Signs Of Valium Abuse
Valium addiction often starts in a seemingly harmless way: people will take it once or twice to catch up on sleep or cope with a stressful day. Many Valium users hide their drug use, which can make it hard for loved ones to recognize that there is a problem.
As someone becomes more dependent on Valium, they often increase their doses. This makes it harder for them to hide their use, and they are more likely to show visible signs of Valium abuse.
The visible and behavioral effects of Valium intoxication are similar to that of alcohol intoxication.
Some signs that may indicate Valium abuse include:
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Dilated pupils
- Changes in appetite
- Uncharacteristic sadness or irritability
- Shaking (from withdrawal)
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The Dangers Of Valium
The Food and Drug Administration approved Valium in 1963. It was created to help people deal with the stresses of everyday life. Bolstered by an aggressive advertising campaign targeting the middle-aged and middle-class, Valium soon became one of the most widely abused drugs of the 20th century.
Many people underestimate the addictive potential of Valium because it’s prescribed by a doctor. Even fewer people seem to be aware of the dangers of the drug. Valium can lead to convulsions and coma in heavy users. Studies have also shown that people on Valium have an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. When a user stops taking the drug, Valium withdrawal can be deadly.
Valium is especially dangerous when mixed with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol and Opioid painkillers. The sedative qualities of each substance taken together are amplified. This can depress breathing or heart rates to the point of failure.
Combinations of benzodiazepines with opioid pain relievers or alcohol were associated with a 24 to 55 percent increase in the predicted risk of a more serious outcome compared with benzodiazepines alone.
Side effects of Valium abuse include:
- Blurred vision
- Skin rash
- Irregular heartbeat
- Slowed breathing
People regularly using Valium over a long period of time can also develop co-occurring mental disorders that they didn’t have before. Because Valium is used to treat anxiety, the brain can come to rely on it to regulate stress. Without Valium, the addicted brain becomes imbalanced, leading to previously nonexistent anxiety and depressive disorders.
The long-term side effects of heavy Valium abuse could also be traumatic. Some evidence has shown that long-term use leads to brain damage that can affect memory and cognition.
As early as 1976, David Knott, a physician at the University of Tennessee, noted damage to the cerebral cortex in Valium users. The cerebral cortex plays a large role in a person’s memory, attention and thought processes.
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Recognizing An Addiction
Valium addiction can be difficult to recognize for loved ones and even the addicted person. Valium is sometimes prescribed for up to 4 months, and an addiction may gradually develop during this time.
People addicted to Valium often put their addiction ahead of professional and personal obligations. They are also likely to become unmotivated and lose interest in hobbies they once found pleasurable.
Drug abuse is the precursor to an addiction, but not everyone who abuses Valium is necessarily addicted. Using Valium in any way not directed by a doctor constitutes abuse. Experiencing cravings and withdrawal symptoms and needing larger doses of Valium to get the drug’s effects are some criteria that may indicate abuse has escalated into addiction.
Intervention And Next Steps
If someone you love is struggling with an addiction to Valium, it’s important to talk to them about it. Getting an addicted person into treatment as soon as possible can prevent future problems with their health, career and family life.
Staging an intervention is one way to persuade your loved one to get help. Interventions help addicted people see how they are affecting their family and friends. It can also make it easier to speak to the addicted person with the support of other loved ones.
People high on Valium may be incoherent or confused, so it’s best to stage the intervention at a time when it is less likely for your loved one to be intoxicated. Make sure to rehearse what you’re going to say before the intervention. If you aren’t sure what to say or you think your loved one may become aggressive, consider hiring a professional interventionist.
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Withdrawal And Treatment
People addicted to Valium should never quit “cold turkey.” Withdrawal from Valium can lead to seizures and coma, which can be fatal. Treatment for a Valium addiction helps users step down their doses over the course of several weeks to minimize uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications.
Some common symptoms of withdrawal from Valium include: anxiety, insomnia and shakiness.
The duration of withdrawal is different for everyone. Those who took larger doses of Valium over an extended period of time take the longest to reach a sense of “normal” without the drug.
Therapy and support groups are also invaluable cornerstones of Valium addiction treatment. Treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) help users understand the underlying reasons for their Valium addiction. Support groups and 12-step meetings can provide a constructive environment of people with the same goal.
Featured Centers Offering Treatment for Valium Addiction
Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Learn about Dr. Ashish Bhatt
Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Expert in adult and child psychiatry
Over 20 years of professional experience