Valium Addiction Symptoms

4 min read · 2 sections
Signs and Symptoms

Valium addiction symptoms will eventually emerge if a person is abusing this benzodiazepine drug. Some of the most common physical, psychological, and behavioral tipoffs of Valium addiction are:

  • Pounding heart
  • Dry mouth
  • Nervousness
  • Delusions of wellbeing
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Traveling long distances to fill prescriptions
  • Getting prescriptions from different doctors
  • Losing a job or uncharacteristically getting a bad review
  • Problems with the law, such as drugged driving
  • Seizures, coma, and the risk of fatal overdose if taken in combination with alcohol or other drugs

Withdrawal from Valium, and other benzodiazepines, can be particularly dangerous. There is a general advisement that individuals who are abusing Valium should undergo a medically supervised detox process. Doing so will help to ensure that severe withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, do not occur.

Valium is the trade name for the generic drug diazepam.

It belongs to the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Typically, Valium is used treat anxiety disorders or episodic anxiety (such as after a traumatic event), among other health conditions. Valium is shorting-acting, whereas some other benzodiazepines are long-acting. When a person takes Valium, its sedative effects usually set in within 30-60 minutes.

An individual may develop an addiction to Valium along different pathways. Two are especially of note. In one scenario, a person has a legitimate prescription for Valium, for a medically diagnosed reason. A person who takes Valium in accordance with a doctor’s orders faces little risk of developing of addiction. However, if the person takes too much Valium then addiction can set in. Valium has a strong addiction profile. In the other scenario, a person has no therapeutic need for Valium but begins to abuse this drug for any host of reasons, such as it being available (e.g., maybe a significant other has a legitimate prescription).

Valium may or may not occur as part of polydrug abuse. Valium abuse alone does not typically cause a fatal overdose. However, when Valium is used in combination with alcohol or other drugs, that combination can prove fatal.

Symptoms of Valium Addiction

woman depressed and on drugsIt is helpful to make a distinction between the terms symptoms and signs. A person who abuses Valium will experience symptoms, while an outside person who observes the resulting effects is seeing the signs. There are at least two main ways of learning about the symptoms of Valium addiction: to look at findings from clinical trials and to examine literature on noted side effects. From the standpoint of a mental health professional, a diagnosis of a Valium addiction will require reference to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). The DSM-5 no longer uses the term addiction; instead, they have implemented the term substance use disorder.

In order to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder, a person must present at least two of 11 delineated symptoms. These symptoms must emerge within the same 12-month period. In other words, to even come into the realm of having a substance use disorder, a person must be experiencing more than episodic drug abuse.

Depending on the number of symptoms, the person will receive a grade of mild, moderate, or severe substance use disorder. The higher the number of symptoms, the more acute the grade. The term substance use disorder covers all disorders related to drugs within the DSM-5. However, the DSM-5 does have subcategories, including sedative use disorder. What we may call Valium addiction would fall under the sedative use disorder section.

As laid out in the DSM-5, the following are the 11 symptoms of a substance use disorder (paraphrased and applied to Valium in specific):

  • Taking a higher volume of Valium or taking it more frequently than initially planned
  • Stopping use of Valium is worrisome or efforts to stop haven’t worked
  • Living a life in significant service to using, getting, and recovering from Valium
  • Being unable to meet major obligations in the areas of work, family, or school because of the Valium use
  • Having cravings for Valium
  • Continuing to take Valium even though it exacerbates or causes health troubles
  • Continuing to take Valium even though it is having a negative impact on relationships (e.g., fights, strife, or stress)
  • Repeatedly using Valium in risky situations (e.g., drugged driving)
  • Cutting back on hobbies, social activities, and interests due to Valium use
  • Developing a tolerance for Valium (discussed in greater detail below)
  • When Valium use stops or the familiar volume of Valium consumed is reduced, going into withdrawal (further discussion below)

Researchers have discovered a host of side effects associated with Valium. Although research has occurred in the context of users with a lawful prescription, it can obviously apply with equal force to a person who abuses Valium. In fact, since a person who abuses Valium takes too much of this drug, the side effects can be more extreme.

The following is a partial list of the moderate side effects (symptoms, essentially) that can emerge after taking Valium:

  • Feeling faint
  • Delirium
  • Dry mouth
  • Delusions of wellbeing
  • Irritated stomach
  • Whirling or spinning feeling
  • Salivating excessively
  • Nervousness
  • Rapid heartbeat or pounding heart
  • Paranoia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea or feeling the need to vomit
  • Aggressiveness
  • Abnormal dreams

The following is a partial list of the more severe side effects (or symptoms) associated with Valium:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Breaking out in big hives
  • Seizures
  • Disrupted breathing pattern
  • Falling down
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to maintain focus
  • Not being able to empty one’s bladder
  • A severe loss of the amount of water in the body
  • Seizures
  • Skin yellowing

