Valium, an anti-anxiety drug that has been around for decades, is one of the most popular and commonly prescribed drugs of all time. While the popularity of Valium decreased over the last two or three decades, it is still often prescribed to treat anxiety. Many people have relied on it to get through the day and to combat debilitating feelings of anxiety and nervousness.
A major problem with Valium, and one of the reasons that other anti-anxiety medications have started to overtake it in popularity, is that it has a significant potential for abuse. Valium addiction is a real possibility for anyone using the drug, and especially for those who abuse it. Drug addiction, including Valium addiction, is a terrible disease of the brain that requires professional treatment, years of hard work, and a lifetime of vigilance to overcome.
Valium and Its Uses
Valium is a generic drug called diazepam first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1963. Hoffman-LaRoche, a pharmaceutical company, developed and tested diazepam and created the worldwide sensation of Valium for treating anxiety disorders. Valium was such a popular product at one point that it was the first prescription drug to achieve $1 billion in sales. In addition to anxiety, Valium may be used to treat alcohol withdrawal, seizures, and muscle spasms.
Although Valium is approved for the treatment of anxiety and is largely effective, since it first came out it has been discovered that it is also addictive. The potential for abuse is high and throughout the 1970s and 1980s the number of people who became addicted to Valium increased to epidemic levels. Currently Valium is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a schedule IV controlled substance. This means that it has a potential for abuse, although not nearly as much as drugs in schedules, I, II, and III.
Valium Abuse and Side Effects
In addition to the possibility of becoming addicted, abuse of Valium has other potentially serious consequences. One of these is the severity of side effects. Anyone taking Valium may experience side effects, but those people abusing it are more likely to have side effects and to experience them more severely. Common side effects of Valium are dizziness, weakness, sleepiness, appetite changes, nausea, diarrhea, and dry mouth.
Less common are side effects like mood changes: aggression, agitation, feelings of being excited, and nervousness. Anyone abusing Valium are more susceptible to experiencing these and they can be disruptive and even dangerous. Valium abuse may even cause seizures and muscle cramping.
Valium and Alcohol Abuse
Valium is a depressant and so is alcohol. That means that they slow down the central nervous system and can slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, and have other depressant effects. This is why Valium helps people relax from anxiety, but when combined with alcohol these depressant effects can become dangerous.
A dangerous overdose is much more possible for anyone abusing the two together, which is a common practice. An overdose fatality is also more likely when both are being abused. The combined effects of the depressants cause a person to have very slow reaction times, which can be dangerous especially if operating equipment or machinery.
Addiction to Valium
Valium addiction following abuse of the drug may not occur as readily or as quickly as with more addictive prescriptions, but it does happen. Some people get used to the feeling of relaxation that comes with using Valium and may start to use more and more to keep getting that feeling. Over time the person will develop a tolerance and will need to take even larger doses, and more frequent doses, to get the right feeling. Tolerance is the first sign of serious abuse and pending addiction, also known as dependence.
Another important sign of addiction is withdrawal. If a person who has been abusing Valium for a while tries to stop using it they may experience things like severe headaches or migraines, insomnia, serious anxiety and irritability, mood swings, vomiting, nausea, and excessive sweating. These symptoms occur as the drug leaves the body. Because of the changes to the brain that the drug has caused, it is hard to stop using and to face these terrible symptoms.
Long-Term Consequences of Valium Addiction
Abusing Valium over a long period of time can lead to addiction and more side effects, but that isn’t where the potential problems end. Long-term health consequences are possible and include hallucinations and memory loss. Abuse of Valium can also lead to a heart attack, a coma, and overdose deaths due to the depressant effects of a slowed pulse and trouble breathing.
Treatment for Valium Addiction
Being addicted to Valium, or any other drug, is a lifelong health issue. Most addicts never say they are recovered from a drug, because they are always battling temptations and cravings. It is possible, however, to stop using and to never abuse Valium again. This is tough to do and most people require professional support to do it. The first step is detox, which causes withdrawal, and for most people medical care can help during this stage.
After detox, an addiction patient needs to find the right kind of professional treatment. Everyone is different and responds in different ways to treatment. For some, group counseling with other addicts may be useful, while for others one-on-one therapy is best. Some may need the 24-hour monitoring of a rehab clinic to get better and others can cope at home while getting treatment on an outpatient basis.
Addiction to Valium or other substances may be a lifelong disease, but it can be conquered. If you abused Valium and have struggled to come clean, you can get the professional help you need. Rely on therapists and medical professionals as well as the support of friends and family and you can find the strength to refuse to give in to future cravings for Valium. Many other people have done it, and although challenging, it is possible to go back to a normal way of life after Valium addiction.