Valium Withdrawal and Detox

Valium is a benzodiazepine medication, often prescribed to treat excessive anxiety and insomnia. Long-term use of this medication is dangerous, because you can quickly become tolerant, leading to dosage increases. If you’ve been taking Valium (otherwise known as diazepam) for more than three to four weeks and suddenly stop, you are very likely to experience withdrawal. This could result in a range of side effects when the drug is no longer present in your system.

Once you’ve become used to high amounts of Valium, it will be difficult to stop taking the drug without experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification (or ‘detox’) is the process of gradually removing Valium from your system. If done properly, it can help minimise the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal, as the drug is removed from your system. If you’ve become dependent on Valium and need help getting through withdrawal and detox, it’s best to seek an inpatient treatment facility that can supervise you to ensure your safety and comfort.

What is Valium withdrawal?

Valium begins to accumulate in the body the longer it is used. As the substance builds up, your body reduces its production of natural stress and anxiety-relieving chemicalsand begins to depend on Valium to fill the void. If you’ve taken the medication for longer than four months (or less in certain cases), you may experience Valium withdrawal when you attempt to quit. When you’ve become physically dependent on the drug, you’ll need it to function and prevent symptoms of withdrawal.

Usually, you’ll need a higher dose of Valiumto keep withdrawal symptoms at bay as you build tolerance to the drug. Valium withdrawal can be dangerous, so you should never try to quit ‘cold turkey’. This could result in coma and other potentially deadly outcomes. Quitting Valium requires proper medical management, as your brain and body readjust to function properly without the drug.

Contributing factors to withdrawal severity

There are different factors which contribute to withdrawal. For instance, you may experience symptoms of Valium withdrawal if you frequently take the medication or do so in large doses. The length of time you’ve been using Valium also contributes to withdrawal severity, in addition to taking it without a prescription or alongside other drugs or alcohol. Another contributing factor to withdrawal is if you’ve stopped taking Valium before and are going through withdrawal a second, third or fourth time.

Struggling with dual diagnosis (including physical or mental health disorders) is also a contributing factor.Typically, the greater the frequency of diazepam abuse, the more tolerance builds up and the higher your degree of Valium dependency. Your environment, genetic makeup and behavioural tendencies can all influence the withdrawal and detox process. Valium is potent medication, with a high potential for abuse. When dependence is formed, withdrawal becomes even more difficult than normal.

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Causes of Valium withdrawal

Valium withdrawal is likely to occur when you become tolerant to the drug and significantly reduce your dosage or suddenly stop taking it completely. It occurs because your body has become used to the medication and has adapted to it.

When Valium is no longer present, your brain and body function as though it is, until they become normal again. Generally, the diazepam in Valium interacts with the central nervous system and acts as a depressant.

As a result, your brain’s responses are slowed to create a calm sedation of the body. When you stop taking the drug, your body doesn’t know the difference, as it has sped up its responses to compensate for the lack of Valium. Therefore, withdrawal symptoms occur during the period when your body struggles to regain normal functioning without the presence of diazepam.

Common Valium detox and withdrawal symptoms

During withdrawal and detox, you may experience a number of challenging physical and psychological symptoms. These will be unique to you, as you may feel one, all or none of the most common symptoms. However, due to the considerable risk of developing tolerance and dependence, Valium withdrawal can be very difficult. Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms of Valium withdrawal. Since Valium treats anxiety, withdrawing from it can cause a return of anxiety, which can be even more intense.

If you’re severely dependent on Valium or react strongly to withdrawal, you could be at risk of potentially life-threatening symptoms. This is why undergoing detox at a professional treatment centre with the assistance of qualified medical staffis the recommended course of action. Seizures are amongst the more serious symptoms that can be experienced. An experienced addiction treatment professional can help to prevent the risk of seizures during the withdrawal process.

Physical symptoms of Valium withdrawal and detox

Physical symptoms are quite common with Valium withdrawal and detox. Even if you’ve taken the drug over a period of a few months, you can still experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop. The most commonly experienced physical symptoms of Valium withdrawal are ahigher sensitivity to light, noise, taste and smell, as well assleep disturbances. As your central nervous system withdraws from Valium, your body may experience more acute sensations of the world around you.

The symptoms of withdrawal can make it more difficult to stop abusing Valium and can extend the process of detoxification. These symptoms include nausea and vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches, restlessness, excessive sweating, seizures, numbness, abdominal cramps, involuntary tremors, trouble sleeping, visual disturbances and muscle aches.

