Valium Addiction

Valium hit the prescription drug market hard in the 1960s as a cure-all consumed by millions. Soon enough the pill’s dark side, a severe withdrawal, turned patients into addicts. People dependent on the medication can find help through standard addiction treatment.
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Long before the internet, before knowledge of prescription addiction was widespread, the drug Valium invaded the homes of families from coast to coast. Doctors prescribed the miracle drug by the boatload as a quick fix for numerous patient complaints.

Fast Facts: Valium

Abuse Potential
Scientific Name
Drug Class
Street Names
VS, Yellow VS, Blue VS, Foofoo, Howards, Ludes
Side Effects
Nausea, Fatigue, Headache, Confusion, Insomnia, Difficulty Breathing
How It's Used
Swallowed, Snorted
Legal Status
Schedule IV

Problems from stomach pain to insomnia were prescribed Valium, and most patients reported short-term relief. More than anything, people with anxiety and stress issues flocked to the drug. Valium, a tranquilizer, slows brain activity and helps users unwind. Women in particular asked for the medication, and by the end of the ‘60s the pill had gained a nickname – “Mother’s Little Helper.” Billions of Valium pills were sold, with 2.3 billion going out in 1978 alone. The pill outsold all other prescriptions for a number of years.

As time went on, though, increasing reports of withdrawal from Valium brought the pill under examination. The pill continues to find new users, both legally and on the underground market, but the addictive properties are widely considered a danger to anyone taking it.

Valium Tolerance and Withdrawal

Valium’s now well-documented risks don’t prevent millions of new pills from going out. You can still request Valium, or the generic version of the drug diazepam, for help with anxiety and a few other ailments, such as alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The pill also reaches thousands through illegal resale.

And in small doses, Valium may even be a useful aid. All too often, though, the habit of popping Valiums gets out of hand. You can go from taking a couple 2mg pills (“whites”) to burning through 10mg pills (“blues”) and living in a constant bubble of the drug’s numbing effects. Tolerance quickly develops in Valium users, and in order to feel anything, people with the worst addictions will end up taking 20 or 30 pills a day.

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Withdrawal — especially if you overuse the drug — can be extremely painful. Valium addicts often will keep using the drug just to avoid the withdrawal process.

Some people keep using Valium because they are afraid they’ll be depressed without it. But the side effects of addiction and the difficulty of staying away from the drugs may prove far worse than the condition that led them to start using in the first place.

Side Effects of Valium

As you take Valium longer, and as you increase the dose, you face increased risks. Large amounts, especially when combined with alcohol or other drugs, can cause severe organ damage or death.

Chemical changes caused by large doses of the drug can endanger you and those around you, even if you had never taken Valium before. Though it typically has a mellowing effect, it can work in the opposite way in certain cases, potentially stirring violent behavior and short-term memory loss.

Valium can present a long list of potential side effects. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Tremor
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Diminished reflexes
  • Excessive sweating
  • Incontinence
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abnormal heart palpitations

Overdoses on Valium do happen, though are rarely fatal unless combined with other substances. Any overdose should be treated immediately.

A gradual dependency presents the biggest threat to someone using Valium, and the severity of an eventual withdrawal grows with each day that usage continues.

If you or someone you know takes Valium regularly, certain signs can indicate a potential addiction:

  • Taking more and more of the drug, to the point they can’t function without it
  • Being generally lethargic or uninterested in social interaction
  • Avoiding obligations or showing up to appointments late
  • Lying about their relationship with the drug and how much they take
  • Stealing cash to fund their habit, and financial problems in general
  • Showing a number of Valium’s side effects

The earlier you identify a Valium problem, the easier it will be to break the habit. Although withdrawal can be a strenuous experience for anyone quitting the medication, it’s far better than a life of addiction.

Valium Addiction Treatment

Recovery from Valium addiction takes time. It isn’t something you can do by quitting cold turkey because the side effects of Valium withdrawal can be deadly. Addiction treatment facilities slowly taper patients off Valium and provide medications such as anticonvulsants to avoid seizures or other dangerous complications.

Valium is a long-acting benzo that remains detectable in urine for up to 10 days. Its half-life is one of the longest among benzodiazepines at 100 hours. Detox from long-acting benzodiazepines, such as Valium, may involve substituting the primary drug of abuse with the barbiturate phenobarbital. Anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine, and antidepressants, such as trazodone, may treat minor withdrawal symptoms.

Dr. Kevin Wandler, the chief medical officer of Advanced Recovery Systems, told that detoxing from benzodiazepines can take weeks. During that time, people in treatment aren’t expected to take part in counseling or therapy.

“Therapy isn’t really required because it’s hard when someone’s mental status isn’t very good,” Wandler said. “They have TV. We’re trying to keep them safe and comfy.”

Once people are completely detoxed from Valium, they’re moved to a higher level of care, such as residential treatment, to receive counseling and therapy that address underlying causes of addiction. They’re also introduced to support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery to encourage participation in aftercare resources.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Chris Elkins, MA
Senior Content Writer,
Chris Elkins worked as a journalist for three years and was published by multiple newspapers and online publications. Since 2015, he’s written about health-related topics, interviewed addiction experts and authored stories of recovery. Chris has a master’s degree in strategic communication and a graduate certificate in health communication.

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