Valium is one of the most famous brand names for the benzodiazepine medication diazepam. This substance was originally synthesized in the 1960s, and it has been hailed as a groundbreaking medication to treat anxiety, seizures, alcohol withdrawal, muscle convulsions, and other issues. However, like other benzodiazepines that followed in Valium’s wake, this substance can be addictive due to its action on brain chemistry. Valium blocks the uptake of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter, which induces a sensation of relaxation and, in large doses, euphoria. It can also stimulate the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine, which increases the potential of this medication to become addictive for some people.
How Potent Is Valium?
When a person becomes addicted to Valium, they may attempt to stop taking the substance to try to overcome the addiction. In order to do this successfully, it is important to get help from a medical professional. Attempting an at-home detox from any benzodiazepine can be dangerous and even life-threatening; medical supervision is always required. It is also important to understand how long Valium remains in the body, which can help clarify the withdrawal process.
Diazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine, meaning that it continues to affect the brain for a long period of time. Because of this, prescription doses for Valium or other forms of diazepam tend to be very small – around 2 mg per dose, which can be cut in half depending on the severity of the condition the prescription will treat. However, when a person struggles with addiction to Valium, they are more likely to begin to increase their dose as their body begins to develop a tolerance to the medication. This means there will be more diazepam in the blood and stored in body fat, so it can take even longer to eliminate the substance from the body.
How Long Does Valium Stay in the Body?
One dose of Valium has a half-life of 200 hours, which means that the medication decreases by half in the body in 8-9 days. Most benzodiazepines have a half-life of a few hours, up to one day; although this means that withdrawal takes less time, it also means that cravings for the drug begin sooner. Valium’s long half-life means it is often used as part of the tapering process from other benzodiazepines, like Klonopin or Xanax.
How Is Valium Metabolized?
As the body metabolizes diazepam, the medication is broken down into other metabolites, including:
Oxazepam and temazepam are both benzodiazepine medications in their own right. Oxazepam has a half-life of 4-15 hours, while temazepam has a half-life of 8-22 hours. Once diazepam breaks down into these substances, they can be eliminated from the body in 1-3 days. However, nordiazepam has a half-life of 40-99 hours, so it remains in the blood and brain for a long time.
Valium’s metabolites can be more difficult to eliminate from the body, depending on the individual’s age. Because liver function reduces as a person gets older, elderly adults may have a more difficult time processing and eliminating diazepam. Liver disease from hepatitis, alcohol dependence, or other conditions can also make the elimination of Valium more difficult. Since Valium is one of the benzodiazepines prescribed to people trying to overcome alcohol addiction to ease withdrawal symptoms, it is important to understand whether alcohol dependence has led to liver damage. When the drugs do not easily leave the body, this can increase the risk of falls, confusion, memory loss, and other side effects.
Why Is It Dangerous to Keep Taking Valium?
Medications that remain in the body for a long time increase the risk of overdose. As a person becomes addicted to a substance like Valium, they will want to take more of the drug to increase the euphoric effects. Symptoms of diazepam overdose include:
- Loss of coordination
- Slurred speech or acting drunk
- Drowsiness or inability to wake up
- Reduced, slowed, depressed, or irregular breathing
- Stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting
- Excitability, anxiety, or paranoia
Since Valium remains in the body for a long time, attempting to detox from this substance can lead to protracted withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Rebound anxiety or insomnia
- Panic attacks
- Changes in cognition
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heart palpitations
These symptoms can be physically dangerous, so it is very important to get medical help immediately.
Get Help for Valium Addiction
People who receive a prescription for Valium or another benzodiazepine should discuss the prescription carefully with their physician. Although these medications provide therapeutic value when taken as prescribed, they can be very addictive and have dangerous side effects.
For those who struggle with addiction to Valium, trying to end that addiction alone will be difficult, and withdrawal could be life-threatening. Comprehensive rehabilitation programs can ensure a safe and comfortable withdrawal from Valium and a full continuum of care that can ensure the best chances at prolonged recovery.