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

Valium Withdrawal symptoms 3,12,19-21 include:

  • valium withdrawal symptomsepileptic seizures (can be life-threatening)
  • suicidality
  • heart palpitations, tachycardia
  • rebound anxiety, extreme anxiety, panic attacks, rebound depression
  • derealization, depersonalization 21
  • distorted perceptions (sense of taste, smell, sound, touch, etc)
  • tremors, shaking in hands
  • dysphoria
  • hallucination
  • delusions, paranoia
  • hyperacusis (extreme sensitivity to normal sound levels, can be painful)
  • hypersensitivity to stimuli such as sound, light, motion, personal contact
  • 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, confusion, loss of focus, poor concentration

*Researchers Brett and Murnion advise at least 10 weeks for gradual benzodiazepine cessation.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 and other benzodiazepine withdrawals for over 15 years. We have published evidence demonstrating an 87.5% long-term success. Some people get through a benzodiazepine taper relatively easily, but we have found that is the 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. Benzodiazepines 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 about 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. Doing so can be life-saving, and could help you navigate through 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 24 include insomnia, restless legs syndrome, in alcohol detox and in other medical crises to prevent seizures and tremors. It also relieves secondary injury-related muscle spasms and is used as pre-surgical sedation. In addition to pill form, it can be delivered intravenously in liquid form. There are also some newer versions, such as diazepam nasal spray and rectal gel.28 Like all benzodiazepines, Valium develops a lack of response over time and should not be prescribed to those prone to addiction unless the patient can be carefully monitored for signs of abuse and addictive behaviors.3,13 24

Summary of Valium Uses:

  • Sedation pre-/post-surgery
  • Acute alcohol withdrawal for preventing tremors, DTs, agitation, or seizures
  • Relaxant for muscle spasms, restless legs syndrome
  • Mild to moderate anxiety*
  • Treating convulsive disorders such as exposure to some poisons

*Valium is intended for short-term use only, at the minimum dose required as advised on the FDA-approved drug label. Research shows long-term benzodiazepine use can lead to 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.

Valium has developed a significant street presence, possibly due to, at least in part, Valium’s cheap cost, fast, profound calming effects, and its use in easing withdrawals from other addictive drugs such as opiates. Additionally, fraudulent or counterfeit drugs may be sold as “street valium”, which can be poisonous.6,7

Slang names for drugs are useful when people want to hide 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. Some slang 9,13 or substitute names that refer to Valium sold illicitly are:

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

Side Effects of Valium

Valium’s side effects are thought to be a result of how it affects GABA activity in the CNS.9 Valium is used to treat anxiety and as a muscle-relaxant, 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.

Side effects are adverse or undesirable reactions to drugs. Valium is associated with a great many side effects. The number of Valium side effects numbers in the hundreds, documented by 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 side effects include:

CNS Depression:

  • coma, cardiac arrest, cardiovascular collapse, fainting, suicidality, dysphoria, mental depression, drowsiness, fatigue, bradycardia (slowed breathing to <60 bpm), 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, immune system, creates 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 Side Effects

  • convulsions, grand mal seizures, akathisia, agitation, insomnia, delirium, hallucinations, excitability, rage, increased heart rate, vivid or disturbing dreams 13,19

These are not all the side effects. If any symptoms arise that seem unusual or are of concern, contact your prescribing physician without delay to report the side effects. You can also report the side effects of 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 occur with Valium especially in children and the elderly

Getting Off Valium – Drug Information and FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about diazepam and benzodiazepines in general. The information provided includes the mechanics of action, overdose symptoms, and other relevant topics.

How Does Valium (Diazepam) Work?

valium 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 is significant.

The human nervous system is an amazing relay network comprised of senders and receivers of billions of impulses, messages, directions, 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.

It is thought 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.

What is Valium Most Commonly Used For?

Sedatives like Valium can be used in treating various conditions; i.e., mild to moderate anxiety or as a muscle-relaxant.3,24 For instance, Valium can help a patient seeking relief from spasmodic or painful skeletal muscle contractions either caused by pathologies such as cerebral palsy, trauma, or injury.

Doctors sometimes prescribe Valium “off label” for insomnia, because the drug induces drowsiness.

Before surgery, the drug is useful in keeping patients calm and counteracts 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. 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, gently weaning the diazepam rather than abrupt 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 relax.

Sometimes a child with fever is at risk of a convulsion or seizure and is prescribed Valium. In patients with epilepsy, Valium can help to prevent repeating seizure episodes, especially useful if the patient loses consciousness between seizures. It is thought that the increased GABA activity calms excessive nerve or electrical activity, to prevent convulsion, seizure, or muscle spasms.

