Librium is the brand name for the benzodiazepine medication chlordiazepoxide. Since Librium, like other medications in its family, is a sedative-hypnotic drug, it is used to calm the firing of some neurons and relax the person taking the medication by changing the chemical balance on GABA receptors in the brain. This control over the GABA neurotransmitters and their uptake helps manage anxiety, panic disorders, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms like insomnia and seizures. Librium remains in the system for longer than some other benzodiazepines, and it is metabolized into nordiazepam and oxazepam, which can be detected after Librium’s effects wear off.
Unlike some other benzodiazepines, Librium has a lower addictive potential. This is partially due to its long-acting nature; people who abuse benzodiazepines tend to prefer faster-acting drugs like Klonopin, Xanax, or Restoril. Librium takes 1-4 hours for the full effects to begin working, and the half-life is an astonishingly large 100 hours. Librium’s full duration of effect is estimated at 1-3 days.
That being said, like other benzodiazepines, Librium can lead to addiction and physical dependence. People who take this substance for a long time, either as prescribed or for nonmedical reasons, often experience withdrawal symptoms when getting off the medication. These symptoms include nausea, depression, anxiety, rebound insomnia, abdominal pain, difficulty with cognition or memory, and muscle weakness. People who take Librium can also experience side effects like:
- Anterograde amnesia
- Drowsiness, fatigue, or sedation
- Depression, irritability, or other changes in mood
- Other cognitive impairment
Side effects of any benzodiazepine, including Librium, are rare when the medication is taken as directed. However, people who abuse Librium for nonmedical or recreational reasons, or who become addicted to Librium, are more likely to experience serious side effects. Just like other benzodiazepines, Librium is recommended for short-term use – for 2-4 weeks at most.
Librium’s Use in Addiction Treatment
Librium is one of the benzodiazepines commonly prescribed to treat alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Valium is the other main medication in this family used for this purpose. Librium works well because it is a longer-acting benzodiazepine, and it stays bound to receptors in the brain for several hours to ease withdrawal symptoms. However, all benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and they can induce a similar intoxication to alcohol. This means they can also be addictive for people who are attempting to overcome alcohol addiction.
Since Librium lasts for so long compared to most other benzodiazepines, it is sometimes prescribed as a substitution therapy to help with tapering withdrawal from other benzodiazepines, like Xanax or Klonopin. Librium binds to the GABA receptors longer, so the person trying to detox from shorter-acting benzodiazepines will feel fewer cravings and reduced withdrawal symptoms.
They will also take less of any benzodiazepine, so their body can begin to reach equilibrium without as much of the substance in the bloodstream or brain. Once a doctor prescribes Librium as part of a tapering regimen, they will begin to reduce the size of the Librium dose and ease the individual off their benzodiazepine dependence over time.
It is important for a doctor to monitor their patient during benzodiazepine tapering, especially if a medication like Librium is used as a substitution therapy. The person attempting to detox from benzodiazepines could instead replace one addiction with an addiction to Librium. Just like with other benzodiazepines, dependence on or addiction to Librium can cause withdrawal symptoms or overdose.
- Anxiety, irritation, restlessness, or nervousness
- Panic attacks
- Muscle weakness or pain
- Poor memory or inability to concentrate
- Joint pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Depression and dysphoria
- Extreme drowsiness and inability to wake up
- Intense confusion or delirium
- Slurred speech
- Loss of physical coordination
- Reduced, depressed, slowed, or irregular breathing
Although Librium has some benefits, especially for people struggling with anxiety, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, or benzodiazepine withdrawal, the medication is still a potent one and can still become addictive. Librium itself is a benzodiazepine, so people who struggle with substance abuse are at risk of developing an addiction to this medication. Librium should only be used with a prescription, under a doctor’s supervision. For people struggling with benzodiazepine addiction or abuse, a doctor can help with tapering off the drug. While a tapered approach is generally used in medical detox to get off the benzodiazepine, comprehensive therapy must be involved in rehabilitation.