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Valium Withdrawal Symptoms, Diazepam Side Effects, Treatment Help

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Last Updated on March 9, 2021 by Carol Gillette

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Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Written by Diane Ridaeus Published Sep 13, 2018
Medically Reviewed by Dr Michael Loes MD

When considering Valium withdrawal, or 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.

Valium, a benzodiazepine, is used in the short-term treatment of mild to moderate anxiety. Physicians use it in alcohol detox and other medical crises to prevent seizures and tremors. It also relieves secondary injury-related muscle spasms and is used as pre-surgical sedation.

Clinicians and physicians prescribe benzodiazepines more frequently than 90% of all other drugs in the US.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 for:

  • Sedation prior to surgery
  • Preventing tremors, DTs, agitation or seizures during alcohol withdrawal
  • Relaxant for muscle spasms
  • Mild to moderate anxiety*
  • Treating convulsive disorders such as exposure to some poisons

*Valium is intended for short-term use only, as advised by the FDA and noted on the drug’s label.

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, profound calming effects, and its use in easing withdrawals from other addictive drugs such as opiates.

Slang names for drugs are useful when people want to hide what they are actually talking about for social, legal, or other reasons.

Some slang or substitute names that refer to Valium sold illicitly are:

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

Side Effects of Valium

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.

Other Valium side effects include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Thoughts of harming yourself
  • Negative self-talk
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Birth defects if taken during pregnancy
  • Unconsciousness, coma
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Vertigo
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mental fog, confusion
  • Amnesia, memory loss, anterograde amnesia, inability to recall events after taking the drug
  • Ataxia, loss of muscle control, i.e., stumbling, cannot speak, resembles a drunken state
  • Drooling
  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Loss of libido
  • Dry mouth
  • Slurring of speech
  • Weakness in muscles

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.

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 intensifies withdrawal symptoms.

Valium Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Epileptic seizures*
  • Depressed mood
  • Insomnia
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Headaches
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Tremors, shaking, especially in the hands
  • Cramps, particularly stomach cramps
  • Rebound anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Tachycardia
  • High blood pressure

*Abrupt discontinuation should generally be avoided and a gradual dosage
tapering schedule followed according to the FDA


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.

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. 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 against any situational anxiety that might be experienced when waiting for a surgical procedure.

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 helps to prevent Valium withdrawals.

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, which Valium could avert. 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 an article in Healthline,2 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?

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 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 has an approximate half-life of between 9 and 16 hours, and is primarily prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. In contrast, Valium has a substantially longer half-life than Xanax, estimated at approximately 20 to 50 hours.6 It is not uncommon for people to switch to Valium as an alternative to Xanax.

Can You Overdose on Valium?

Yes, although many cases of Valium overdose occur when two or more CNS depressants are taken concurrently. Drinking alcohol while on Valium, or using opiates at the same time would be an example. 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 in 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 and never more than four months. Someone using Valium may not realize they are becoming addicted, but when they stop the drug, the consequences can be severe withdrawal symptoms.

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. All benzodiazepines fall into this class of drugs, due to their risk of dependence as well as their common use in medical settings.

How Long Does Valium Stay in Your System?

Estimating half-life is a complex process with many factors involved. Age, health, genetics can all play a part in how long it takes an individual to 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. 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, many symptoms that drugs can 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.

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 2020 Oct 15]

2. Carter A PharmD “Valium vs Xanax: Is There A Difference?” Healthline, 2017 Sep 18 [cited 2020 Oct 15]

3. FDA drug label Valium (diazepam) [Internet] revised 2016 [cited 2020 Oct 15]

4. Fuentes A, Pineda M, et al., “Comprehension of Top 200 Prescribed Drugs in the US as a Resource for Pharmacy Teaching, Training and Practice.” Pharmacy Basel 2018 June [Internet] PubMed ID 29757930 [cited 2020 Oct 15]

5. Perry S, “Neurotransmitters: How Brain Cells Use Chemicals to Communicate.” [Internet] 2011 May 16 [cited 2020 Oct 15]

6. “Valium vs Xanax: What’s the Difference?” Medically reviewed by [Internet] 2020 Aug 27 [cited 2020 Oct 15]

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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