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Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

Valium withdrawal, and generally, withdrawals from all benzodiazepines can occur within one to four days after stopping. Dependence can develop after even short-term use; hence, the minimum dose and minimum duration of use are recommended. Stopping Valium© abruptly can greatly intensify withdrawal symptoms, which may continue for years after stopping.3,12,19-21,29

This is especially apparent after long-term use, and sometimes protracted Valium withdrawal symptoms may last for a very long time without proper treatment.9,40,41

Valium Withdrawal symptoms can include:
  • valium withdrawal symptoms seizures (can be life-threatening)
  • suicidality
  • heart palpitations, tachycardia
  • rebound anxiety, extreme anxiety, panic attacks, rebound depression
  • derealization, depersonalization
  • distorted perceptions (sense of taste, smell, sound, touch, etc)
  • disturbing body sensations such as burning, pins and needles, vibrations, the sensation of water or slime undulating over the scalp or down the body
  • tremors, shaking in hands, shaking attacks, jerks
  • dysphoria
  • hallucination
  • delusions, paranoia
  • hyperacusis (extreme sensitivity to normal sound levels, which can be painful)
  • hypersensitivity to stimuli such as sound, light, motion, personal contact
Other common Valium withdrawals may include:
  • tinnitus
  • insomnia, rebound insomnia, nightmares, disturbed sleep
  • tension, restlessness
  • muscle cramps, muscle pain, muscle rigidity
  • abdominal cramps
  • vomiting
  • shooting pains up the spine and neck
  • tingling and numbness in the extremities
  • sweating
  • diarrhea
  • anorexia
  • headache
  • tension
  • restlessness, agitation, irritability
  • impaired memory, cognitive ability, confusion, loss of focus, poor concentration

*While there is no cookie-cutter timeline for all persons undergoing diazepam withdrawal, researchers Brett and Murnion advise at least 10 weeks for gradual Valium withdrawal. 12

When addressing Valium withdrawal symptoms, or those of any other benzo, treating the process like a typical drug withdrawal could result in a catastrophe.

Benzodiazepines like Valium cannot be seen through the same lens as other drug withdrawals. The professionals managing the process should do so strategically and compassionately.

Do Your Symptoms Require Valium?

valium withdrawal
Alternative to Meds has been the expert on Valium withdrawal and other benzodiazepine withdrawals for over 17 years. We have published evidence demonstrating 87.5% long-term success. Some people get through Valium withdrawal relatively easily, but we have found that is a rarity. The neurotoxic state of most candidates locks them into a state of neurochemical overdrive. We will need to clean up that toxic burden before they can begin to be truly at ease. Each situation is different and needs to be treated as such.
You are likely aware of the horrors of this drug. Valium withdrawal can even be more difficult to withdraw from than heroin. And, attempting to regulate life on benzos can be, at a minimum, messy.
Please watch the videos you see here or call us to get hope for your situation.

Clinicians and physicians prescribe benzodiazepines during 30% of all office visits according to the CDC’s report.4 We recommend a person learn as much as possible about any drug before starting or stopping it. Learning more about Valium withdrawal can be life-saving, and could help you navigate through potential health challenges more safely.

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What is Valium (diazepam) used for?

Valium is a sedative in the benzodiazepine class that is used in the short-term treatment of mild to moderate anxiety. Off-label uses include insomnia, restless legs syndrome, and to prevent seizures during acute alcohol detox.24,37 Valium is also used off-label to relieve secondary injury-related muscle spasms and for short-term treatment of spasticity in children with cerebral palsy.30 Valium is also used off-label as pre-surgical or post-surgical sedation. In addition to pill form, it can be delivered intravenously in liquid suspension. When taken for short periods, Valium withdrawal may be much milder, but even in these cases, symptoms can be surprisingly challenging.

