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Long-Term Effects Of Valium (Diazepam) Abuse

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

March 20, 2019

A range of long-term effects may result from extended Valium abuse. The longer someone abuses a drug like Valium, the more difficult it can be to stop.

Long-term abuse of Valium (diazepam) can cause lasting effects on the mind and body. These effects include tolerance and severe withdrawal symptoms. Chronic abuse of high doses of Valium can have a vast influence on the brain and body.

Common long-term side effects of Valium abuse include:

  • memory loss
  • hallucinations
  • difficulty breathing
  • slowed heart rate
  • loss of consciousness or coma
  • cardiac events, including heart attack or irregular heart palpitations

In some cases, the long-term effects of Valium abuse may be permanent and potentially life-threatening.

Long-term abuse of depressants such as diazepam has also been associated with mental side effects, such as:

  • increased anxiety and depression
  • aggressive behavior
  • cognitive deficits
  • psychotic experiences
  • further drug abuse

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Short-Term Effects Of Valium (Diazepam) Abuse

Valium (diazepam) abuse decreases the activity in the central nervous system, including the communication pathways in specific areas of the brain.

When someone takes large doses of Valium, they experience a sudden release of dopamine (the feel-good chemical naturally produced in the brain), which can lead to short-term effects such as:

Once Valium levels peak in the body, there is a period of withdrawal or a “crash.”

The brain begins to recover from the unnaturally high levels of dopamine and may produce uncomfortable effects, including:

  • anxiety and irritation
  • increased body temperature
  • rapid heart rate
  • stomach cramps
  • depression
  • seizures

How Long-Term Valium Abuse Leads To Addiction

Some individuals will continue to take Valium to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Continuing to take the medication for this purpose can cause addiction to develop at an increased rate because they will need larger and more frequent doses of Valium to feel the same desired effects.

Once someone’s body has become accustomed to having large amounts of Valium, it may depend on the drug to feel normal, also known as physical tolerance. Tolerance typically occurs within six months of starting Valium, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research.

If someone wishes to discontinue Valium abuse, they will need to do so slowly to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. The best way to manage Valium withdrawal is with the assistance of a medically supervised detox program.

These programs can provide 24/7 medical assistance for any withdrawal symptoms an individual may experience, ensuring their safety and comfort throughout the process.

How To Tell If A Loved One Is Addicted To Valium (Diazepam)

Addiction to Valium (diazepam) doesn’t occur overnight. Typically, it takes two to three weeks of extensive abuse to develop into an addiction. A loved one may start out by increasing their dose to relieve anxiety or fall asleep more quickly. If they have become preoccupied with the drug, and are always wondering when they can take another dose, they may be addicted to the substance.

Valium is often prescribed to control seizures, prevent muscle cramping, or relieve anxiety. However, individuals who are taking the medication for a specific medical purpose are still highly susceptible to the drug’s abuse potential.

Finding Treatment For Valium (Diazepam) Abuse And Addiction

Finding treatment for Valium (diazepam) abuse and addiction is easily done, as there are many treatment options for benzodiazepine abuse and addiction. However, it is important to note that individuals who struggle with a Valium use disorder often struggle with other substances, such as opioids, or another mental health disorder.

Experiencing more than one disorder at once is known as having a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders can further complicate addiction treatment, making it even more essential for individuals who struggle with Valium to enlist the help of a formal addiction treatment program.

National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Ochsner Journal — Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System–Mediated Effects - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684331/

University of Maryland: Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) — Benzodiazepines - http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/benzos.asp

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