Psychological symptoms of Valium withdrawal

Psychological symptoms also occur with prolonged use of Valium. The drug accumulates in your body and as a result, detoxing from it is also prolonged. Your brain becomes rewired to the point where it can no longer function properly without Valium and uncomfortable symptoms may occur when you attempt to quit. Psychological symptoms you may experience with Valium withdrawal include mental confusion, hallucinations, rebound anxiety, insomnia, nightmares and paranoid thoughts.

The severity of your symptoms will vary depending on factors such as the frequency and for how long you used the drug, in addition to the quantity consumed. If you’re engaged in heavy or illegal use of this substance, you may experience harsher withdrawal, unlike someone using it for prescribed therapeutic purposes. Psychological Valium withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, so it’s crucial to seek professional help before quitting the drug.

Valium withdrawal: Timeline of Symptoms

The timeline for Valium withdrawal may vary, depending on the duration of abuse. However, this general timeline can provide an idea of what to expect during withdrawal from Valium.

Week 1: Some common symptoms of withdrawal may start to appear in the first two days after your last dose of Valium. These symptoms include anxiety and restlessness and they become more severe as the time passes.

Week 2: All your acute symptoms have appeared by this time and subsequently peaked. You may experience muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and excessive sweating.

Weeks 3 to 4: Withdrawal symptoms may linger for up to a month after you quit Valium. However, by the third and fourth week, your symptoms will become less severe and more easily managed.

Week 5+: By this time, almost all of your symptoms have disappeared. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) may be experienced if you are a long-term, heavy Valium user. PAWS could also appear suddenly after being drug-free for a long time.

What is acute Valium withdrawal?

Acute Valium withdrawal is a phase of the withdrawal process that occurs about one to four days after your last dose. Valium has a half-life of about 48 hours, so you might not experience any withdrawal symptoms on the first day. However, by the second or third day, you can begin to experience acute Valium withdrawal. What determines how long it takes for the symptoms to appear depends on how often (and how much) you used Valium, in addition to your individual metabolism and psychological state.

Usually, acute Valium withdrawal will include a combination of physical, psychological, neurological and cardiovascular symptoms. Neurological symptoms include confusion and the risk of developing seizures. These can often be fatal and require immediate medical attention. Cardiovascular symptoms (such as increased heart rate and increased blood pressure) could be regarded as part of the normal withdrawal process, or even associated with rebound anxiety.

What is Valium detox?

Valium detox is the process of ridding your body of the substance to which you’ve become addicted. The main purpose of detox is to remove the drugs from your system, whilst experiencing only a minimal amount of withdrawal symptoms. Valium detox can be dangerous without medical assistance. The best method of quitting Valium is to follow a detox programme that slowly reduces your dose, either on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, in order to prevent harmful complications such
as seizures.

While detox is an essential first step to stopping Valium usage, it is not sufficient treatment on its own. After you’ve completed detox, you can graduate to formal addiction treatment. All treatment is different from one person to the next, but if you’re struggling with a severe addiction to Valium, you may benefit more from a residential or inpatient treatment programme. Seeking treatment at a rehabilitation centre allows you to get the care that is best suited to your needs.

How long does it take to detox from Valium?

The timeline for benzodiazepine withdrawal differs from one person to the next. Duration of detoxification generally depends on the amount of the drug taken and on how long you’ve been taking it. In addition, there are general principles that should be followed with detoxing from benzo drugs such as slow tapering and monitoring of symptoms.

Ideally, your withdrawal symptoms during Valium detox can be reduced (or even avoided altogether) by slowly reducing the amount of the drug you’re taking or the frequency of your dosage, before you run out. This type of tapering should also be carried out under medical supervision.

Valium detoxification should take a few weeks or months to complete. Reducing your dosage little by little may not completely prevent withdrawal symptoms, but it is better than quitting ‘cold turkey’ or seriously cutting down your regular dose. In addition, withdrawing from Valium can mimic an anxiety attack, or you may experience muscle twitching or seizures, which last from 30 seconds to one minute.

Why you should detox properly from Valium

One of the most important aspects of recovery is undergoing a professional drug detox programme. This is essential, because you can get the tools you need to recover and reach the point where your risk of relapse is significantly reduced. It may be difficult to build up the courage to finally get the treatment you need for a full recovery, but proper Valium detox is essential.

Detoxification can ensure a safer and easier withdrawal process, because you are being medically monitored. It allows you to go through withdrawal with the least amount of discomfort possible. Even though you can experience withdrawal symptoms without medical assistance, doing so is potentially dangerous.