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?

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

According to recent studies published in 2017,1 benzodiazepine prescriptions increased by more than threefold between 1996 and 2013, and in that same time frame, benzodiazepine-related overdoses quadrupled. Some of those prescriptions probably ended up sold as street drugs. Valium and similar tranquilizers have developed a growing street presence as a drug of abuse. Valium carries a high risk of dependence and addiction according to the FDA.3

The Differences between Valium and Xanax?

Valium and Xanax share many characteristics. They are both in the benzodiazepine class and are both Schedule IV controlled substances.26 Their tranquilizing effects are used short-term for the relief of anxiety. Valium is used as a muscle relaxant, sedative, before surgical procedures, in alcohol cessation, as a seizure preventative, or for sleep disorders.

Xanax is a comparatively short-acting benzodiazepine with a half-life 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 a prescription of opiates for back pain, and a prescription of benzodiazepines for sleep. With a single drink of alcohol, overdose risk is increased.

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

This combination of depressant agents should be avoided if at all possible, as doing so can slow the heart and breathing, risking coma or even death.

How Addictive is Valium?

Addiction to Valium can occur very quickly, which is why the drug should not be prescribed, in most cases, for 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 more common than one might assume, 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 deadly. Never abruptly stop taking a benzodiazepine such as Valium, but gradually wean off the drug so the body can more easily adapt 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 All benzodiazepines fall into this class of drugs, despite their high risk of dependence, abuse, and addiction. 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 settings.

How Long Does Valium Stay in Your System?

Estimating half-life is a complex process with many factors involved. Research 27 published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, as well as published clinical trials28,29 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.

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 will invariably 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.

Treatment for Valium (Diazepam) Withdrawal, Abuse, and Addiction

Restoring Your Brain ChemistryBenzodiazepines have been linked to thousands of overdose deaths, and yet remain one of the most common and frequently prescribed drugs in the country.

There are various 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 concern:

  • Safely tapering off Valium
  • 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 … temporarily at best.

We 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.

The symptoms that one thought Valium would solve — but did not — can be addressed in holistic ways to attain sustainable, non-harmful therapeutic relief. Such holistic therapy does not create more chaos or cause addiction but is administered to alleviate unwanted symptoms without drugs. The subject of holistic treatments offered at the Alternative to Meds requires more space than is available here, but a summary of therapies and methods used can be found on our benzodiazepine alternatives and services overview pages. We have been helping people with Valium withdrawal recovery for nearly 2 decades with great success. Please take the time to review our information, and discuss these alternative options of treatment 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 mental health.

1. Bachhuber MA MD MSHP, Hennessy S PharmD PhD, Cunningham CO MD MS, Starrels JL MD MS “Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996–2013” American Journal of Public Health, 2016 Apr [cited 2021 July 30]

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 2021 July 30]

3. FDA drug label Valium (diazepam) [Internet] revised 2016 [cited 2021 July 30]

4.  Santo L et al., “Physician Office Visits At Which Benzodiazepines Were Prescribed: Findings from 2014-2016 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey” CDC NSHR Report #137 [online] Published January 2017 [cited 2021 July 30]

5. Perry S, “Neurotransmitters: How Brain Cells Use Chemicals to Communicate.” [Internet] 2011 May 16  [cited 2021 July 30]

6. Lung DD, Gerona RR, Wu AH, Smollin CG. Confirmed glyburide poisoning from ingestion of “street Valium”. J Emerg Med. 2012 Aug;43(2):276-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2011.06.019. Epub 2011 Oct 5. PMID: 21978878. [cited 2021 July 30]

7. Nayyar GML, Attaran A, Clark JP, et al. Responding to the pandemic of falsified medicinesAm J Trop Med Hyg. 2015;92(6 Suppl):113-118. doi:10.4269/ajtmh.14-0393 [cited 2021 July 30]

8. Ashton H. Protracted withdrawal syndromes from benzodiazepines. J Subst Abuse Treat. 1991;8(1-2):19-28. doi: 10.1016/0740-5472(91)90023-4. PMID: 1675688. [cited 2021 July 30]

9. Johnson B, Streltzer J, “Risks Associated with Long-term Benzodiazepine Use.” American Family Physician Journal Editorial  2013 Aug 15;88(4):224-225. [cited 2021 July 30]

