Valium, like many drugs, can elicit abusive and addictive behavior when utilized incorrectly. In this case, there are certain long-term and short-term effects for the person using the drug, as well as possible treatment solutions.
What is valium?
Valium is a drug most often prescribed to prevent anxiety and panic attacks, and can be prescribed by a medical doctor or psychiatrists. Other reasons for prescriptions include sleeplessness, muscle spasms and occasionally management of alcohol withdrawal.
Valium is a benzodiazepine and is also referred to by its generic name, which is diazepam. Valium works as a depressant, meaning it increases the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA slows down brain activity, meaning that increasing it results in minimized anxiety.
Valium is commonly abused due to the relaxed feeling resulting from its use. It is also easier to acquire than other drugs. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, valium was the fourth most prescribed benzodiazepine in the U.S., having 15 million prescriptions written.
Valium abuse and addiction
Since valium is widely prescribed for valid reasons, abuse and addiction can creep up on those who have the prescription. It is important to be aware of warning signs, such as using the drug daily, using it in ways other than it was prescribed, and always having it on hand.
Like many drugs, valium use results in short-term and long-term effects, most of which can be dangerous to the user.
Since valium decreases activity in the brain, abusing it short-term can result in a high including feelings of euphoria and a lack of coordination/feeling drunk. However, after the high wears off, valium abusers can experience withdrawal, also referred to as a comedown or crash. The brain stops responding to the drug as it wears off, resulting in brain activity resuming its normal level. This can result in anxiety, irritation, a fever, a rapid heart rate, stomach cramps, depression and ever seizures. In order to avoid these effects, most valium users will simply take more of the drug to resume the high.
After a person has been abusing valium for a prolonged period of time, the body adjusts and is able to build a tolerance toward the drug. The person must then increase the amount of the drug they are taking in order to achieve the same high as when the body did not have a tolerance. Using valium for a prolonged period of time can affect both the body and the brain, and in some cases can be life-threatening. Long-term effects of the drug include memory loss, hallucinations, difficulty breathing, a slow pulse, coma and heart attack.
In addition to physical effects, like any addiction, valium use can lead to tense relationships, financial hardship and job loss. Abuse and addiction can destroy interpersonal relationships and destroy trust in all facets of life.
Valium side effects
Though not always indicative of valium abuse or addiction, side effects can alert a loved one’s family that the person may be taking the drug. Such side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, constipation, loss of balance, memory problems, restlessness or irritability, muscle weakness, nausea, dry mouth, slurred speech, blurred or double vision, skin rash, itching or loss of interest in sex.
There are a number of ways to approach treatment for valium abuse and addiction, including medications and behavioral therapy.
When treating a valium addiction, the most vital step is tapering diazepam, which means lowering doses over a period of one to four months to allow the body to withdrawal in a less dangerous manner. This method also helps to decrease the likelihood of rebound anxiety, which is when the symptoms that led to treatment with valium reappear and are worse than before.
Additionally, medications can be used to treat withdrawal symptoms. However, this poses the threat of becoming dependent on another substance, so it is often shied away from.
Behavioral therapy, a common treatment in any addiction, is when a patient is encouraged to utilize support groups and individual counseling. This can be an individual’s choice or can be court-mandated. Behavioral therapy works to confront the underlying issues that may have contributed to an addiction or addict behavior.
Written by: Beth Leipholtz