Coping with Valium withdrawal

When you decide to cease or reduce your intake of Valium, different symptoms – ranging from mild and uncomfortable to severe and life-threatening – can occur. It is therefore crucial to seek professional assistance throughout the withdrawal process, in order to prevent relapse and ensure long-term recovery.In addition, it is recommended that you slowly taper off your use of the medication, instead of stopping abruptly.

Tapering helps to ease the pain of withdrawal symptoms and increases your likelihood of lasting freedom from Valium dependence. Essentially, this method of quitting Valium abuse is safer when performed by a physician or addiction specialist. Addiction counsellors in inpatient or outpatient treatment centres – in addition to support from friends and family – can help you cope with withdrawal symptoms. You can also learn ways of working through the anxiety and stress that detoxification and recovery involves.

Possible complications

Valium has a high risk of possible complications which can occur during abuse. Valium addiction is a possible complication that can develop over time. Addiction to Valium is dangerous for a number of reasons. Firstly, it increases the chances of experiencing difficult side effects, such as impaired judgment and debilitated coordination. There is also a high risk of overdose, as you need to increase the amount taken to feel the same impacts.

Valium abuse can also lead to respiratory depression. The drug is a central nervous system depressant, which means it slows brain signals and can result in shallow breathing. This limits the exchange of gases in and out of the body. Vital organs may therefore receive inadequate oxygen, while a build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood may occur. Respiratory depression may in turn lead to respiratory arrest, which stops breathing completely. If this complication is not immediately treated, severe organ damage can occur, which could prove fatal.

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How to treat Valium withdrawal

When you’re ready to quit Valium abuse, it is essential to seek medical help. Generally, withdrawing from benzodiazepines can be dangerous. Valium withdrawal can cause seizures, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. Therefore, the best way to treat Valium withdrawal is by slowly reducing your dose over a period of time, usually several weeks. Instead of going ‘cold turkey’, a doctor can help you slowly withdraw, to compensate for the missing amounts and follow a safe tapering schedule.

Depending on the amount of drugs in your system, benzodiazepines are usually reduced by 10% every two or four weeks. A slow tapering schedule is ideal; while you are gradually being weaned off the drug, you may experience symptoms of withdrawal, as it takes a while for them to completely disappear. It can be difficult to determine how long withdrawal will take because of the rebound effect. This is why withdrawing from Valium is best carried out under medical supervision.

Medications to treat Valium withdrawal and detox

Valium is a common medication used to assist in withdrawal from other benzodiazepine drugs. It is used to replace a benzodiazepine that has caused dependence during treatment, so that it can be slowly tapered down to allow the body to adjust. After reaching a certain level, the dosage is finally stopped after the most serious phases of withdrawal have been successfully negotiated. This method of treatment is also used to treat Valium withdrawal, and can be very effective when dependence has developed.

However, other medications can also be used to treat Valium withdrawal, such as:

  • Anticonvulsant medications are commonly used in the event that you develop seizures. These medications also appear to be useful in controlling the overall symptoms experienced during Valium withdrawal.
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)include antidepressant medications which have been shown to be useful in the withdrawal process from benzodiazepines, especially when dealing with rebound anxiety.
  • Baclofen is a muscle relaxant (known by the brand names Kemstro, Gablofen and Lioresal) which may also be administered to reduce cravings for various commonly abused medications, including benzodiazepines.
  • Melatonin can be provided in the form of supplements to ease symptoms of anxiety and induce sleep. It may also address tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

Melatonin for Valium withdrawal and detox symptoms

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body. However, it can be synthetically created in a laboratory to be used as a medicine. Usually, it is available as a pill, but can also be found in dissolvable forms to be placed under the tongue or in the cheek. This is to allow the melatonin to be directly absorbed by the body. Melatonin is commonly used to adjust the body’s internal clock, treat jet lag and adjust sleep-wake cycles in people with shift-work disorder.

As a remedy for Valium withdrawal symptoms, Melatonin can help if you suffer from insomnia, rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder or delayed sleep phase syndrome. It can also be used to treat insomnia due to beta-blockers or high blood pressure medications, and (insomnia related) attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Insomnia resulting from Valium withdrawal can be treated by increasing your low levels of Melatonin via supplements.

Process from Valium detox to rehab: What happens?

If you undergo Valium detox at a professional detox centre, it can be easier to transition into rehab. Moving from Valium detox to rehab is essential, because addiction treatment should begin after you recover from your withdrawal symptoms to allow you to concentrate on recovery. At the detox facility, physicians, nurses, therapists, practitioners, volunteers and other individuals can help to smoothen the transition for you.

