Valium is a benzodiazepine medication that can produce seizures during the withdrawal process. As a result, it’s best for people with a Valium addiction to enter a formal addiction treatment program, so they can move through withdrawal with the help of a qualified medical team. Then, comprehensive therapy can help people to address the root causes of the Valium addiction and acquire the skills necessary for lifelong sobriety.
More than 2 billion tablets were sold in a single calendar year, and more than 500 derivative drugs have been made based on diazepam, for which Valium is the most well-known trade name. The World Health Organization considers Valium to be an essential medication that should be an inherent part of a basic health system, and its effectiveness and the range of conditions it treats have made it a household name.
That praise comes with a stiff price tag, as millions of people who became dependent on Valium have lost money, years of their lives, and relationships to Valium addiction.
Thankfully, well-established and evidence-based treatment methods that heal both the mind and body can undo some of the damage that unhealthy Valium abuse can wreak.
Primarily, the conditions for which Valium is prescribed include:
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that over 18 percent of the adult population of the United States experiences some form of anxiety disorder in a given year, which explains why there more than 150 different formulations for the benzodiazepine formula of diazepam. Even in England, the number of Valium prescriptions increased 11 percent in three years due to financial stress caused by the 2007 Great Recession, with The Telegraph reporting that doctors prescribed Valium 5 million times that year.
In fact, Anesthesia Progress says that diazepam is the “prototypical benzodiazepine”and the “grandfather”of the benzodiazepine drug class. It has been available for more than 40 years, and it is a commonly prescribed medication to this day.
Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed for their effectiveness. In addition to their anti-anxiety properties, they are also used for treating convulsions and seizures, relaxing muscles, and a range of conditions, such as panic disorder, major depressive disorder, and general anxiety disorder, among others. The Royal College of Psychiatrists explains that benzodiazepines work by stimulating the brain to secrete a neurotransmitter known as GABA.
Under normal conditions, GABA controls the electrical and chemical activity in the central nervous system. In people with certain conditions that cause excitation in the nervous system (resulting in panic attacks, anxiety attacks, etc.), their brains cannot produce enough GABA to rein in their emotions and reactions. That is where benzodiazepines like Valium come in: they jumpstart the brain into producing sufficient quantities of GABA, such that the impulse to react with panic or anxiety to a stressful situation is quashed.
Different benzodiazepines have different rates of onset or last for different periods of time, says ABC News. Valium’s effects can be felt quickly, which is one reason why it is a very commonly used medication.
As far back as 1977, the International Journal of Health Services noted that changing economic and social factors were leading doctors to prescribe more and more drugs to their patients, including Valium. More recently, a 2012 article from Reuters noted “an increase in the prevalence of reported anxiety disorders of more than 1,200 percent since 1980,”referring to this as the “Age of Anxiety.” i09 asked if we are “in the midst of an anxiety epidemic,” and a 2013 article from Salon wondered if societal pressure on progress and success has bred a culture of anxiety, depression, and dysfunction.
Little wonder, then, that The Guardian quotes New York Magazine as saying that benzodiazepine prescriptions increased 17 percent from 2006-2012, resulting in 94 million drugs sold annually.
As effective as Valium is, the sheer scope of usage raises many red flags, because Valium is too powerful a medication to be used on this scale. Zeitgeists like the “Age of Anxiety”and Reuters noting a drastic uptick in reported anxiety disorders present the risk of Valium being overused, and for problems (significant or otherwise) that far exceed the ideal short-term usage. For example, The Independent reports that doctors are being sued for creating “Valium addicts,” patients who are “physically and psychologically broken”by long-term, and possibly medically negligent, Valium prescriptions.
WebMD explains that a Valium addiction can begin quite innocuously: patients are prescribed the medication for a complaint but becomes powerfully attracted to the numbing session. Even once their remedies are accounted for, they cannot get over how calm and relaxed the Valium made them feel, and they want to pursue that sensation. They may persist with their diazepam intake even as their bodies and minds start to suffer. Stanford University lists some of the signs and symptoms of a Valium addiction:
Of course, long-term exposure to Valium makes it very difficult to simply stop taking Valium, notwithstanding the deterioration of the person’s way of life. The Daily Mail warns that, in this regard, Valium is “more addictive than heroin,”telling the story of a woman who was prescribed the drug to cope with the depression from the end of her marriage. That was the start of a 10-year habit. When she cut back on her intake, she experienced muscle spasms that rendered her unable to walk up a staircase, memory and speech problems, and a heart attack.
In Express , a former Valium addict says that it took her three years to get away from her addiction, a situation that cost the woman her home, her job, and her marriage. She didn’t eat or sleep sufficiently, and she had severe abdominal pains that caused her to vomit. Nonetheless, the article quotes the Times as saying that doctors in the United Kingdom write more than 11 million yearly prescriptions for benzodiazepines.
In addition to medical detox, comprehensive therapy is needed to address the root reasons that led to addiction in the first place. It is vital to learn how to process the mental and emotional damage done by Valium addiction, as well as how to function in day-to-day life without the crutch of reaching for a bottle of pills. That insight comes from therapy, where the client and therapist work together on formulating strategies to help the client deal with the temptation to use Valium and how to respond to the situations that give rise to those temptations.
A key tool in this stage of treatment is a form of therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which works by examining the client’s thought and behavioral patterns, attempting to discern the processes that led to addiction. Once these patterns are understood, a therapist can guide the client towards forming newer, healthier patterns that can be used as a defense against the threat of relapse. The University of Washington explains that the concept of identifying and correcting harmful thought processes is the foundation of relapse prevention. Once clients have completed this formalized treatment, it is imperative that they connect with a support group that can help them keep the tenets of therapy fresh in mind. To this point, 12-Step groups and other aftercare programs give the client a network of peers who have been through similar experiences and speak the language of this stage of recovery. These peers are there if the client needs someone to talk to, and they can provide companionship and solidarity when saying “no”to Valium becomes a struggle.
Clients may be given the option of outpatient treatment if the Valium addiction is not severe to the point that it warrants observation and protection from relapse triggers. This possibility may present itself if individuals seek help at a relatively early stage in the addiction, before they become physically and psychologically dependent on Valium to make it through the day. Regardless of which form of treatment is deemed appropriate ” inpatient or outpatient ” for rehab, medical detox with 24-hour supervision is recommended for Valium detox.
As an outpatient, the client returns home each night. In fact, after participating in therapy sessions, or receiving their dosage of medication, clients may be free to return to their private lives, engaging in work, academic, or family obligations. However, The Fix warns that one of the many conditions placed on clients who qualify for outpatient treatment is that their visits to treatment centers have to be frequent and regular, perhaps requiring them to spend a majority of their day there.
Outpatient clients are also encouraged to join a 12-Step group to help with the reality of maintaining their abstinence. Regardless of treatment status, a Valium addiction is still an addiction, and sobriety needs to be protected and nurtured.
As with most prescription drug addictions, developing a dependence on Valium can feel like adding insult to injury: the supposed “miracle cure”for anxiety or insomnia becomes its own source of stress and worry. With treatment, however, recovery and health are always possible, and the same Valium addiction that threatened to overwhelm your life can become a thing of the past.