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Medically Reviewed

Medically reviewed by Jennifer Strong, LMHC

Written by Tampa Bay Recovery staff
Updated on August 13, 2023


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Valium, also known by its generic name Diazepam, is a highly addictive benzodiazepine that works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Valium was first marketed in 1963 and quickly became one of the most frequently prescribed medications in the world. Today, the drug is primarily used to treat anxiety disorders and symptoms related to alcohol withdrawal. It’s also employed in the treatment of muscle spasms, as a sedative before medical procedures, and to manage certain types of seizures.

Although Valium can be highly effective in treating these conditions, it has the potential for misuse due to its calming effects, and it can lead to physical dependence and addiction if not used as prescribed.

How Addictive Is Valium? (Diazepam)

The short answer is yes; Valium can be highly addictive. While it is often prescribed for legitimate medical reasons, prolonged use, misuse, or abuse can lead to a physical dependence. When used over time, the body can develop tolerance, requiring more of the drug to achieve the same effects, a stepping stone towards addiction. Psychological addiction can also occur, with individuals relying on the drug to manage stress or feelings of anxiety.


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How Long Does It Take To Become Addicted to Valium?

The timeframe for developing an addiction to Valium (diazepam) or any other substance varies greatly from person to person. These factors include the individual’s physical and mental health, genetics, frequency and amount of drug use, history of the use of other substances, and the presence of any underlying psychiatric conditions.

However, dependency on benzodiazepines like Valium can develop rapidly. A report from the American Academy of Family Physicians suggests that physical dependence can begin to develop after just 2-4 weeks of daily use.

Psychological addiction, where the person feels a need to use the medication not just for symptom relief but also to cope with daily life or stress, can also develop within this period.

Signs and Symptoms of Valium Abuse

Physical Symptoms
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination or unsteady walk
  • Blurred vision
  • Slowed breathing
  • Tremors
Behavioral Symptoms
  • Using the drug without a prescription or in higher doses than prescribed
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the drug
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home due to drug use
  • Continuing to use the drug despite negative personal or social consequences
  • Neglecting previously enjoyed activities in favor of drug use
Psychological Symptoms
  • Increased anxiety or agitation
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Memory problems, particularly with short-term memory
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Strong cravings for the drug

Can You Overdose on Valium?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on Valium, especially when taken in large amounts or in combination with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids. An overdose can result in severe drowsiness, difficulty breathing, coma, and even death. If you suspect someone has overdosed on Valium, it is crucial to seek emergency medical help immediately.

Signs and Symptoms of Valium Withdrawal

The severity and duration of Valium withdrawal can vary depending on several factors, including the duration of use, the dose, and the individual’s overall physical and mental health.

The following are some of the common signs and symptoms of Valium withdrawal:

Physical Symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Seizures (in severe cases)
Psychological Symptoms
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Hallucinations (in severe cases)
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances

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Valium Withdrawal Timeline

Valium withdrawal can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the individual’s overall health, the duration of Valium use, the dosage they were taking, and whether they were using other substances concurrently.

However, a general timeline might look like this:

6-8 hours after the last dose: The earliest withdrawal symptoms can begin to appear. These may include anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia.

1-4 days after the last dose: Withdrawal symptoms typically peak during this time. Individuals may experience increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. They may also have hallucinations or seizures. This is a critical period, and medical supervision is essential.

1-2 weeks after the last dose: Symptoms usually start to taper off during this period, but some may persist. Persistent symptoms may include anxiety, restlessness, and disturbances in sleep.

After 2 weeks: Most physical symptoms have resolved by this point, but psychological symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, may persist. In some cases, individuals may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which involves protracted withdrawal symptoms that can last for several months.

Months to years after the last dose: For some individuals, certain symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, or mood disturbances may persist. These can often be managed with ongoing therapy and support.

It’s important to note that stopping Valium abruptly can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, including potentially life-threatening seizures.

Finding Treatment for Valium Addiction

Finding appropriate treatment for Valium addiction is crucial and can be a lifeline for those struggling with substance misuse. Depending on the severity of the addiction and the individual’s personal circumstances, different levels of care may be necessary, including the following:

1. Detoxification (Detox): The first step towards recovery is often a medically-supervised detox. This is where the body is cleared of the substance in a safe and controlled environment. Given the potential for severe withdrawal symptoms associated with Valium, a medically supervised detox is usually recommended. Here, medical staff monitors the patient around the clock and provide medications as necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure the patient’s safety.

2. Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Following detox, individuals may transition to a Partial Hospitalization Program. This is a higher level of care where patients undergo full days of treatment (5-7 days per week) but are not required to stay overnight at the facility but either live at home or an off-site sober living facility. This level of treatment includes a combination of individual and group therapy, psycho-education, and skills training.

3. Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): After, or in some cases instead of a PHP, an Intensive Outpatient Program may be appropriate. IOPs typically involve several hours of therapy per day, a few days per week. This level of care provides ongoing therapeutic support while allowing the individual to engage in daily activities, such as work, school, or family responsibilities.

4. Outpatient Rehab: Outpatient programs are less intensive than IOPs and are generally designed for individuals who have completed an IOP, or for those with less severe addictions. Patients in outpatient programs may attend therapy sessions a few times per week, while continuing their daily activities.

Each of these levels of care provides a supportive, structured environment where individuals can gain the tools they need for long-term recovery. The appropriate level of care for each person depends on the severity of their addiction, their overall health, and personal commitments.

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Addiction can feel like a battle that is impossible to win, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right help and support, recovery is achievable, and a life free from Valium abuse can be a reality.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Valium addiction, consider seeking help from Tampa Bay Recovery Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Their professional teams are dedicated to helping you reclaim your life from addiction. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Reach out to a local rehabilitation center today, and start your journey towards recovery and a healthier future.

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