Understanding Benzodiazepines Better

Day-to-day stress or anxiety are not valid indications for a benzodiazepine prescription, according to the FDA Valium drug label, yet there is much evidence of such. In 2021 a study in the Cureus Journal was published outlining the continuing rise of the use and abuse of benzodiazepines. From 1996 to 2013 benzodiazepine use accelerated by 67%. Off-label uses include a dizzying number, all without formal approval by regulators.33-35 This trend has continued since then, with another spike over the duration of the recent global pandemic.

Benzodiazepine drugs have been the main strategy for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety during the pandemic. Authors of a study on this recent trend call it an epidemic within a pandemic. Valium has been the main drug used during the pandemic to address these and other consequences attributed to the stress of lockdowns all around the world, including increases in domestic violence, psychological distress, substance abuse, and social isolation.32

New Versions of an Old Drug, Same Withdrawal Problems

There are also some newer versions, such as diazepam nasal spray and rectal gel.28 Like all benzodiazepines, Valium loses efficacy over time (tolerance) and should not be prescribed long-term. Regardless of the version of the drug, our best understanding of benzodiazepines clearly shows that Valium withdrawals deserve medical guidance for both safety and comfort.3,13,24,30

Valium FDA-approved uses:
  • Acute alcohol withdrawal for preventing tremors, DTs, agitation, or seizures
  • Relaxant for muscle spasms
  • Short-term management of anxiety*
  • Treating convulsive disorders, skeletal muscle spasms, and some forms of epilepsy
Valium Off-label Uses can include:
  • Sedation in the ICU, pre- or post-surgery
  • For children short-term, for spasticity of cerebral palsy
  • Insomnia
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Depression
  • Palliative sedation, geriatric agitation
  • Mania
  • Dementia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychosis, hallucinations
  • Tardive dyskinesia
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Tinnitus
  • Addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Long-term insomnia
  • Acute and chronic pain
  • Tremors
  • Dystonia
  • Bipolar disorder

*Valium is a Class IV drug, intended for short-term use only, at the minimum dose required as advised on the FDA-approved drug label. Research suggests that the harshness of Valium withdrawal and adverse effects may be from long-term use causing neuronal damage.8

Valium (diazepam) Alternative Names and Slang

Diazepam is the generic name for the active drug in Valium. Other trade names exist, including Diastat Acudial©, Diastat©, and Diazepam Intensol©.

Today, Valium has developed a significant street presence, possibly due to, at least in part, Valium’s cheap cost, fast, profound calming effects, and near-immediate effects for easing withdrawals from other addictive drugs such as opiates. Of some great concern, fraudulent or counterfeit drugs may be sold as “street valium”, which can be poisonous or even lethal.6,7

Slang names for drugs are useful when people want to hide or even trivialize what they are actually talking about for social, legal, or other reasons. According to Johnson and Streltzer’s editorial in the Journal of the American Physician, many of the 4 million benzodiazepine users in the US are unprescribed users who have developed an addiction to these drugs.9,13

Slang or substitute names that refer to Valium sold illicitly are:

  • V’s
  • Yellow V’s (5mg)
  • Blue V’s (10mg)
  • Benzos
  • Nerve pills
  • Downers
  • Tranks
  • Sleepaway
  • Howards (in reference to Howard Hughes who used Valium)
  • Foofoo
  • Dead flowers

Adverse Effects of Valium

serious adverse effects of valiumValium’s active effects are thought to be a result of how the drug affects GABA activity in the CNS.9 Valium is used to treat anxiety and as a muscle relaxant, and sleep-aid, and can be used in various settings, for example, during alcohol withdrawal to prevent hallucinations, seizures, etc., or pre-surgery to relax the patient. Valium is a fast-acting tranquilizer that produces a calming sensation, slows the heartbeat and breathing, and allows the muscles to relax. Elderly patients typically have increased sensitivity to Valium and require minimal doses compared to younger patients. Drug effects and Valium withdrawal effects can overlap which may add to the challenges in navigating the recovery process.

