Diazepam Addiction and Abuse

In 2008, addiction specialists in the UK warned that the underground market for Diazepam was growing, alongside many related drug overdoses and deaths. Illicit laboratories were making cheaper versions of the Class C drug to meet the growing demand for the substance which was formerly referred to as ‘Mother’s little helper’. Rehab centres and drug addiction charities renewed calls for pharmacists, doctors and health services to be more informed on the scale of the problem to ensure prescription for the drug was better managed.

Launched by Hoffman La-Roche in 1963, the sedative has a long history of medicinal and recreational use. Leo Sternbach developed Valium as a safer alternative to Barbiturates, being highly addictive and a significant addiction risk.

The UK is the second largest market for online sales of Diazepam and account for 22% of all global trade of the drug, with only the US having a higher proportion. Ideally, the drug is only available on prescription, but can be bought via online pharmacies and the ‘dark web’. The cheap price and ease of access means that many young Brits are becoming hooked, increasing the hospital admissions linked to Diazepam and the number of people overdosing on it.

Diazepam Abuse and Addiction: Causes, Symptoms and Side Effects

Diazepam belongs to the benzodiazepine family and is used to treat episodic anxiety, as well as other anxiety disorders and health conditions. It is a short-acting medication with sedative effects setting in 30 to 60 minutes after being taken. Diazepam is an oral tablet and rectal gel, under the family of benzodiazepines. It’ s brand name is Valium and it’s a substance acting on the central nervous system to decrease brain activity by amplifying depressant effects of GABA.

Abuse occurs when you take high quantities to increase potency. Taking Diazepam as a long-term solution is risky, because of its addictive properties. Consult your doctor if you notice the original dose isn’t producing the same effect. Causes of addiction have been attributed to genetics, brain chemical composition, socio-environmental factors and other issues.

Symptoms of addiction include euphoria and feelings of relaxation and drowsiness. Side effects of abusing Diazepam include dizziness, tremors, nausea, incontinence, tremors, low blood pressure, anxiety, delusions and irritability. If you’re addicted to Benzodiazepines, you’ll require extensive drug rehabilitation treatment to effectively address all facets of addiction and prepare you to live a drug-free life.

What is Diazepam?

Diazepam is the generic name for Valium – a medication used to treat anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is also used to treat delirium tremens – a symptom of alcohol withdrawal and muscle spasms from inflammation, injury and nerve disorders. If you’re experiencing seizures or convulsions, your doctor might prescribe it as a short-term medication. The black-box warning from the Food and Drug

Administration states that dangerous side effects of combining Diazepam with opioids include slow breathing, coma, drowsiness and death. It also interferes with motor skills, judgment and thinking. Hence, you should not drive or perform any activity that requires concentration whilst taking Diazepam.

The warning for combining both drugs is based on statistics that shows combinations of both opioids and Diazepam have become increasingly common in recent years and treatment numbers rose over 500% from 2000 to 2010, according to SAMSHA.

Therapeutic Use of Diazepam

While Diazepam shares many of the same qualities as other benzos, it is predominantly used as an adjunct during endoscopy to provide sedation, relieve anxiety, treat anterograde amnesia and light anaesthesia. Other therapeutic uses include:

  • Relief of painful musculoskeletal conditions
  • Short-term relief from symptoms of anxiety
  • Spasticity caused by upper neuron disorders
  • Tension related to stress from everyday life
  • Stiff-man syndrome
  • Prevention of night terrors

Chemical Components

Diazepam is a 1,4-benzodiazepine that comes in the form of yellow crystals (or solid white) with melting points of 131.5 to 134.5 Celsius. It has a molecular weight of 284.743.g/mol, complexity is 403 and Monoisotopic Mass of 284.072/mol. Diazepam is odourless, with a slightly bitter taste. It is soluble in water, alcohol and chloroform. The PH is neutral (7). The IV/IM solution has a shelf life of three years and the oral tablet five years. It should be stored at 15 to 30-degree room temperature.