10. Movig KL, et al. Psychoactive substance use and the risk of motor vehicle accidentsAccid Anal Prev. 2004;36(4):631–636. [cited 2021 July 30]

11. Olfson M, King M, Schoenbaum M. Benzodiazepine Use in the United StatesJAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(2):136–142. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1763 [cited 2021 July 30]

12. Brett J, Murnion B. Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependenceAust Prescr. 2015;38(5):152-155. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2015.055 [cited 2021 July 30]

13. National Center for Biotechnology Information (2021). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 3016, Diazepam. Retrieved July 30, 2021 [cited 2021 July 30] from

14. Stübner S, Grohmann R, Engel R, Bandelow B, Ludwig WD, Wagner G, Müller-Oerlinghausen B, Möller HJ, Hippius H, Rüther E. Blood dyscrasias induced by psychotropic drugs. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2004 Mar;37 Suppl 1:S70-8. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-815513. PMID: 15052517. [cited 2021 July 30]

15. Suetrong B, Walley KR. Lactic Acidosis in Sepsis: It’s Not All Anaerobic: Implications for Diagnosis and Management. Chest. 2016 Jan;149(1):252-61. doi: 10.1378/chest.15-1703. Epub 2016 Jan 6. PMID: 26378980. [cited 2021 July 30]

16. Moore CA, Krishnan K. Aplastic Anemia. [Updated 2020 Nov 23]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2021 July 30]

17. Adeyinka A, Kondamudi NP. Cyanosis. [Updated 2021 Feb 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2021 July 30]

18. Khazaeni B, Khazaeni L. Acute Closed Angle Glaucoma. 2021 Jan 12. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. PMID: 28613607. [cited 2021 July 30]

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 2021 July 30]

20. Coey JG, De Jesus O. Hyperacusis. [Updated 2021 Apr 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2021 July 30]

21. Phillips ML, Medford N, Senior C, Bullmore ET, Suckling J, Brammer MJ, Andrew C, Sierra M, Williams SC, David AS. Depersonalization disorder: thinking without feeling. Psychiatry Res. 2001 Dec 30;108(3):145-60. doi: 10.1016/s0925-4927(01)00119-6. PMID: 11756013. [cited 2021 July 30]

22. BARTEN HH. TOXIC PSYCHOSIS WITH TRANSIENT DYSMNESTIC SYNDROME FOLLOWING WITHDRAWAL FROM VALIUM. Am J Psychiatry. 1965 Jun;121:1210-1. doi: 10.1176/ajp.121.12.1210. PMID: 14286060. [cited 2021 July 30]

23. Löscher W, Schmidt D. Diazepam increases gamma-aminobutyric acid in human cerebrospinal fluid. J Neurochem. 1987 Jul;49(1):152-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.1987.tb03407.x. PMID: 3585326. [cited 2021 July 30]

24. Calcaterra NE, Barrow JC. Classics in chemical neuroscience: diazepam (valium). ACS Chem Neurosci. 2014;5(4):253-260. doi:10.1021/cn5000056 [cited 2021 July 30]

25. Noyes R Jr, Perry PJ, Crowe RR, Coryell WH, Clancy J, Yamada T, Gabel J. Seizures following the withdrawal of alprazolam. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1986 Jan;174(1):50-2. doi: 10.1097/00005053-198601000-00009. PMID: 2867122. [cited 2021 July 30]

26. DEA Information  “Drug Scheduling” [online] [cited 2021 July 30]

27. Greenblatt D, Harmatz J, Zhang Q, Chen Y, Shader R, “Slow Accumulation and Elimination of Diazepam and its Active Metabolite With Extended Treatment in the Elderly.” Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 27 August 2020 [online] [cited 2021 July 30]

28. Hogan RE, Gidal BE, Koplowitz B, Koplowitz LP, Lowenthal RE, Carrazana E. Bioavailability and safety of diazepam intranasal solution compared to oral and rectal diazepam in healthy volunteers. Epilepsia. 2020 Mar;61(3):455-464. doi: 10.1111/epi.16449. Epub 2020 Feb 17. PMID: 32065672; PMCID: PMC7154760. [cited 2021 July 30]

29. Reidenberg MM, Levy M, Warner H, Coutinho CB, Schwartz MA, Yu G, Cheripko J. Relationship between diazepam dose, plasma level, age, and central nervous system depression. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1978 Apr;23(4):371-4. doi: 10.1002/cpt1978234371. PMID: 630787. [cited 2021 July 30]

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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Valium Withdrawal Symptoms | Diazepam Side Effects, Treatment Help
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