Reportedly, Valium is associated with a great many adverse reactions, as described in the APA National Center for Biotechnology Information.13 From the APA summary, and from the FDA drug label for Valium, we have grouped some of the most important ones to be aware of below for the sake of brevity.

Valium’s adverse effects may include:

CNS Depression:

  • Coma, cardiac arrest, cardiovascular collapse, fainting, suicidality, dysphoria, mental depression, drowsiness, fatigue, bradycardia (slowed breathing to <60bpm), respiratory arrest, incoordination of the upper extremities, slurred speech, confusion, muscle weakness, lethargy, decreased blood pressure, inhibited recall, amnesia, increased hostility, muscle spasticity, hiccups, dizziness, lightheadedness, ataxia (resembles drunken state), hypoactivity


  • Neutropenia (low white blood count)
  • Lactate acidosis (low blood oxygen, high lactates, associated with sepsis, septic shock, and death) 15
  • Blood dyscrasias (blood disorders such as aplastic anemia that can damage the bone marrow, antibodies, and immune system, creating susceptibility to infection) 13,14,16
  • Urticaria — a rash of raised welts, with swelling and intense itching
  • Eye damage, blurred vision, delayed pupillary response, allergic conjunctivitis, angle-closure glaucoma 13,18
  • Tinnitus
  • Chromosomal aberrations
  • Cyanosis 17 (bluish skin or mucous membrane discoloration thought due to deoxygenated or abnormal hemoglobin, the oxygen-transporting agent in the blood)
  • Vascular disease
  • Bilateral gynecomastia (male breast enlargement)

Paradoxical Effects

  • Convulsions, grand mal seizures, akathisia, agitation, insomnia, delirium, hallucinations, excitability, rage, increased heart rate, vivid or disturbing dreams 13,19
  • Depression scores were more than 2X the placebo group in an insomnia clinical trial involving over 5000 participants being treated for insomnia with hypnotic-sedative drugs.35
  • Rage, amnesia, reduced consciousness, aggressiveness from disinhibition of behavior.36

To note, this is not a complete list of potential paradoxical effects. If any symptoms arise that seem unusual or are of concern, contact your prescribing physician without delay. Additionally, you can also report any adverse reactions to Valium or any medication by calling 1 800 FDA-1088, a voluntary reporting hotline.

Cautions and Risks Associated With Benzodiazepines 3,9,10,13,19

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Hip fracture — increased risk by 50% or more in elderly patients
  • Should not be prescribed for psychosis
  • Should not be taken concurrently with alcohol or opiates due to risk of excessive sedation, respiratory depression, coma, death
  • Addiction-prone patients are at particular risk for dependence
  • Valium has been suggested to cause birth defects if used during pregnancy
  • Risk to the infant of extreme muscle weakness, difficulty in sucking and breathing, cleft palate deformations, and other risks if Valium is used during labor and delivery
  • Breastfeeding mothers should not take Valium as it passes into breast milk
  • Psychiatric and paradoxical reactions to Valium occur more often in children and the elderly

Getting Off Valium — FAQs about Valium Withdrawal

You can find below some of the most frequently asked questions about diazepam and benzodiazepines in general. The information provided includes the theorized mechanics of action, a description of overdose symptoms, and other relevant topics.

How Does Valium Work?

 impaired memoryValium is a benzodiazepine drug, whose sedative, muscle-relaxant, calming, anticonvulsive, and amnestic (impaired memory, causing amnesia or retrograde amnesia) effects are thought to be caused through the drug’s activation of a natural chemical called GABA. 23

How it works is not 100 percent known, but how the central nervous system (CNS) reacts to the drug gives some clues. A better understanding of these can assist in navigating Valium withdrawal.

