Introduced over 55 years ago, the drug diazepam, marketed under the trade name Valium, continues to be used for the treatment of a variety of conditions. Though the use of Valium for extended periods of time is waning due to its high potential for substance abuse, Valium is used to treat anxiety and panic disorder, ease the symptoms for alcoholics going through withdrawal, and help individuals recovering from the use of other benzodiazepines like Xanax navigate the withdrawal process.

Though Valium may not be prescribed as much today as it was in the past, it is still a commonly abused prescription drug. As such, many people are curious about what Valium withdrawal symptoms are, how long they last, and what steps can be taken to reduce or avoid them. This article will outline Valium withdrawal from beginning to end. Valium withdrawal can be a long process and navigating the withdrawal symptoms associated with Valium abuse should be done under close medical supervision.

Valium addiction withdrawal symptoms can range from mild discomfort to seizures which can be fatal. Gaining a better understanding of the wide range of symptoms associated with Valium withdrawal can help you or your loved one make an informed decision about the level of care they might need during recovery. Relapse is common with Valium withdrawal due to the fact that beginning the use of Valium again will immediately alleviate withdrawal symptoms. This article will take a close look at these and other issues associated with Valium withdrawal.

What is Valium?

Valium is the trade name for the drug diazepam. Diazepam is part of the benzodiazepine class of drugs. Xanax is another benzodiazepine that is one of the most prescribed drugs in the world today. Benzodiazepines were created during the mid-20th century and entered the market as a less toxic alternative to barbiturates. Valium was first developed during the 1950s and officially began being sold in 1963. By the 1970s Valium was one of the most prescribed drugs in the world.

Valium experienced a meteoric rise in popularity following its introduction due to its effectiveness at treating anxiety and panic disorders. Prior to the development of benzodiazepines like Valium, barbiturates were the most common type of medical treatment for anxiety-related conditions. While effective, barbiturates were also associated with dangerous health complications. Benzodiazepines were seen as a far less toxic alternative that was still extremely effective at treating certain conditions.

What is Valium Used to Treat?

Although Valium is not as popular as it once was due to the introduction of other benzodiazepines, it remains in use as a treatment for certain conditions. When it was first introduced, Valium was prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders. The problem with Valium and other benzodiazepines are that they have a high abuse potential when used for an extended period of time. However, they are extremely effective at reducing anxiety symptoms. As such, when prescribed as a treatment for anxiety or panic disorder, Valium is typically used only as needed and on a short-term basis.

Valium is also commonly prescribed to help reduce the withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol use disorder. When going through withdrawal for alcohol use, individuals may be given Valium to help reduce the intensity and duration of symptoms. Valium has also been used to treat seizures in some patients and has seen increasing use in recent years as a replacement drug for individuals recovering from the abuse of other benzodiazepines.

One thing to note about Valium is that it has a varying half-life, but is typically quite long. This has an impact on both how it is used to treat certain conditions, and how long it takes for withdrawal symptoms to manifest. The half-life of a drug is how long it takes your body to break down half of the drug and is used as an indication of the duration that the drug has an effect.

Benzodiazepines like Xanax have a short-half life, meaning that they produce a strong effect over a short period of time. Due to the dangers associated with withdrawal from benzodiazepines, some addiction treatment programs will replace the use of benzodiazepines with a short half-life to ones with a long half-life. This helps the individual in recovery avoid difficult withdrawal symptoms in the short-term. In the long-term, they are usually weaned off Valium through a tapering process.

Valium Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline for withdrawal off of Valium is fairly long. Valium withdrawal has a number of symptoms associated with it. Some of these symptoms are physiological in nature, affecting the body of the individual. Others are psychological, and affect the state of mind of the recovering addict.

From the outset, understand that everyone will experience valium withdrawal differently. Each person that abuses Valium has a different usage pattern, dosage, and tolerance. The length of time that they use Valium can have a big impact on their withdrawal symptoms at each stage of the process. Added onto that, each person has a different metabolism, health profile, and physical resilience to withdrawal symptoms. Taken together, these variations produce markedly different experiences between each person experiencing valium addiction withdrawal symptoms.

Weeks 1-2

Most people that abuse Valium will begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms around 1-2 days after their last dose. While there are different formulations of Valium on the market, many remain in the body for a long period of time. The length of time that Valium remains in the body has a direct impact on how long it takes to begin feeling withdrawal symptoms.

Once withdrawal symptoms begin they will increase in intensity over the first two weeks. It is usually during this time that individuals going through withdrawal experience the most acute symptoms they will face. Symptoms during this period can range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening. Most physical symptoms will begin to lessen in intensity after the first two weeks, but individuals may continue to experience acute withdrawal symptoms past this threshold.

Weeks 2-4

Valium withdrawal symptoms will usually peak in intensity through the second week after the last dose of Valium was taken. After this, physical withdrawal symptoms will usually begin to subside. Unfortunately, some of the most difficult valium withdrawal symptoms to deal with manifest during this latter withdrawal phase.