Parenteral injection should be kept from freezing and protected from light and oral forms stored in air-tight contains. Liquid preparations should be not be kept in syringes or plastic bottles, because Diazepam absorbs into plastics and leaches into tubing used for intravenous infusions.

Risk of Diazepam Abuse

Younger people are more likely to suffer from addiction than other age groups, especially young men under the age of 30. The wide availability of Diazepam online and the development of the prefrontal cortex (responsible for impulse control) combine to increase the risk of abuse.

If you’re highly intelligent with a demanding job, there’s a risk you might turn to Diazepam to cope with stress in your work and personal life. Studies have shown that if you have a high IQ score, you’re more likely to abuse drugs than those with an average IQ.

Children of drug addicts are also likely to abuse drugs. Addiction is sometimes a genetic disease, passed down like cancer and various psychological conditions. Growing up in a house or home environment where drug use was common also conveys to you that drug use is an acceptable way to cope with life’s problems.

A diagnosis for bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD and other mental health issues increases the risk of addiction, as you’re more likely to self-medicate using drugs. Sometimes, it’s hard for addiction specialists to spot dual diagnosis, because it might be misdiagnosed with addiction. If you have any physical health issues for which you’re currently receiving a prescription (especially powerful prescription painkillers), this increases the risk of abuse. You might take Diazepam to numb the pain or effect of illness/injury.

The Illegality of Diazepam

Diazepam is a prescription-only medication, but can be obtained online and from street dealers for as little as £1 per pill. According to BBC News, an increasing number of people with substance use disorder are turning to Diazepam as their drug of choice. The popularity has grown in 15 out of 20 UK cities and towns and is popularly used as a replacement for heroin. Common combinations include methadone, opioids, cocaine and alcohol. These combinations and interactions in the brain lead to overdose and drug-related deaths.

The Class C drug has risen in popularity, as access to top-quality heroin has dropped. It is mostly brought in from Pakistan, India and Thailand. Some of it is counterfeit and drug seizures rose to two million by 2008. Medical Practitioner, Dr. Adrian Harrop, says it’s already a crisis in Scotland and the US. It could escalate in England if more isn’t done to regulate access to Diazepam. He blamed the rising number of Diazepam overdoses on the number of recreational drug users who’re unaware of its potential to cause overdose.

A large-scale study conducted by SAMSHA in the US shows that benzodiazepines (or ‘benzos’) were present in 28.7% of ER visits relating to non-medical use. In Ireland, it was found in 87% of cases where drivers had higher blood levels than the therapeutic dose, with Diazepam as the most commonly detected benzo.

What is Diazepam Abuse and Addiction?

Like other benzos, Diazepam abuse results in tolerance, psychological dependence and addiction. Abuse occurs when you take Diazepam in higher quantities than was prescribed; use the drug at higher frequencies; combine it with other substances such as alcohol; or use it for recreational purposes.

One major reason why you might abuse Diazepam is the feelings of euphoria and relaxation it elicits. You might develop physical dependence, even when following doctor’s orders. At the stage of tolerance, you should inform your prescribing doctor, who will adjust your dosage or wean you off the drug to prevent further damage.

For a diagnosis of Diazepam addiction, you will show at least two symptoms of addiction, both of which will emerge within the same one-year period of episodic drug use. If you’re addicted to Valium, you’ll need comprehensive rehab treatment to remove all traces of it from your body. After detox, you’ll transition to a rehab facility, where medical professionals will help you understand why you abused drugs and teach coping skills for a drug-free life after rehab.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders diagnosed alongside Diazepam addiction include: panic disorder, depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, polydrug use abuse and stimulant abuse.

Treatment for addiction will incorporate mental health illness to ensure you make a full recovery from any psychological issues as well.

Diazepam abuse and Teens

Valium abuse is common amongst teenagers, because it’s easy to source from their parent’s medicine cabinet or clinicians, street dealers and the dark web. As teens become more disconnected to the dangers of abusing prescription medication, they are more likely to abuse drugs, which they see as sleeping pills or a medicine to help them cope with stress at school.