The human nervous system is an amazing relay network comprised of senders and receivers of billions of impulses, messages, orders, and requests every millisecond of the day.5 Messages or impulses can cause stimulating or dampening effects. A dampening agent called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid} inhibits, slows, stops, or dampens excitatory or stimulating messages along the nerve pathways. It could be described as a regulator. It performs this function via GABA receptors. GABA is often called a nerve-calming agent.

Researchers believe that Valium causes the GABA molecules to bind more strongly to GABA receptors. Because the central nervous system contains billions or trillions of nerve cells, this process can affect all parts of the body. GABA can relax muscles, reduce tension, ease anxiety, and can also slow the heartbeat and breathing, among other things. During Valium withdrawal, these effects are more or less reversed — increased anxiety, tension in muscles, cardiovascular issues, and so on.

What is Valium Most Commonly Used For?

valium off label prescriptionsCommonly, sedatives like Valium are used in treating mild to moderate anxiety or as a muscle-relaxant.3,24 Valium can help a patient seeking relief from spasmodic or painful skeletal muscle contractions either caused by pathologies such as cerebral palsy, trauma, injury, or exposure to some poisons.

According to clinical records, doctors prescribe Valium “off-label” for insomnia because the drug induces drowsiness.

Before surgery, the drug can keep patients calm and counteract any situational anxiety that might be experienced when waiting for a surgical procedure. It is also used post-surgery for its calming effects.

When an alcoholic stops drinking, alcohol withdrawal can overstimulate the heart and other parts of the body. Thus, Valium can prevent life-threatening consequences such as epileptic seizures, cardiac arrest, delirium tremens, or coma. The sedating effects keep the heartbeat slowed during alcohol withdrawal; as well as relaxing the muscles and calming the emotions. After some days of abstinence from alcohol, the prescriber can gently wean the person off diazepam rather than abruptly terminate the medication. Gradual Valium withdrawal is recommended.

Another important use for Valium is in the prevention of seizures or convulsions caused by poisoning. Certain types of poisoning can cause painful muscle spasms which diazepam can effectively counteract.

Sometimes a child with a fever who is at risk of a convulsion or seizure is prescribed Valium. In patients with epilepsy, Valium can help to prevent repeating seizure episodes and is considered especially useful if the patient loses consciousness between seizures. It is thought that increased GABA activity calms excessive nerve or electrical activity, to prevent convulsions, seizures, or muscle spasms. Importantly, seizures may newly emerge during Valium withdrawal, despite a person never having experienced one before.

According to the APA National Center for Biotechnology Information,13 diazepam may remain active for quite a long time after taking a dose, and feelings of drowsiness and sedation may continue into the following day.

Valium Abuse Potential?

Surprisingly, Valium is classified as a Class IV controlled substance. This is puzzling because, by definition, a Class IV controlled substance has “a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.” 26

On inspection, one cannot describe Valium as having the characteristics of a Class IV controlled substance. Valium might be more correctly identified as a Schedule II drug, along with other prescription drugs such as Ritalin© and Methadone© because they share a high risk for dependence and potential abuse.31

According to recent studies published in 2017, benzodiazepine prescriptions increased by more than threefold between 1996 and 2013, and in that same time frame, benzodiazepine-related overdoses quadrupled.1

Some prescriptions may end up sold as street drugs. Unfortunately, Valium and similar tranquilizers have developed a growing street presence as a drug of abuse. Valium carries a high risk of dependence and addiction as well as severe Valium withdrawal symptoms, according to the FDA.3

The Differences between Valium and Xanax?

Valium and Xanax share many characteristics. Valium withdrawal is similar in intensity to that of Xanax. They are both classed as benzodiazepines and are both labeled Schedule IV controlled substances.26 Regulators advise their tranquilizing effects to be used short-term for the relief of anxiety. Valium can act as a muscle relaxant, and a sedative, and is used before surgical procedures. Valium can lower risks in alcohol cessation, as a seizure preventative, and physicians prescribe it for sleep disorders.

