Last Updated: April 25, 2023
Taking multiple CNS depressants together, like diazepam and alcohol, can increase the likelihood of dangerous side effects and overdose.
Valium and alcohol work similarly in the brain as central nervous system depressants. While there are times when diazepam might be used to help safely stop drinking, taking both together can lead to serious risks.
What Is Valium (Diazepam)?
Diazepam (Valium) is a Schedule IV benzodiazepine most often used to help treat anxiety, seizure disorders, muscle spasms and alcohol withdrawal. Diazepam, and other benzodiazepines, work by enhancing the effects of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. Due to its potential to cause dependence, it is recommended to use the lowest dose and for the shortest time possible.
Some of the most common side effects of diazepam include the following:
- Trouble with coordination
- Memory problems
Diazepam and Alcohol Interactions
Sometimes, people mix these two substances because each can reduce anxiety. Diazepam and alcohol do this because they are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, meaning both enhance the effects of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, in the brain.
Dangers of Combining Valium and Alcohol
Taking diazepam with alcohol can have a more substantial effect than taking either substance alone. Mixing depressants can slow your breathing, damage your organs and increase your chance of overdose.
Using alcohol and Valium together can result in a higher likelihood of short-term effects, including:
- Trouble concentrating
- Impaired judgment
- Delayed reaction time
This combination can also increase the potential for side effects from alcohol or diazepam, like blurred vision, decreased motor control and coordination, violence, risky behavior or nausea and vomiting. Therefore, it is important not to drive after taking depressants until you know how they will affect you.
In the long term, diazepam and alcohol can result in dependence and worsen some psychiatric conditions, especially anxiety and depression. Also, because people who drink alcohol more often may be more likely to use benzodiazepines, long-term risks of alcohol use must be considered.
Long-term health risks of alcohol use can include:
- High blood pressure
- Certain cancers
- Memory problems like dementia
- Alcohol use disorder
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Worsened depression or anxiety
Taking multiple CNS depressants, like alcohol and diazepam, can increase the likelihood of overdosing. Further, both alcohol and benzodiazepines are very common. According to a 2015–2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, of the 30.5 million prescribed a benzodiazepine, 5.2 million Americans misused them within the year prior. Despite the small percentage of Americans misusing benzodiazepines, from 2019–2020, benzodiazepine overdose comprised 23.7% of emergency department visits.
Signs and symptoms of an overdose include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Irregular or slow breathing
- Slow heart rate
- Clammy skin
- Decreased gag reflex
- Bluish or pale skin
An overdose is a medical emergency. If you suspect someone is overdosing on Valium, alcohol or both, it is critical to call 9-1-1 immediately.
Worse Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol and diazepam withdrawal share several signs and symptoms because they work similarly in the brain. There can be severe, even life-threatening, symptoms when withdrawing from both. If you are thinking about stopping either benzodiazepines or alcohol, it is essential to talk with your healthcare provider. Quitting “cold turkey” can be harmful or even fatal, depending on your baseline usage.
Signs and symptoms of withdrawal will differ depending on how much and for how long you have been using. These symptoms may include:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal upset
The most severe form of withdrawal is called delirium tremens (DT). DT includes visual hallucinations, fast heart rate, high blood pressure, high body temperature, agitation and sweating.
Treatment for Polysubstance Addiction
If you or a loved one are battling alcohol or benzodiazepine addictions, contact a Recovery Advocate today. Our trained medical professionals are available 24/7 to help you safely stop diazepam or alcohol and support your journey. It is important to note that it can be dangerous, or even deadly, to stop using alcohol or Valium “cold turkey.”
Our evidence-based treatment programs can help you regain control of your life. Our physician-led treatment team will personalize your treatment plan by offering a full range of treatment programs, including inpatient, outpatient and teletherapy.
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