While some teenagers are chasing stronger painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycontin, most are leaning towards Valium for the calming, soothing experience that helps them get through a difficult day at school. Research shows 23% of teenagers feel there is nothing wrong in abusing medications like Diazepam, because they believe the drug is safe, even when abused. Signs of teen Diazepam abuse include drowsiness, confusion, slow breathing and stumbling.

Diazepam addiction treatment

Inpatient Diazepam treatment:
Inpatient rehab is a type of treatment where you’ll live in a therapeutic community to ensure distractions and triggers are eliminated and you can focus on making a full recovery from Diazepam addiction. It is a structured programme, designed to maximise treatment efforts and provide a safe and stable environment for recovery. You’ll benefit more from inpatient care if you’re a long-term drug user, have co-occurring or polydrug use disorder, medical conditions and other issues that might complicate treatment.

Outpatient Diazepam treatment: While outpatient treatment is not as structured as inpatient care, it is just as effective if you’re motivated to get clean and live a drug-free life. It is designed to integrate seamlessly with your daily life. You’ll go to work/school and receive treatment at a convenient time. The programme is ideal if you have mild addiction to Diazepam, are highly disciplined and enjoy a strong support network that will help you on your recovery journey.

Signs and Symptoms of Diazepam Abuse

It might be hard to accept you’re addicted to Diazepam. If you’re addicted, you should be exhibiting at least two or more of the following symptoms of abuse:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you go a short period without using Diazepam
  • Slurred speech
  • Defending drug use
  • Refusal to go out without Diazepam
  • Memory problems
  • Attempt to hide drug use
  • ‘Doctor shopping’ to source more prescriptions
  • Loss of interest in activities you enjoyed in the past
  • Legal and financial problems arising from drug use
  • Obsessive behaviour related to your next drug use

Physical, Emotional and Social Effects of Diazepam Abuse

Diazepam is a CNS depressant for treating mood disorders and stabilising unbalanced chemicals in the brain. It works effectively with a legitimate prescription, but wreaks havoc on your emotional health when abused. Under the influence of drugs, you’ll make irrational decisions that impact every area of your life, imbalance mood, cause anxiety and sleep disorder. With increased use, the only time you’ll be able to feel positive feelings of pleasure and happiness will be under the influence of Benzodiazepines.

The emotional effect translates into the physical, as you’ll look unkempt, exhibit poor hygiene, potentially lose your job and suffer a breakdown of relationships with family and loved ones. Your friends will likely stay away, because you’re not fun to be around, while your partner and children will leave if they can’t cope with the aggression, emotional instability and increased risk of physical violence.

Long-Term Diazepam Abuse Effects

Memory problems: Abusing Diazepam leads to blackouts, amnesia and difficulty remembering (or learning) new information. Long-term use might induce blackouts similar to alcohol abuse.

Rebound symptoms: If you take large quantities of Valium for a long time, you’ll begin to experience rebound symptoms you initially tried to treat with the drug. Symptoms might include: panic attacks, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, convulsions, seizures, aggression, antisocial behaviour and nightmares.

Depression: All drugs that depress the central nervous system can cause depression when an unnaturally high amount of dopamine is regularly released in the brain, causing it to adjust and function with higher levels of dopamine.

Addiction and withdrawal: This is the most serious long-term effect of abusing Diazepam. As you continuously take higher doses to achieve the original positive effects of Diazepam, this leads to dependency. Tolerance takes six months to develop and addiction soon follows. Quitting too quickly could trigger the onset of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which might be life-threatening if you’re a long-term user.

