What Is Diazepam (Valium)?
Diazepam is a generic name for the drug Valium. It is used to treat anxiety disorders, not including simple everyday stress. Another approved diazepam use includes treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms, known as “delirium tremens”. This drug is also used for the treatment of muscle spasms from nerve disorders, inflammation or injury. Physicians may prescribe diazepam for seizures or convulsions, along with some other medications.
Diazepam was approved in 1963 by the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) under the name Valium, by the Roche Company. The approved generic diazepam manufactured today was approved in 1985.
The class of drugs to which diazepam belongs is that of benzodiazepines. It is believed that diazepam works by increasing the effects of a brain messenger substance called gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). It slows down the brain’s nerve signals.
Physicians frequently prescribe benzodiazepines. Doctors issue roughly 15 million prescriptions for diazepam every year in the US, according to estimates by the government.
Abuse of diazepam along with a narcotic pain reliever is more common now than ever before. From 2000 to 2010, the number of people who were admitted to treatment programs for the abuse of this combination of drugs rose almost 570%. Prior to admission, almost 50% reported that they used benzodiazepines every day.
What Do I Need to Know about Valium (Diazepam)?
Diazepam is habit forming. If you take this medication for a long period of time, your body builds up a resistance to the drug. This is known as tolerance. If you stop your taking of diazepam suddenly, after having taken it for a prolonged period, you may experience symptoms of withdrawal. They include trouble sleeping, irritability and anxiety.
Diazepam is recommended only for use in the short-term. Since it is habit-forming, most people do not take it for more than four months.
Diazepam and other benzodiazepines are sometimes abused. Since they increase prescription painkiller effects with medications like opioids, benzodiazepines may be abused along with prescription painkillers. People who are addicted to cocaine may utilize benzodiazepines in order to relieve side effects that include agitation and irritation. Benzodiazepines are also abused when people use them to ease withdrawal symptoms and boost alcohol effects.
Those who have abused benzodiazepines may refer to these drugs by the street names. They include “tranks”, “nerve pills”, downers” and “benzos”. Abusers normally take a higher dosage than that which is recommended.
If you had a problem with alcohol or drugs previously, your risk of becoming addicted to diazepam may be higher.
Drinking alcohol may increase the severity of diazepam side effects.
It is not safe to use diazepam if you are pregnant or are breastfeeding. It may cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy. It may also cause withdrawal symptoms for newborn children. Diazepam passes from mother to infant, so you shouldn’t breastfeed when you are taking diazepam.
Diazepam should not be given to children six months of age or younger.
If you have liver damage or are elderly, you may need a smaller dose.
What Should I Discuss with My Physician before I Take Valium (Diazepam)?
Diazepam comes with many side effects. Inform your physician if you are allergic to any medications. Common names for some other benzodiazepines include Ativan, Dalmane, Klonopin, Librium and Xanax.
These drugs can interact with other medications, so use caution when taking it if you already have any of these medical conditions:
- Acute narrow-angle glaucoma
- Myasthenia gravis
- Sleep apnea
- Liver disease
- Severe lung disease
Other conditions you need to inform your physician about before taking diazepam include depression, drug or alcohol abuse, seizure or heart problems.
If you are 65 years of age or older, speak with your physician about other medications that may work instead of using diazepam.
Before you take diazepam, inform your physician if you may be or are pregnant. Also inform your healthcare provider if you are breastfeeding. If you take diazepam and you become pregnant, inform your doctor immediately.
Inform your physician about any history of alcohol or drug abuse.
Side Effects of Valium (Diazepam)
The most common diazepam side effects are clumsiness (ataxia), muscle weakness, fatigue and drowsiness. Tell your doctor if you have any kinds of side effects.
Some side effects include:
- Slurred speech
- Blurred or double vision
- Muscle spasms
- Sleep disturbance
- Dry mouth
- Leaking urine or trouble in passing urine
- Loss of interest in sex
- Appetite changes
Some side effects can be serious. If you have any of these next side effects, contact your physician immediately or call 9-1-1.
- Trouble swallowing or breathing
- Extreme weakness or drowsiness
- Swelling of tongue, lips or face
- Worsening depression
- Panic attacks
- Inability to pass urine
Interactions of Valium (Diazepam)
Many drugs can affect the way in which diazepam works. In addition, diazepam may have an effect on some other drugs you are still taking. It is vital that you tell your physician about all the drugs you take, including those that are illegal.
Diazepam can interact with other drugs that target your nervous system and brain. This includes drugs that are utilized in the treatment of anxiety, seizures and mental health conditions.
Some types of medications that will interact with diazepam and cause problems include:
- Phenothiazines – used for cases of severe mental illness
- MAO inhibitors – used for depression
- Sedatives, sleep drugs and muscle relaxants
- Anxiety drugs like Prozac
- Barbiturates and narcotic pain medications
- Cold and cough drugs that have antihistamines
- Drugs for fungal infections, like ketoconazole (Nizoral)
- Drugs used for heartburn, like ranitidine (Zantac) and cimetidine (Tagamet)
- Drugs used for Parkinson’s disease, like levodopa (Sinemet, Larodopa)
- Drugs that fight seizures, like phenytoin (Dilantin) and valproic acid (Depakene)
- Some medications for heart problems, like metoprolol (Toprol XL) and digoxin (Lanoxin)
Should I Avoid Any Foods, Drinks or Activities While I am Taking Diazepam (Valium)?
Diazepam can cause drowsiness, and can affect your normal judgment. Until you are aware of the ways in which diazepam affects you, do not drive a car or operate any type of machinery.
Drinking alcohol while taking diazepam can cause more severe side effects and problems.
What Are the Typical Dosages for Diazepam (Valium)?
Diazepam can be purchased in liquid, tablets and extended-release capsules. The extended-release capsules should be swallowed whole. Do not break or crush them. Diazepam can be taken with food or without it.
In its tablet form, Valium (diazepam) comes in 2, 5 and 10-milligram pills. The dose you receive will depend on your condition and the way you react to diazepam.
- A typical diazepam dose for an adult undergoing alcohol withdrawal may be 10 mg three or four times each day for the first day, followed by 5 mg taken three or four times per day.
- A typical diazepam dose for an adult, used for anxiety, may range from 2 to 10 mg, taken two to four times per day.
- A typical diazepam dose for an adult for muscle spasms may range from 2 to 10 mg three or four times per day.
- A typical diazepam dose for an adult for seizures may range from 2 to 20 mg two to four times each day.
- People with chronic illnesses or older people may be given 2 to 2.5 mg one or two times per day.
What if I Take too much Valium (Diazepam) and Overdose?
An overdose of diazepam may cause depression of the central nervous system. The symptoms may include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Extreme Weakness
- Trouble walking
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
A diazepam overdose can be fatal if it is mixed with other drugs that are also central nervous system depressants.
If you or someone you know experiences an overdose, call the local poison control center in your area at 1-800-222-1222. If you or a person with you has overdose symptoms, call 9-1-1.
What Happens if I don’t Take Diazepam (Valium) as Prescribed, or if I Miss a Dose?
Always take diazepam as your physician prescribes it. If you take more, it will more likely become habit-forming.
Do not stop your doses of diazepam without help. That could cause withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Trouble sleeping
If you miss a dose of your diazepam, take the dose when you remember it. If it is nearly time for the next dose, skip the dose that was missed. Never double-dose your medication in order to make up for a dose that you missed.