beach Institute, we can help provide you with plenty of resources that can provide you with help and support.
What Can Help with Valium Withdrawal?
There are several different medications that a medical detox center might utilize in order to ease the discomfort of Valium withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Anticonvulsants: Anticonvulsant medication is administered in the event that the individual undergoing Valium detox begins to experience seizures but has also, in some cases, been found useful in treating the overall symptoms of Valium withdrawals.
- Antidepressants: Specifically, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been found to be somewhat successful in helping those dependent on benzos cope with withdrawal, and also can help to minimize the impact of rebound anxiety.
- Melatonin: Yes, melatonin, the over-the-counter supplement, can help reduce the symptoms of insomnia and anxiety, and may also help with tolerance issues caused by abusing Valium.
What Is the Next Treatment Step?
Recovery cannot happen without detoxification, but detoxification by itself does not equal recovery. Flushing the Valium out of your body will not cure you of your addiction or the unhealthy behaviors associated with it.
If your Valium detox is not followed by the next phase of addiction treatment, relapse is unfortunately inevitable, especially in the case of Valium due to its lengthy withdrawal process and symptoms of anxiety and depression that can linger for months afterward.
Rehabilitation treatment can mean many different things depending on what works best for someone and just how severe their addiction is. Some may require residential inpatient treatment programs that allow for people to step away from their normal lives and focus wholly on their recovery, while others may only need outpatient treatment to have a successful recovery.
Whichever type of treatment program you choose, it will help you get to the root issues behind your substance abuse and provide you with the tools and understanding needed to help you get sober and stay that way.
If you or someone you care about has been battling an addiction to Valium, don’t wait to get help. Call The Palm Beach Institute now at (855) 960-5456 to take the first steps towards recovery with medical detoxification followed by a seamless transition into ongoing treatment.