Short-Term Diazepam Abuse Effects

The immediate effects of using Valium include:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness
  • Feeling of being drunk or intoxicated
  • After the peak comes the ‘crash’ and some of the symptoms include:
  • Fever
  • Intense anxiety
  • Stomach cramps
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Irritation

Physical effects of Diazepam abuse

Physical effects of Diazepam abuse include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Tremors
  • Rebound insomnia or anxiety
  • Extreme sweating
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to sound or light
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Depression
  • Muscle pain
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness

Psychological effects of Diazepam abuse

Psychological effects of abusing Diazepam include:

  • Cognitive deficits
  • Depression
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of motivation
  • Psychological dependence on Diazepam
  • Rebound symptoms of Anxiety Disorder

The effects of Diazepam abuse on the brain and body

A problem linked to Diazepam is oversedation that causes problems with physical coordination. You’ll have difficulty moving your limbs and your response time or reflexes will be slower – even when in danger. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Diazepam reduces motor function for up to four hours after taking a dose.

Your body might develop physical tolerance if you’re taking regular large doses or injecting the drug directly into your bloodstream. Tolerance means that the brain has adjusted to the presence of Diazepam and your body also adapts to the changes, ensuring the regular dose and its effects no longer work. The most common adverse effects when you quit Diazepam after long-term use are seizures, mood changes and stomach problems.

As a central nervous system depressant, Diazepam slows down brain activity by interacting with GABA neurotransmitters. Specifically, it binds with GABA receptors to reduce arousal and balance chemical levels in the brain. It does this by depressing electrical after-discharge in the hippocampus and amygdala regions of the brain’s limbic system.

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Diazepam overdose explained

When taken alone, even in large quantities, Diazepam is not fatal if you’re immediately taken to the emergency ward for medical attention. Diazepam overdose might lead to death if those around you don’t help you get the immediate help you need.

Statistics from the CDC show that there has been an increase in the number of benzo related deaths between 2001 (1,000 deaths) and 2014 (8,000 deaths). In 2010, nearly 27,000 hospital visits were related to Diazepam. It’s important that you and those in your circle of friends and family know the signs of overdose. Symptoms of Diazepam overdose include:

  • Fatigue
  • Tremor
  • Stupor
  • Bluish tint to fingernails and lips
  • Rapid eye movement and double vision
  • Excitability
  • Weakness
  • Stomach upset
  • Confusion
  • Laboured breathing
  • Drowsiness

If a loved one is showing any or all of these symptoms, please call your local emergency services.

Diazepam withdrawal

Diazepam has a high potential for abuse and physical dependence. It is listed as a Schedule IV-controlled substance that should only be taken as a prescription, but Diazepam has a history of abuse amongst teenagers, young adults and professionals. You’ll develop tolerance when the original dose doesn’t work. You’ll subsequently need larger doses to feel the sedative effects of Diazepam. Physical dependence follows not long after. At this stage, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using Diazepam.

Stages of withdrawal include:

Early withdrawal stage: Sets in 12 to 24 hours after your last drug intake. Symptoms here include restlessness, mood swings, fatigue and irritability.

Acute Withdrawal stage: Symptoms follow after the initial withdrawal stage and last up to the fourth day in most people. How long acute withdrawal lasts will depend on the duration of drug use; combination with other substances; and differences in emotional and psychological stability. Most withdrawal symptoms occur during this stage. They include tremors, increased blood pressure, seizures, mood swings, depression, cravings, rebound effect and panic attacks.

Late withdrawal symptoms: Symptoms dissipate between the seventh and tenth day, but might extend up to two weeks, especially if you’re receiving treatment for co-occurring disorders. Late withdrawal symptoms are mostly psychological and include depression, anxiety, insomnia and cravings.

Therapy options for Diazepam addiction

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT): Originally developed for treating borderline personality disorder by Dr. Marsha Linehan, DBT manages anxiety by helping you change feelings, thoughts and behaviours. On its own, she found CBT made patients feel like their thoughts were invalidated or wrong.

