Valium addiction has been on a steady rise in the United States for the past decade, along with many other benzodiazepines, especially Xanax and Klonopin. Valium (Diazepam) is one of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine in the United States, and it is most commonly prescribed for anxiety and detoxification from other benzodiazepines and alcohol.
Beginnings of Valium Addiction
Benzodiazepines are classified based on their half-life and the speed of the onset of their effects. Valium has one of the fastest onsets of action and has a long half-life, meaning it remains active in the body after its noticeable effects have worn off. Because Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine with an immediate onset, valium addiction really targets those who seek to abuse drugs. Since it is a benzodiazepine, Valium is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, working to enhance the effects of the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter. As an inhibitory chemical, GABA is responsible for sedation and relaxation, both of which facilitate sleep and reduced anxiety.
When an individual begins to abuse Valium, he or she will experience an overly sedated state of being, one that is very similar to alcohol intoxication. When Valium is regularly abused over an extended period of time, the brain becomes accustomed to the intensified effects of GABA, and increased tolerance can begin to develop. As this happens, more Valium is needed to produce the same sedative effects that were initially experienced by the user.
In addition to increased tolerance, is the development of dependency on Valium. Like all benzodiazepines, Valium can produce a physical and psychological dependence in long-term users of the drug, whether an individual is abusing it or using it as prescribed. Once dependency develops, sudden discontinuation of Valium can result in dramatic rebound symptoms, and possibly life threatening grand mal seizures. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms associated with the abrupt discontinuation of Valium are as follows:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased anxiety
- Agitation and/or hostility
- High blood pressure
- Muscle soreness and/or twitches
- Over-sensitivity to light and sound
Suddenly stopping the use of any benzodiazepine, including Valium, can result in life threatening seizures, and the severity of all withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe. This depends on the individual, the severity and length of his or her addiction, and the strengths, amounts, and frequencies he or she used Valium and any other drugs.
All of these various processes are a part of how Valium addiction begins to develop. It is important to note that an individual who may be dependent on Valium as a result of using it as prescribed for a prolonged period is not necessarily addicted to the drug, especially without the behaviors associated with addiction. Valium addiction has many signs and symptoms, only one of which is dependency on the drug.
Signs of Valium Addiction
When Valium addiction develops, an individual will not only do whatever it takes to avoid withdrawal symptoms, but he or she will take drastic measures to continue to get high from the drug as well. The main difference between dependence and Valium addiction is the behaviors exhibited by the individual. These behaviors can vary, depending on the person and the level of accessibility to Valium he or she has. This is discerned based on whether or not an individual has a legitimate prescription. Below is a chart of common behaviors exhibited by individuals, based on how they can obtain more Valium to feed their addiction.
|Addicts With A Prescription||Addicts Without A Prescription|
|May try to alter amount or strength written on the prescription||May go to a pill mill clinic or doctor to get a fraudulent prescription|
|May try to impersonate his or her doctor to call in refills||May use overseas online pharmacies|
|May resort to doctor shopping to get multiple prescriptions for Valium||May take or steal Valium from friends and/or relatives|
|May lie to doctor about worsening symptoms to get more or higher strengths of Valium||May resort to street level dealers to get Valium|
In addition to these various behaviors in order to get more Valium to feed an addiction, there are several other behaviors exhibited by addicts to enhance the experience of being high on Valium, and most involve other depressant drugs like alcohol, heroin, painkillers, and other benzodiazepines. The combination of two or more CNS depressant drugs can result in fatal overdose caused by respiratory failure. Unfortunately, the occurrence of emergency room visits and overdose deaths in the United States that involve benzodiazepines such as Valium are alarmingly high. In fact, according to SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Drug Abuse Waning Network (DAWN), 79% of all drug related emergency room visits in 2009 involved benzodiazepines. This statistic was second only to muscle relaxants, which accounted for 80%. The overlap implies that both benzodiazepines and muscle relaxants have been involved in many of the individual cases that account for each statistic.
Sadly, the dangers of Valium addiction don’t stop at the emergency room. The effects can be far reaching as one of the more severe side effects of Valium, and other benzodiazepines is a paradoxical effect that results in bizarre behaviors such as:
- Loss of inhibition
- Risky sexual behaviors
- Increased agitation, hostility, and/or violence
- Increased energy
- Increased anxiety
When an individual experiences paradoxical effects of Valium, he or she is more likely to engage in risky and unprotected sex, engage in physical fights and confrontations, and perform dangerous activities while under the influence, like driving. When things like this are taking place, someone suffering from Valium addiction can affect entire communities.
Overcoming Valium Addiction
Valium addiction is a dangerous condition for any individual, especially considering how dangerous it is when taken in combination with other CNS depressant drugs. Overcoming Valium addiction first requires detox from the drug itself. Since Valium is the most commonly used benzodiazepine to detox from other benzodiazepines, it cannot be used for detox from itself. Instead, many detox facilities may use a barbiturate to detox addicts from Valium. Barbiturates have the same effects as benzodiazepines but tend to be stronger and have more of a hypnotic and anesthetic effect. Typically an equivalent dose of barbiturate will be given to a Valium addict, and that dose with be tapered over a period of several days until the individual can be completely withdrawn without risk of severe symptoms like seizures.
Once detoxification has been completed, it is important to enter into some form of addiction treatment to ensure the continued sobriety from Valium and other drugs of addiction. Since addiction is a behavioral problem, the goal of addiction treatment is to get to the source of the behaviors that lead to addiction. Detox alone does nothing to address the personal turmoil and issues that may have contributed to the addiction.
In addiction treatment, someone who has been suffering from Valium addiction can do some things that are all aimed to prevent relapse and promote health in the future. Some of the things addicts learn are as follows:
- Understanding and addressing personal issues and traumas that may have contributed to destructive behaviors and addiction.
- Individual therapy to work through emotions and personal triggers for relapse.
- Group therapy to establish friendships and fellowship among other addicts who may be able to provide added support along the road to recovery.
- Workshops and courses to improve life skills like communication, stress and anger management, and coping skills.
- Courses to understand the nature of addiction, and help addicts to recognize better dangerous people, places, and things that may jeopardize sobriety.
- Development of healthy eating and living habits to be continued once addiction treatment has been completed.
- Aftercare programs started before treatment is completed to ensure the most recovery-friendly environment for residence and employment, establish a list of safe and supportive contacts, and create connections with support groups and activities.
Addiction treatment is a crucial part of overcoming Valium addiction. Even if an individual has been prescribed this drug for a legitimate medical purpose, if he or she has become addicted (not to be confused with dependent) on the drug, addiction treatment is necessary. Another benefit of a treatment program is the ability to explore and learn various other methods of addressing the symptoms for which Valium was intended to treat. Depending on the program and facility, there may be non-addictive medications or a simple change in lifestyle that can bring about more relief than Valium ever did.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Valium addiction, please call us now. One of our trained counselors will speak with you about your situation, and how we can help you to determine the course of addiction treatment that is best for you, or your addicted loved one, based on individual needs, preferences, and belief system. We understand the distress and hopelessness that can be associated with Valium addiction. There is help available, no matter what your situation, so please call now and get the help you or your loved one needs. Recovery is just one phone call away.