Valium is a commonly prescribed medication that creates a calming effect on the brain. It is prescribed in tablets that contain two to ten milligrams of medication. People who misuse Valium may crush the tablets to snort, smoke, or inject them for a more intense result. Unfortunately, using Valium in these methods also makes it more dangerous and increases the risk of overdose.
Many people who are prescribed Valium ask, “Is Valium an opioid?” Though it is also highly addictive, Valium is not an opioid. Valium is the brand name for diazepam, which is in a class of drug called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines affect the brain receptor gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which slows down the nerve signals in the brain.
Though it is a prescription drug, Valium is also bought and sold illicitly. Street names for Valium are often based on what the pill looks like. For example, the most common type of illicit Valium is blue and has the letter “v” imprinted on it. It is known as “blue v.” Other street names include yellow v, eggs, vallies, foofoo, and Vs (“vees”).
Valium is prescribed for a number of medical conditions, including:
Even when using Valium as directed, it can cause unwanted side effects like impaired judgment and slowed reaction time. Individuals taking Valium should not operate heavy machinery, drive an automobile or supervise children.
Misusing or abusing Valium and other types of diazepam is dangerous because it can slow breathing. Death from accidental overdose is a risk. People with certain health conditions, such as liver disease or sleep apnea, should not take Valium.
Valium floods the brain’s reward center with the “feel good” chemicals norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are mood elevators and can cause a surge of pleasure that is far more intense than the brain is capable of producing naturally.
The desire to recreate those pleasurable feelings can cause some people to misuse the drug, seeking the pleasurable sensations over and over again.
What does Valium do to the brain? When used as prescribed, Valium has a calming effect and provides relief from pain and feelings of anxiety. However, according to the National Library of Medicine, when a person takes the drug more frequently or in larger doses than prescribed, it diminishes the brain’s ability to produce dopamine and other calming chemicals naturally. As the body cannot produce its own hormones, it becomes dependent on the drug, leading to physical dependence and psychological addiction.
It can take a few weeks or a few months to become addicted to Valium, depending on many factors, including:
Valium is a long-acting type of benzodiazepine, so the temptation to take frequent doses may be less than it is for short-acting benzodiazepines.
However, it impacts the brain’s reward center and produces desirable, euphoric feelings, which means that Valium is considered to be a highly addictive substance.
Some people experiment with prescription medications because they believe they aren’t addictive. This is not true. Many prescribed medications can be highly addictive and dangerous if misused.
However, it can be more difficult to see the warning signs of addiction when someone is using medication for a legitimate medical reason. If you or someone you know exhibits one or more of the following warning signs, they may be developing or already have a substance use disorder:
The sooner a person seeks treatment, the easier it will be to overcome addiction, and the less likely it is that they will suffer long-term effects from the drug.
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is another indicator that a person may be addicted to Valium. Withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours of the last dose and may continue until detox is complete — which can last several weeks or even months.
Valium withdrawal symptoms include:
Though rare, life-threatening symptoms, such as grand mal seizure, stroke, and heart attack, are also possible. The severity and duration of symptoms depend on many factors, including a person’s general health, how long they have been misusing Valium, and the amounts they ingest.
In addition to the risk of addiction, taking Valium can have long-term and short-term effects on your health.
The short-term effects of Valium include:
Continued use of Valium can lead to serious problems that damage the body, brain, financial and social status, and family relationships. They include:
Depression can also be a long-term side effect of Valium addiction. Valium and depression are connected in two ways. First, Valium may be prescribed to help treat depression. However, individuals who abuse the drug may feel symptoms of depression when they try to stop using Valium.
Understanding how widespread and dangerous Valium addiction can be may help you avoid the temptation to misuse this medication. Here are some important Valium abuse and addiction statistics:
The risk of overdose and dangerous long-term health effects increase when Valium is used with other substances, such as opioids.
Withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, and it is never recommended to go through detox at home alone. Medical supervision eases the symptoms of withdrawal and keeps patients safe as they detox.
Inpatient services are typically recommended for Valium addiction treatment. An inpatient program provides 24-hour access to a medical team and a variety of therapies, including individual, group, and family therapy. Peer support and aftercare planning are also important elements of inpatient treatment.
If you or someone you care about are struggling with addiction to Valium or other benzodiazepines, know that recovery is possible. Inpatient treatment for Valium addiction provides the tools and support that could free you from addiction and possibly save your life.