Hence, rather than only treating symptoms, DBT teaches you to accept experiences as a motivation for change. Primary emotions linked to anxiety (such as fear) can be difficult to cope with. By learning cognitive and emotional skills, you can apply them to your life and use these skills to cope with distressing emotions.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): This is a direct approach of individual counselling that focuses on improving your motivation to change. Through the help of your therapist, you view your behaviours more objectively and acknowledge ambivalence towards changing destructive patterns that encourage drug use. The primary goal of MET is to help you overcome resistance to behavioural change by increasing intrinsic motivation and awareness of self-defeating thoughts. Your therapist reinforces abstinence by highlighting the benefits of participating in treatment and maintaining sobriety.

Diazepam recovery plan

If you’ve received treatment for Diazepam addiction, it’s critical you create a recovery plan in rehab with the help of your therapist. The risk of relapse is highest in the first month after you leave treatment. To prevent a relapse, follow your relapse prevention plan and aftercare programme. It should include:

  • Receiving maintenance medication from your prescribing doctor to cope with lingering withdrawal symptoms
  • Attending scheduled therapy and group counselling sessions
  • Living in a sober home (if recommended by your doctor)
  • Attend Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings or other 12-step alternatives

Facts You Should Know About Diazepam and Diazepam Abuse

An estimated 2.6 million people abuse benzodiazepines every month. The number of individuals abusing Valium declined to under 12.5 million in 2013 from over 13 million in 2012. After Xanax and Ativan, Diazepam is the most abused sedative-hypnotic in the US. Most people in the UK using Diazepam for non-medical purposes get their supply on the dark-web. It is usually shipped in from India and Pakistan. Prescription painkillers are responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. The number currently stands at over 36,000,000 fatal overdoses.


How Does Diazepam Affect the Brain and Body?

Valium works on GABA levels in the brain to slow down abnormal brain activities. The result is a feeling of euphoria, relaxation and calmness that relaxes muscles, stops seizures and causes sedation. When Valium interacts with GABA neurotransmitters, it affects emotions and reduces arousal. It takes hold between one and five hours after you’ve taken it orally.

How Dangerous is Diazepam Abuse?

Abusing Diazepam leads to substance dependence and addiction. When you try to quit, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms and could overdose on large quantities of the drug, especially if you’re injecting it directly into your bloodstream.

Can Diazepam be used Legally?

All prescription drugs have legal uses. Diazepam is used as an anticonvulsant and antianxiety medication.

Can I mix Diazepam with other substances?

Mixing prescription pills is dangerous. This depresses the central nervous system, making any drug combination (especially those that perform the same function) extremely dangerous. Most cases of overdose occur when Diazepam is combined with opiates and alcohol.

What are the street names for Diazepam?

Common street names for Diazepam include V’s, Dead flower powers, Benzos, Blue V’s, Yellow V’s, Downers, Howards, Tranks, Sleepaway and Foofoo.

Who is most at risk of abuse?

You’re most at risk of abuse if either of your parents abused drugs; you grew up in an environment where drug use was normal; you face peer pressure from friends; you have a diagnosis of mental health issues or medical conditions. You’re also at risk if you’re a young male under 30 years old.

What Does Diazepam (Valium) Addiction Look Like?

A few signs to look out for include: hiding your drug use, difficulty quitting, failure to stop drug use on your own, memory problems, slurred speech, dilated pupils, mood swings, aggressiveness, poor work performance and loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed.

Is Diazepam Harmful?

When taken according to doctor’s orders or in small doses, Diazepam is safe. The danger lies in abusing the drug, injecting or taking it in high quantities. It produces the same effects as barbiturates and alcohol intoxication. Abusing Diazepam leads to seizures, poor motor skills, impaired judgement and withdrawal symptoms.

Who Does Diazepam Addiction Affect?

Addiction doesn’t only affect you, but also your family and friends. Your relationships with children, partners, parents and friends suffer. Sometimes, the damage is so deep, your marriage fails and friends will leave.

Are Diazepam and Valium exactly the same?

Diazepam is the brand/ generic name for Valium, so they are indeed the same.

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