Understanding Valium Abuse
Diazepam, also more widely known by the brand name, Valium, is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Benzodiazepines such as Valium are commonly prescribed for the treatment of panic attacks and anxiety disorder. Although Valium abuse is not as widely problematic as painkiller abuse, recreational use of this drug does appear to be troublesome in the U.S. Affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals and their loved ones.
How Valium is Abused
Medically, Valium is prescribed to manage anxiety disorders and may also be prescribed for the treatment of epileptic seizures. It is also used to suppress acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms and to treat anxiety related gastrointestinal complications such as ulcers. Unfortunately, diazepam can also be used recreationally to promote sedation or to enhance the effects of opiates and alcohol. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “diazepam is used by cocaine users to increase seizure threshold and by heroin users to enhance the effects of heroin, and by both of these users to reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms between doses.”
Effects of Valium Abuse
Diazepam has a number of side effects when taken either as prescribed or for recreational purposes. The most common side effects of Valium abuse include:
- loss of memory
- respiratory depression
- slurred speech
- excessive perspiration
- diminished reflexes
Women who take excessive amounts of Valium or who mix Valium with other drugs or alcohol are at an increased risk of taking an overdose amount of the drug. Women who overdose on Valium may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:
- shallow breathing
- clammy skin or moist hands
- dilated pupils
- rapid pulse
Risks Associated with Valium Abuse
Women who abuse valium are at risk of developing physical dependence, tolerance and other serious side effects. According to the NTSA, “regular use will produce tolerance to most of the sedative and adverse effects, but tolerance may not occur for the anxiolytic benefits of diazepam.” It can take several weeks for tolerance to develop depending on the dose and frequency of dosing that takes place.
Withdrawal from Valium is, “uncommon but have been described,” according to a study conducted by Felix W. Leung, MD. Such cases can include the following side effects:
- heightened anxiety
- muscle aches and muscle stiffness
- tremors and seizures
- insomnia and difficulty sleeping
- panic attacks
Signs of Valium Abuse
You may not immediately notice the signs of valium abuse but with proper care and if you pay close attention you’re likely to see the danger in front of you. According to Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services, women who misuse Valium or other benzodiazepines may exhibit the following signs:
- repeat use without a prescription
- using more than prescribed
- over medicating by taking prescriptions more often than prescribed or taking a larger dose than prescribed
- mixing Valium with other drugs or alcohol
- taking valium to mask emotions or to feel “good”
- doctor-shopping to get valium
- asking a doctor for Valium when there is no legitimate reason for the drug
Recognizing Addiction in a Loved One
If you know someone who is prescribed Valium or who takes the drug for recreational purposes, and you think that she may be addicted, consider these signs and symptoms that can help you spot a Valium addiction problem:
- she runs out of medication before the prescription is to be filled
- she shops around from doctor to doctor to get more medication
- she is grumpy, miserable, unhappy or otherwise upset when she doesn’t have valium
- she feels sick, antsy, anxious or otherwise uncomfortable when she’s not under the influence
- she takes valium without a prescription
- she takes valium for reasons other than it is prescribed
- she mixed valium with other drugs
- she drinks alcohol while under the influence of Valium
- she will not participate in family events or hobbies without valium
If you think that someone you love may be addicted to Valium, it’s important to be supportive but to seek prompt help to ensure that she does not suffer great consequences as a result of the addiction. Physical dependence can lead to an array of complications including health problems, relationship problems, legal troubles, financial struggles and an array of other side effects.
Treatment for Valium Addiction
Although there have only been two reported cases of serious or severe withdrawal from Valium, when the drug is abruptly removed or eliminated from daily use there is a risk for a number of complications and discouraging events to occur. Fortunately, a number of treatment options exist to help women who are addicted to Valium.
Offering women help around-the-clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, inpatient or residential treatment for Valium addiction takes place in a hospital like or group setting in which women are continuously monitored to ensure their continued safety and sobriety. The amount of time that a women will spend in an inpatient treatment program depends on various factors including her individual commitment, her health, the severity of her addiction and how quickly she progresses through the various steps of treatment and recovery.
Inpatient treatment is ideal for women who:
- suffer from other health conditions which will require subsequent treatment along with the valium addiction treatment
- suffer from severe anxiety and will require behavioral help in overcoming fear or who will require additional medication even when not taking valium
- have tried to quit using valium in the past but have been unsuccessful in their attempts
- have suffered serious consequences as a result of the addiction
Outpatient Treatment for Valium Addiction
For mild, moderate or less invasive cases of Valium addiction, outpatient treatment can provide an effective means at helping women to get sober. These programs generally provide limited support and care on an outpatient basis to women in need. While there will be a lot of recovery time spent outside of treatment, women who are committed and who have a strong support network at home within their friends and family members are able to gain great benefits from this method of treatment.
Outpatient treatment is ideal for women who:
- have already completed a residential treatment program
- are not heavily addicted to Valium
- do not suffer from dual-diagnosis
- have a strong support system at home within friends and family members
- have a steady job or family life that has not fallen off track as a result of their addiction
- are highly committed to their recovery and willing to do “whatever it takes” to get sober
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “outpatient treatment varies in the types and intensity of services offered.” Though it generally costs less than residential treatment and is an ideal choice for women who have jobs or extensive social support, this method of treatment is not ideal for everyone and should only be chosen if there is enough support at home to help maintain abstinence and to encourage continued recovery.
Throughout treatment, whether in a residential setting or an outpatient setting, women will receive an array of support. Support groups such as NA or similar 12-step programs will provide a foundation for helping women to recover from addiction to Valium. These groups offer a safe place for women to work with others who are also struggling with addiction, to build friendships and common bonds and to learn the essential coping skills necessary to help them remain abstinent and to achieve long term sobriety.