Xanax, a comparatively short-acting benzodiazepine, has a half-life of between 9 and 16 hours. In contrast, Valium has a substantially longer half-life than Xanax, estimated at approximately 20 to 50 hours.6,24,25 It is not uncommon for people to switch to Valium to assist with Xanax withdrawals.

Can You Overdose on Valium?

Yes, although many cases of Valium overdose occur when two or more CNS depressants are taken concurrently.3 Drinking alcohol while on Valium, or using opiates or other CNS depressant drugs at the same time would be an example of such risk. Using histamines can also interact with Valium, increasing its depressant effects. A person may inadvertently overdose when taking prescribed opiates for back pain as well as prescribed benzodiazepines for sleep. As little as a single drink of alcohol increases the risk of Valium overdose.

Symptoms of Valium overdose may include slowed breathing and heartbeat, blue-tinged lips, weakness, uncontrolled body movements, double vision, and confusion.

Any combination of depressant agents should be avoided whenever possible, to avoid the risk of slowed heart rate and breathing, risk of coma, or even death.

How Addictive is Valium?

Addiction to Valium can occur very quickly, which is why the drug should be prescribed for no more than a few weeks. Someone using Valium may not realize they are becoming addicted, but when they stop the drug, severe withdrawal symptoms can occur.

Research has shown that long-term benzodiazepine use is surprisingly common, especially in the elderly, given the clear FDA guidelines against it.11

Tolerance or dependence on benzodiazepine drugs develops over a matter of weeks, resulting in Valium withdrawal symptoms that can be extremely hard to tolerate, and even deadly.

One should never abruptly stop taking a benzodiazepine such as Valium. Instead, one should gradually wean off the drug so the body can adapt more easily to the change. Seek medical assistance and guidance to navigate benzodiazepine withdrawal safely.

Is Valium a Controlled Substance?

Yes, Valium is a controlled substance. In the US, it is a Class IV scheduled drug.26,31 All benzodiazepines fall into this class of drugs, despite their high risk of dependence, abuse, and troublesome Valium withdrawal. We expect to see a change in DEA classification due to ongoing research and documentation of the very real risks. Valium remains commonly used in medical and ICU settings.

How Long Does Valium Stay in Your System?

Estimating half-life is a complex process with many factors involved. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, as well as published clinical trials 27-29 shows how age, health, genetics, and even how the drug is administered, can all play a part in how long it takes a drug to start working, and how long it takes to fully clear or metabolize the drug. Since Valium withdrawal events occur over an extended timeline, gradual Valium withdrawal is the safest way to approach it.

Half-life is the time to clear half the drug from the body. Diazepam accumulates in the body when repeated doses are administered, especially in the elderly. This may prolong the half-life elimination. The half-life of Valium Is estimated at between 20 to 48 hours in adults and significantly shorter, 18 hours, in young children ages three to eight years. It should be noted that women who are pregnant and taking Valium pass the drug through the blood-brain barrier and placental barrier, to the fetus.

According to the FDA drug label,3 Valium in premature infants has been detected for much longer periods, up to 81 days, possibly because of a lack of fully developed neuropathways to clear the drug. In adults with liver damage or cirrhosis, the half-life could extend well beyond the average.

Holistic Treatment for Valium Withdrawal, Abuse, and Addiction

Benzodiazepines have been linked to thousands of overdose deaths, and yet remain one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the country.

There are many reasons why a person would begin taking a benzodiazepine, just as there can be many symptoms that drugs are used to suppress.