When symptoms of withdrawal begin to subside, your doctor may decide that you have significantly improved and may be ready for addiction rehab. Other people may be consulted before a final decision is made, including your personal physician and any other caregiver, therapist or family members. Your doctor will then make the necessary changes to your treatment programme, to wean you off or slowly switch your medication so that you are prepared to begin addiction treatment in rehab.

Home detox for Valium abusers: How Safe is it?

If you have been using therapeutic doses of Valium, detoxing can often be performed at home, o but this must be under medical supervision. However, if your Valium dependence is as a result of abusing the drug – either by taking high doses or in more frequent amounts than recommended – then home detox may not be safe for you. A better option would be to seek medical help at an inpatient detox treatment centre or at a hospital. Medical support can provide all the help you need while flushing Valium out of your body.

Valium detoxification is more successful when a doctor is present and helping you taper down your doses. In addition, psychotherapy, regular check-in appointments with your doctor and a follow-up plan can ease the detox process for you. Benzodiazepines like Valium can cause protracted withdrawal, whereby you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms even after there is no more Valium in your system. This can be very frustrating, but arranging for qualified help with detox can help you cope with withdrawal.

Self-detoxification from Valium

Sometimes, self-detox from Valium dependence may seem like the best way forwards. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that Valium detoxification can be dangerous if you attempt it by yourself. Withdrawal from Valium can be challenging, and not everyone can successfully complete it without eventually relapsing, because of the uncomfortable symptoms or danger of overdosing.

As promising as self-detoxification may sound, physicians do not typically recommend this approach. There is far too much uncertainty involved in the Valium detox process, including the possibility of severe withdrawal symptoms. Valium detox should never be taken lightly, as it can result in serious medical complications. If you need to detox from Valium, you should seek a professional rehab facility that can provide medical detox.

Valium addiction facts

  • Valium is the most commercially successful benzo in US history.
  • Valium’s success prompted the ‘benzo boom’. In fact, Valium’s success is directly responsible for the synthesis of Ativan, Klonopin and Xanax.
  • Valium is used in veterinary medicine. Many users report obtaining Valium through vets, rather than doctors.
  • Valium has a long half-life. Because of this, it’s sometimes used to detox from alcohol and stronger benzo’s such as Xanax.
  • The number of people who reported using diazepam for non-medical purposes declined from more than 13 million in 2012 to under 12.5 million in 2013.
  • Diazepam is the third most widely abused tranquiliser in the US, behind alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan).
  • For thirteen years (1969 to 1982), Valium was the most prescribed drug in America.

After detox: staying off Valium

After detox, the goal is to achieve long-term recovery, and ongoing substance abuse treatment is a very effective way to do so. If you’ve been using Valium to cope with stress, this treatment provides the opportunity to work with therapists to understand your issues and learn new and healthier coping mechanisms. Addiction treatment programmes aim to help you maintain abstinence and teach you to survive without resorting to drug abuse.

When you’ve completed detox, you can choose between traditional inpatient and outpatient treatment for Valium addiction, depending on how severely addicted you were. If you have medical issues requiring monitoring and continued care – or continuously experience mental distress from withdrawal – hospitalisation or residential treatment may be more beneficial. These programmes usually involve 30 to 60 days of treatment, with counselling and group therapy. You can therefore understand your addiction and learn how to manage cravings, so that you can successfully stay off Valium.


FAQs

How do you know if you’re suffering from Valium withdrawal?

If you’re suffering from Valium withdrawal, you may experience symptoms such as depression, irritability, seizures and extreme anxiety. Other symptoms you may experience include dizziness, nightmares, stiffness, pupil dilation, chest pain and poor concentration.

How long does Valium withdrawal last?

There is no fixed duration for Valium withdrawal. You might only experience withdrawal for a few weeks before your symptoms completely subside. In other cases, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can appear and linger for months after your last dose of Valium.

How does Valium withdrawal affect my health?

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines like Valium can present severe health complications. The symptoms involved in Valium withdrawal could result in physical and psychological harm, and could even prove fatal.

Is Valium withdrawal dangerous?

Valium withdrawal can be extremely dangerous, especially if you attempt to stop using the drug by going ‘cold turkey’. It is crucial to seek medical attention to taper off Valium in the appropriate way in order to avoid potentially fatal consequences.

Sources

  • National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Data tables. 2012 and 2013
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Drug Facts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  • Psych Central. (n.d.) Top 25 Psychiatric Medication Prescriptions for 2011.
  • Ciraulo, D.A., and Oldham, M. (2014). Sedative Hypnotics. In Madras, B., and Kuhar, M. Editors. The Effects of Drug Abuse on the Human Nervous System. Boston, MA: Elsevier, 499-528.
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