Valium (diazepam) is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, with more than 1.1 million Americans receiving a prescription for it in 2020 alone. It can be prescribed to treat a variety of medical conditions like anxiety. However, diazepam is an addictive controlled substance and can pose a risk for abuse. If you or a loved one take Valium, it is important to know the drug’s risks and how to keep safe while taking it.

What Is Valium?

Valium is a benzodiazepine and the brand name for the generic drug diazepam. As a benzo, Valium is a Schedule IV controlled substance, meaning that it carries a risk of abuse, addiction and dependence.

Valium, like other benzos, is a central nervous system depressant, meaning it slows down the brain’s activity. Valium accomplishes this by enhancing the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter.

Valium can be prescribed for several different conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • Muscle spasms
  • Night terrors
  • Neonatal opioid withdrawal in babies

Signs of Valium Addiction

When a person starts to struggle with Valium, signs often begin to emerge. Because addiction is a complex and multifaceted disease, many Valium addiction signs reflect a person’s behaviors while taking Valium. These signs include:

  • Taking more Valium or for a longer time than intended
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop Valium
  • Spending a lot of time trying to obtain, use or recover from Valium
  • Cravings for Valium
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at work, school or home due to Valium
  • Interpersonal problems caused by Valium or disagreements about Valium use
  • Stopping or cutting back on other activities because of Valium use
  • Using Valium even in physically hazardous situations, like before driving
  • Staying on Valium despite the knowledge that remaining on the drug is causing harm
  • Needing higher Valium doses to achieve the same effects as before
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop Valium

Symptoms of Long-Term Valium Addiction

If Valium is used on a regular basis over the long term, a person often becomes physically dependent on the drug. This means that the brain has become used to Valium’s presence and that stopping the drug can cause withdrawal symptoms. In addition, as a controlled substance, Valium also carries the risk of addiction even if you have been taking the drug for a long time; the addictive potential of the drug never goes away.

In addition, long-term Valium use is linked to health complications and risks, including:

  • Cognitive decline that may be permanent
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Hip fracture

Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person’s brain becomes used to the presence of a drug like Valium, it begins to adapt accordingly. This means that if a person takes Valium on a regular basis and suddenly stops, the brain needs time to recalibrate. While the brain is readjusting, a person will then commonly go through withdrawal symptoms, which include:

  • Sweating 
  • Heart rate faster than 100 beats per minute
  • Hand tremor
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hallucinations 
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures

Valium withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, and a person should always first speak with a doctor before trying to stop Valium. The doctor can help you wean yourself off the drug or may recommend a medical detox to ease you off Valium in some cases.

Valium Overdose Symptoms

Several risk factors can increase the chances of a Valium overdose. These include:

  • Taking more Valium than prescribed
  • Taking Valium more often than prescribed
  • Taking Valium that has not been prescribed for you
  • Mixing Valium with other substances, like alcohol and opioids

If you take too much Valium, you are at risk of a Valium overdose. If someone has taken only Valium without any other substances, the signs of Valium overdose are: 

  • Drowsiness, which may be extreme in some cases
  • Slowed breathing
  • Movement problems, especially in children

When Valium is mixed with other substances like opioids, the risk of overdose increases. Valium has a Boxed Warning about taking it with opioids for this reason. In 2020 alone, 16% of opioid overdose deaths also involved a benzo like Valium

If you suspect a person has taken too much Valium, with or without other substances, call 911 immediately.

Finding Help for Valium Addiction

Valium addiction is difficult to overcome on your own. If you or a loved one is experiencing Valium addiction, treatment at a rehabilitation facility like The Recovery Village Columbus is the best way to wean off Valium and start a new, Valium-free life. We offer medically supervised Valium detox and both inpatient and outpatient Valium rehab programs so that you can begin your recovery journey. Contact us today to learn more.

Editor – Abby Doty
Abby Doty graduated from Hamline University in 2021 with a Bachelor's in English and Psychology. She has written and edited creative and literary work as well as academic pieces focused primarily on psychology and mental health. Read more
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
Sources “Diazepam.” November 9, 2020. Accessed September 5, 2022.

ClinCalc. “Diazepam – Drug Usage Statistics.” Accessed September 5, 2022.

PsychDB. “Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic (Benzo[…]zepine) Use Disorder.” March 29, 2021. Accessed September 5, 2022.

PsychDB. “Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic (Benzo[…]iazepine) Withdrawal.” March 29, 2021. Accessed September 5, 2022.

Kang, Michael; Galuska, Michael A.; & Ghassemzadeh, Sassan. “Benzodiazepine Toxicity.” StatPearls, June 27, 2022. Accessed September 5, 2022.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.” April 21, 2022. Accessed September 5, 2022.

Johnson, Brian & Streltzer, Jon. “Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use.” American Family Physician, August 15, 2013. Accessed September 5, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village 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.