One of the most universal symptoms of Valium abuse is addiction itself; however, this term needs to be unpacked. As discussed, addiction is now termed substance use disorder. What the lay public often understands to be addiction is really physical dependence on a drug plus a psychological preoccupation with it. When a person consumes too much Valium, over time, the body will habituate to the amount taken. The body naturally builds tolerance and demands more of the drug for the person to be able to get the desired psychoactive effects. When the person then stops using Valium, or significantly reduces the amount taken, the body goes into Valium withdrawal. While taking too much Valium will often not prove fatal, it is exceptionally dangerous to mix this sedative drug with alcohol or other drugs. A fatal overdose is possible in this scenario. If Valium alone is abused, the following are some symptoms of a Valium overdose:

  • Confusion (mild response)
  • Fatigue (mild)
  • Drowsiness (mild)
  • Confusion (mild)
  • Reduced reflex power (severe)
  • Hypotension (severe)
  • Respiratory depression (severe)
  • Ataxia, or inability to control the body (severe)
  • Hypotonia, or floppy quality of the body (severe)
  • Coma (severe, rare)
  • Death (rare)

Some of the more common withdrawal symptoms associated with Valium (diazepam) include but are not limited to:

  • Heightened anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Tremors
  • Tension
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle cramps

The following is a partial list of the more severe withdrawal symptoms that can arise during Valium withdrawal:

  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
  • Tingling or numbness in limbs
  • Hallucinations
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Epileptic seizures

Even though people may be aware that they are experiencing symptoms of addiction, they often do not want to respond because they want to keep using the drugs. This is one of the great complexities of drug use: In short, drugs lie to the brain and can make the person using the drug believe that everything is fine (as noted above, instill a delusion of wellbeing). But in many cases, drugs do not maintain a permanent grip on a person. Understanding the symptoms of Valium addiction can help a person with the crucial first step of identifying that there is a problem, which paves the way to getting help.

Behavioral Symptoms of Valium Addiction

treatmentThere is some overlap between the foregoing physical and psychological symptoms of Valium addiction and the behavioral symptoms that are likely to concomitantly emerge. Since Valium is a prescription drug, “doctor shopping” and “pharmacy hopping” may be some of the most readily perceptible behavioral symptoms. At present, the US is steeped in a prescription pill abuse epidemic. This epidemic has revealed holes in the prescription system. Doctor shopping, as the name suggests, occurs when a person visits more than one doctor in order to get a higher-than-needed amount of prescription medication. Before the prescription pill epidemic arose, few states had implemented a prescription monitoring system, which unexpectedly facilitated doctor shopping. Individuals would doctor shop and continue to avoid detection by filling their prescriptions at different pharmacies. Doctor shopping and pharmacy hopping are still going on, but states are working on, or have already implemented, a prescription monitoring system.

The behavioral signs of drug abuse can depend on many factors, such as the person’s age, the type of drugs of abuse, and the person’s living situation. The following is a partial list of some of the most common behavioral symptoms across different demographics:

  • Getting into illegal activity or legal problems for reasons related to the Valium abuse, such as drugged driving, fighting, or stealing
  • Uncharacteristically stealing money or objects of ranging value in order to buy Valium (According to StreetRx, on the street, Valium costs range, from a low of $1 for a 10 mg pill in New York to $30 for the same in Hawaii.)
  • Uncharacteristically being secretive, lying about whereabouts, hiding things, and/or getting confrontational when any inquiry is made about these changes
  • Withdrawing from loved ones or becoming socially isolated
  • Hanging out with new people who use drugs
  • Speaking in lingo about drug use or drugs (Street names for Valium include Howards (because Howard Hughes was famously addicted to Valium), sleep away, benzos, tranks (for tranquilizers), downers, foofoo, Vs, blue Vs, and yellow V)

According to anecdotal evidence online, Valium (like benzodiazepines in general) does not appear to be to injectable. Individuals who discuss this method of administration in drug forums advise one another that Valium is not water-soluble, it is too difficult to prep for injection, or the high is not worth the potential damage to the limb. For this reason, there will not typically be symptoms that include having paraphernalia to shoot up this drug (e.g., syringes, spoons, belts/ropes, lighters, etc.). However, according to WebMD, injectable Valium does exist, but it’s likely to only be found in emergency centers (e.g., if a person is having a seizure and cannot take Valium orally).

As mentioned, Valium addiction alone is different in some regards from polydrug addiction. Typically, the symptoms of Valium addiction can be treated, and there is a good chance that any severe physical impact is reversible. Polydrug addiction is also treatable, but it’s too multifaceted to discuss as a general matter. Individuals in a drug rehab program receive a treatment plan tailored to their individual needs, one that is sensitive to their specific drugs of abuse but expansive enough to get to the root causes of the addiction.
It is critical to mention that there is a general advisement that individuals who want to recover from Valium or other benzodiazepine abuse undergo medical detox. During medical detox, attending medical staff members taper a person off benzodiazepines gradually over time. Doing so helps to ensure that some of the more severe withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, do not occur. Rehab for Valium addiction can provide the strong foundation needed for a person to not only recover, but to also build a fulfilling and drug-free life.
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