Valium (generic name diazepam) is a common type of powerful sedative known as a benzodiazepine. Prescriptions for benzodiazepines have increased significantly in the past 20 years, and so have overdoses caused by these prescription medications.
Benzodiazepine-related overdoses increased sevenfold between 1999 and 2015, from 1,135 deaths to 8,791 deaths, according to WebMD. In 2016, Valium resulted in the 10th most overdose deaths in the U.S. at 1,723 or 3.1 percent of drug overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although Valium may be helpful in the short term for anxiety-related problems, addiction is common. Once addicted, Valium withdrawal can be difficult and even deadly.
Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” such as Valium are tranquilizers. They are often prescribed for conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures. Benzodiazepines may also be used as an anesthetic before surgery.
Valium has powerful relaxation effects. Because of this, it can become addictive. When an individual builds up a tolerance for Valium or becomes addicted to and then stops taking it suddenly, the person may experience withdrawal symptoms. Valium withdrawal can be uncomfortable, difficult, and potentially lethal.
According to Healthline, Valium withdrawal symptoms may include:
The stages of Valium withdrawal symptoms fall roughly into three groups. Some symptoms are constant throughout the withdrawal process.
The second group of symptoms usually begin within the first 10 days of last using the drug.
The third group of symptoms occurs within the third and fourth weeks of diazepam withdrawal.
The length of Valium withdrawal can vary from person to person. According to Verywell Mind, the severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the following factors:
As one of the faster-acting benzodiazepines, Valium withdrawal symptoms can occur just a few hours after that last dose. The symptoms also peak around 24 to 72 hours after that last dose.
In general, the effects of withdrawal can lessen after a few days or endure for weeks or even months.
The symptoms that can occur after that last dose of Valium include irritability, extreme anxiety, muscle spasms, restlessness, tremor, agitation, body pain, and sweating.
During the first week of withdrawal, you can expect to experience anxiety, depression, headaches, abdominal pain, dysphoria, and insomnia.
During this phase, withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, sleep disorders, tremors, and tension.
Anxiety will continue to linger into the third week of withdrawal for some users. They may also experience insomnia, tingling in the extremities, and mood swings.
People in withdrawal will begin to feel better and experience mood stabilization in the fourth week of withdrawal. However, psychological symptoms like anxiety and irritability can endure.
After 18 to 24 months in withdrawal, people addicted to Valium can experience a severe form of withdrawal associated with benzodiazepines known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
According to Verywell Mind, PAWS symptoms, which are psychological in nature, can include:
Rarer PAWS symptoms may include:
Valium detoxification can cause agitation, seizures, and delirium tremens (DTs). Due to the severity of symptoms that Valium detox can cause, it is highly dangerous to withdraw on your own or go “cold turkey.”
Because of this, it’s much safer to participate in a medical detox process as part of an addiction treatment program.
A professional addiction treatment program ensures you a better opportunity for a lasting recovery because of the structured medical and emotional support provided.
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Treatment for Valium addiction is available in different formats. Generally, however, treatment is offered on what’s known as a full continuum, which is the most comprehensive approach.
A full continuum of treatment begins with the highest and most intense level of care during the detox phase.
It then progresses through less intense levels of treatment. Participating in a full continuum of treatment will position you better to have a more successful recovery.
The stages of treatment include detox/inpatient, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and alumni or aftercare.
Your goal during the first stage of withdrawal treatment is medical stabilization. First, you will receive a complete medical assessment to determine your level of addiction plus any additional medical needs you may have. The assessment will include a medical exam and urine or blood tests to screen for drugs.
Your doctor may also require additional testing, including more blood tests, including a CBC (complete blood count), chest X-ray, ECG (electrocardiogram), and testing for other diseases.
After the doctor reviews your test results, he or she will create a detox plan for you. Then you will begin the detox process under the care of your medical team, which will include doctors, nurses, and support staff.
Other drugs may be included in your medical treatment to help manage the physical symptoms of Valium withdrawal.
Because many people also experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological challenges as they detox, you will also receive emotional support as you begin addiction therapy.
The next stage, after completing the detox phase of treatment, is to continue treatment in a partial hospitalization program (PHP). You’ll live at a transitional living facility during this phase while you undergo a supportive and structured treatment program. Treatment sessions are held five days a week for six hours each day. These include individual, group, and family therapy programs to address your emotional and mental health needs.
During partial hospitalization, your main goal will be to learn positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and techniques to help prevent relapse. These skills will help you be better prepared for long-term recovery. They also will help you begin the process of transitioning back to your life outside the treatment center.
The full continuum of treatment is designed to help you slowly move back to life outside the rehab facility while helping you to build the skills and resources you need to cope and avoid relapsing. Once you have completed the inpatient program, you will begin the intensive outpatient program (IOP) stage.
This stage is sometimes used as stand-alone addiction therapy. But it is also a key part of the full continuum of treatment. Your therapy sessions at this stage won’t be as frequent, and the program will be more flexible. Intensive therapy sessions will still be part of the program, and you will continue with medication management if needed.
NIDA states that group counseling can be a major part of outpatient treatment.
You continue to be accountable for your recovery at this stage, plus it will also include periodic weekly drug testing. During an IOP, the primary focus is to help you continue to build coping skills and prevent relapse.
You will have the opportunity to join other treatment center alumni during weekly support groups and social events after you have completed the treatment program. These opportunities to meet other treatment program graduates can help you develop new friendships with others who understand the recovery process. Building this support network can be a key resource to help you grow and stay focused on your recovery as you continue to adjust to life after the treatment program.
You don’t have to struggle with valium withdrawal alone. The admissions specialists at Pathway to Hope are available for free and confidential help. They can provide the guidance and support you need to start your recovery by explaining the process and answering any questions you may have.
After you speak with a specialist, you will know what to expect from our evidence-based services and feel confident to make an informed decision about your treatment plans.
Hartney, E. (2018, October 02). The PAWS That Doesn't Refresh: Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-to-do-for-post-acute-withdrawal-syndrome-paws-22368
Healthline. (n.d.). Diazepam | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/diazepam-oral-tablet
Hedegaard, H., M.D., Trinidad, J., M.P.H., M.S., & Warner, M., Ph.D. (n.d.). National Vital Statistics Reports [PDF File]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved on June 11, 2019. from
Mellor, C. S., & Jain, V. K. (1982, December 01). Diazepam withdrawal syndrome: Its prolonged and changing nature. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1862031/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Types of Treatment Programs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs
Thompson, D. (2018, December 27). Evidence Shows Abuse of Xanax, Valium on the Rise. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20181227/evidence-shows-abuse-of-xanax-valium-on-the-rise#1