Most people begin to experience a desire to use again, ranging from moderate to intense. Alongside a desire to use individuals navigating withdrawal will most likely continue to experience physical symptoms and discomfort, including mild nausea, chills, and difficulty sleeping.

While the physical withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, the cognitive effects of withdrawal can be debilitating as well. During this period many people experience some type of anxiety, with some individuals experiencing intense periods of anxiety or panic attacks. Some people experience periods of depression in the period of time following cessation.

Symptoms of Valium Withdrawal

Due to the fact that withdrawal from Valium is a highly individualized experience, each person will experience withdrawal differently. Most people experience some combination of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Some of the symptoms may be intense, while others may be quite mild. Here are some of the most common withdrawal symptoms associated with Valium.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Increased Blood Pressure
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fever
  • Cramps
  • Tremors

Non-Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Confusions
  • Mood Swings
  • Panic Attacks

There are a couple of things about Valium withdrawal symptoms that are worth noting. The first is that the development of seizures during the acute phase of withdrawal should be considered a medical emergency. Seizures during benzodiazepine withdrawal can be fatal and are one of the key reasons that it is important to undergo withdrawal under medical supervision. While not every individual going through benzodiazepine withdrawal will develop seizures, those that do should be under constant medical supervision so that anticonvulsant medication can be administered.

A second thing to note is that most people that go through Valium withdrawal will experience both physical and non-physical withdrawal symptoms. Many people going through Valium withdrawal experience anxiety, with some experiencing intense panic attacks. These, in conjunction with cravings and the presence of physical withdrawal symptoms, make relapse a very real risk and a common occurrence. Avoiding a relapse on Valium is a second reason that many people choose to navigate the withdrawal process under medical supervision.

Treatment for Valium Addiction

While the withdrawal symptoms for Valium can be daunting, it is important to remember that withdrawal is simply the body’s process of returning to a state of equilibrium in the absence of Valium. Withdrawal is the first step in this process, but it is ongoing rather than occurring at any one point in time. Within the context of a recovery program, withdrawal typically occurs during the medical detox phase. After you have detoxed you will begin the work of recovery by addressing the underlying issues that gave rise to your addiction in the first place.

Treatments for Valium addiction can take many forms, but one of the most common is in a treatment facility as part of a recovery program. There are two types of recovery programs that are common for Valium addiction; inpatient and outpatient treatment. In an inpatient treatment program, you live in a treatment facility, most often for one to three months. During that time you explore the underlying issues that gave rise to your addiction through therapy and counseling. You also learn the strategies and skills that can help you navigate the world after your recovery program has been completed.

A second option is to enter an outpatient treatment program. Sometimes referred to as an intensive outpatient program (IOP), these programs still combine the same treatment modalities that inpatient programs do but accommodate work or family care requirements. An individual in an IOP program will take part in therapy and counseling sessions and skills building courses, while still being able to go home at the end of the night. An IOP might be a viable treatment program if medically supervised detoxification isn’t required and you can avoid Valium withdrawal symptoms through a drug tapering program while going to treatment.

Closing Thoughts

First introduced in the 1960s, Valium has long been a staple prescription medication for the short-term treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. Today, Valium may also be used to reduce anxiety before someone goes into surgery, or to help ease benzo withdrawal symptoms associated with other benzodiazepines or alcohol.

Valium, like other benzodiazepines, has severe withdrawal symptoms that can be both difficult to navigate and dangerous. Most of the physical withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest 1-2 days after the last dose of Valium, and peak in intensity within two weeks after the last dose. Alongside physical withdrawal symptoms, individuals may experience psychological symptoms such as rebound anxiety, depression, insomnia, and a craving to return to the use of Valium. In some cases, individuals may develop seizures during the acute phase of withdrawal. These seizures may be life-threatening and are considered a medical emergency.

While the development of seizures during acute withdrawal from Valium is one area of concern, another is relapsing. Both the physical and non-physical withdrawal symptoms, when taken together, can be agonizing. When combined with the cravings that can manifest in the absence of Valium, relapsing becomes common. There are many advantages to a treatment program, and reducing the chances that a relapse will occur is one of them.

In many cases, the intensity of Valium symptoms can be reduced or minimized to an extent. For example, you may be prescribed a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) to treat anxiety or depression symptoms that arise through withdrawal. In other cases, the use of Valium is tapered down over time while you take part in treatment. By reducing the intensity of the symptoms associated with Valium withdrawal, you will have a better chance for a successful recovery.

Navigating the Valium withdrawal process and overcoming Valium addiction isn’t easy. Building a support network of people close to you and medical professionals engaged in seeing you succeed is often an essential component to long-term recovery. To learn more about treatment options for Valium addiction, please contact Apex Recovery today.

Sources:

  1. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/valium-treatment/withdrawal-duration
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657308/