At Alternative to Meds Center, this gives us two major areas of expertise:

  • Safe Valium tapering methods
  • Finding holistic Valium alternatives and methods of alleviating the root causes of anxiety (or other symptoms) that do not include prescription drugs. Drugs can only mask symptoms … and only temporarily at best.

holistic withdrawal from valium dependenceWe specialize in both of these areas. It is not enough to simply help someone safely stop taking a drug on which they have become physically dependent. This is extremely important, to be sure, yet it is only part of the journey. A person may be left with ongoing original symptoms without further treatment. In many cases, the withdrawals from Valium may actually intensify toward the end of the process of discontinuation.40

Especially where Valium was used for a long time, protocols such as neurotoxin removal and neurotransmitter are key to help reduce drug effects like cognitive dysfunction that may otherwise continue to linger.38

While all drugs can be problematic to get off easily, benzodiazepines such as Valium are famously difficult. However, our Benzo withdrawal program has become one of our most popular and requested services, routinely delivering a safe, comfortable Valium withdrawal experience.

Looking for non-drug-based help?

Do you want to address the symptoms you thought Valium would solve — but did not? Alternative to Meds Center’s aim is to address these issues in holistic ways to attain long-term relief. Such holistic therapy does not create more chaos or contribute to further decline. The goal is to alleviate unwanted symptoms without drugs. The entire breadth of treatments the center offers cannot really be fully described in a short article. But, you can find a summary of therapies and methods on our benzodiazepine alternatives and services overview pages.

We have been helping people with Valium withdrawal and holistic recovery for nearly 2 decades with great success. Please take the time to review our information, and feel free to discuss these alternative treatment options with your prescribing physician. Or call us for direct information or for other questions you may have about insurance coverage or other topics of interest regarding inpatient treatment at our beautiful facility in Sedona Arizona.

You can find relief. We can help. Contact us for more information about our Valium withdrawal programs, founded on holistic principles, that can help in achieving sustainable and natural, vibrant mental health.


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2. Davison K, Farquharson RG, Khan MC, Majid A. A double blind comparison of alprazolam, diazepam and placebo in the treatment of anxious out-patients. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1983;80(4):308-10. doi: 10.1007/BF00432110. PMID: 6137856. [cited 2022 Aug 9]

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19. Mancuso CE, Tanzi MG, Gabay M. Paradoxical reactions to benzodiazepines: literature review and treatment options. Pharmacotherapy. 2004 Sep;24(9):1177-85. doi: 10.1592/phco.24.13.1177.38089. PMID: 15460178. [cited 2022 Aug 9]

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31. Lopez MJ, Tadi P. Drug Enforcement Administration Drug Scheduling. 2021 Aug 19. In: StatPearls Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 32491358. [cited 2023 May 11]

32. Sarangi A, McMahon T, Gude J. Benzodiazepine Misuse: An Epidemic Within a PandemicCureus. 2021;13(6):e15816. Published 2021 Jun 21. doi:10.7759/cureus.15816 [cited 2023 May 11]

33. Calcaterra NE, Barrow JC. Classics in chemical neuroscience: diazepam (valium)ACS Chem Neurosci. 2014;5(4):253-260. doi:10.1021/cn5000056 [cited 2023 May 11]

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35. Kripke DF. Greater incidence of depression with hypnotic use than with placeboBMC Psychiatry. 2007;7:42. Published 2007 Aug 21. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-7-42 [cited 2023 May 11]

36. Senninger JL, Laxenaire M. Réactions paradoxales de violence secondaires à la prise de benzodiazépines [Violent paradoxal reactions secondary to the use of benzodiazepines]. Ann Med Psychol (Paris). 1995 Apr;153(4):278-81; discussion 281-2. French. PMID: 7618826. [cited 2023 May 11]

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Originally Published Sep 13, 2018 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Michael Loes, M.D.


Dr. Michael Loes is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pain Management and Addiction Medicine. He holds a dual license in Homeopathic and Integrative Medicine. He obtained his medical doctorate at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1978. Dr. Loes performed an externship at the National Institute of Health for Psychopharmacology. Additionally, he is a well-published author including Arthritis: The Doctor’s Cure, The Aspirin Alternative, The Healing Response, and Spirit Driven Health: The Psalmist’s Guide for Recovery. He has been awarded the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s “Excellence in Research” Award.

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