Valium is a brand-name drug that has the generic drug diazepam as its active ingredient. Valium is a benzodiazepine, a drug type that has a sedative effect. Valium is indicated for the treatment of different medical conditions, such as anxiety and seizures, and during withdrawal from an alcohol use disorder. Valium works in the brain by slowing down, and hence calming, nerve activity. There is a universal advisement that anyone who is taking Valium, whether for a prescribed medical reason or for recreational purposes, avoid all alcohol and alcoholic products, such as cough syrup.
Alcohol & Valium Effects on the Brain and Body
Typically, an overdose on Valium will not lead to a fatality (though in some instances it can happen). However, the combination of Valium and alcohol can prove fatal, even at relatively low doses. A main danger has to do with the fact that the presence of alcohol makes a greater percentage of the Valium reach the brain. Since there is then more Valium in the brain, the drug has a more potent effect, which can lead to the following side effects:
- A depressed feeling
- Decreased mental ability
- Slowed motor function
- Labored or slowed breathing
- Poor coordination
One may wonder why the combination of Valium and alcohol can be so devastating. The short answer is that each of these drugs works as a central nervous system depressant. The combination, therefore, can result in severe depression of critical body functions, such as the heartbeat and breathing. In addition to these immediate effects, taking these drugs can increase the risk of addiction. Since alcohol and Valium potentiate one another, the likelihood that the person will become addicted to these intense effects can increase. While each drug is itself potentially addiction-forming, the combination can shorten the distance between use and abuse.
Drugged and Drunk Driving
Aside from the health consequences, taking Valium and alcohol together, or in close proximity in time, can lower inhibitions. Once in this mental state, a person may be prone to drive a car or make other unsafe choices. The National Highway Safety Commission (NHSC) provides the public with information on how taking Valium or Valium and alcohol impacts a person’s ability to drive. The following are some key highlights of NHSC research in this area:
- When multiple doses of Valium are taken and then a person drives, driving ability is significantly impaired.
- A single dose of Valium has been shown to slow reaction times during driving, increase the risk of driving out of a lane, decrease the driver’s ability to multitask, diminish attention, adversely impact the ability to process thoughts, negatively affect memory, and heighten fatigue.
- If the driver has taken Valium, even a low amount of alcohol (0.05 g/100 ml) significantly impairs the person’s ability to drive.
- Compared to drug-free drivers, a driver who has taken Valium faces at least a twofold increased risk of getting into an accident.
- All states have criminal laws in place to address the situation of drugged and/or drunk driving.
NHSC has also expressed concern about the reality of Valium in the body. This drug can have effects in the body up to 24 hours after last use. Valium has a long half-life, as it can take the body as many as 20-80 hours to metabolize diazepam. This means that a person may not even understand the true risk of abusing this drug. For example, if a person takes Valium one evening and then goes out for drinks the next, there is a possibility that there will be enough of this benzodiazepine in the body to negatively interact with the alcohol. Although driving should be out of the question after exceeding the legal limit of alcohol intake, individuals may take this risk and not appreciate the added risk of also having Valium in their bodies. Again, these drugs potentiate one another. There is also a possibility that the person who decides to drive is showing significant thought impairment at that time and, if sober, would never engage in this reckless or negligent conduct.
Long-Term Effects of Valium and Alcohol Abuse
Taking Valium, or Valium and alcohol, can lead to certain long-term effects. The liver is responsible for metabolizing Valium. Individuals who take Valium under the care of a doctor will have certain protections, due to the doctor’s monitoring. To ensure that the Valium is not negatively affecting the liver, blood tests will be run periodically. In the event that there is liver damage, the individual will typically be started on a new course of treatment or some other beneficial modification will be made. But an individual who abuses Valium has no such safeguard in place. If there is liver damage, the liver will not be able to effectively process alcohol that is also consumed. The inability of the liver to process Valium and alcohol can lead to an overdose.
A person who abuses Valium and alcohol is truly entering into unchartered territory as well as demonstrating signs of a dangerous form of substance abuse. There is significant research available regarding the side effects of Valium and alcohol separately and interrelatedly, and it all points to the same conclusion: These drugs should never be mixed, and if they are, it’s necessary to get help. It is possible that even one instance of mixing Valium and alcohol can lead to an overdose or a fatal car accident. The risk only increases if this behavior continues.
Rehab can help. At present, the most effective way to treat singular or polydrug abuse, such as combining Valium and alcohol, is to receive treatment from a qualified, accredited rehab center. During treatment, a team of specialists will work together with the recovering person to address the impact of Valium and alcohol abuse on the person’s entire life.