Valium (diazepam) is a benzodiazepine (benzo), belonging to a class of medication that is most often to relieve anxiety or to treat insomnia or seizures.
Any person who has used Valium for longer than four months may encounter withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit use or cut back. As Valium accumulates in the body, the body, in turn, reduces its production of anxiety-relieving neurochemicals.
People who use Valium for an extended period in excessive doses may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms after stopping its use. These effects can occur because, over time, the body adapts to the drug’s presence and becomes unable to function normally without it—a condition also known as dependence.
Once physical dependence has developed, the user will begin to need Valium to function and forestall withdrawal symptoms. As tolerance to the drug continues to increase, Valium users sometimes increase their doses to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Because it is a central nervous system depressant, Valium’s withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, so users should never try to quit suddenly or “cold turkey.” Moreover, discontinuing Valium usually requires medical supervision as the body and brain attempt to reestablish balance and once again function correctly without the drug’s presence.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
The severity of withdrawal symptoms is primarily based on the length of time Valium was used or abused and the average dosage consumed. Withdrawal from Valium can be uncomfortable and sometimes intense, but the signs are often less severe than more potent benzodiazepines, such as Xanax.
Signs and symptoms of Valium withdrawal may include the following:
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle aches and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe anxiety
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), using just 15 mg of Valium per day for several months can cause the user to experience withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Those who have used more than 100 mg of Valium per day are more likely to encounter severe withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using it.
Duration of Valium Withdrawals
Because Valium is a long-acting benzo, withdrawals may last longer than most other drugs in its class. Moreover, in some cases, the first withdrawal symptoms may not occur for a week in those who use Valium excessively.
One 1982 study evaluated the withdrawal symptoms of ten patients who had misused Valium for 3-14 years. Over the past six months, their use of Valium ranged from 60-120 mg daily, and they reported using no other drugs. They found that the withdrawal period lasted six weeks, and the severity of symptoms was high initially but fell in the first two weeks, then increased again during the third week, declining afterward.
Valium Withdrawals Timeline
First 1-2 Days: The first signs of Valium withdrawals may onset within two days of stopping use. Symptoms of anxiety and restlessness begin and are likely to increase in severity over time.
Week 2: The symptoms of Valium withdrawals often peak in the second week after discontinuation. The worst symptoms of withdrawal usually manifest during this time and may include insomnia, sweating, nausea, and muscle pain.
Weeks 3-4: Valium withdrawal may last for up to a month after stopping use. The severity of withdrawal symptoms tends to wane during this time and become more manageable.
During detox, a substance is eliminated from the body while medical professional work to relieve withdrawal symptoms that will onset once the drug is no longer in use. To detox from Valium without professional medical supervision can be risky, so it’s vital to undergo a clinically-supervised detox program.
Throughout detox, the dosages of Valium can be gradually reduced until the drug is eliminated from a person’s body. Detoxing slowly can prevent dangerous withdrawal symptoms from occurring, such as seizures.
Most of those who have studied Valium addiction recommend a fixed discontinuation tapering schedule for detox lasting from 4-8 weeks. The length of time it takes to fully detox may vary depending on the person’s level of physical dependence. The worse an addiction is, the more likely one is to encounter highly uncomfortable and possibly life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment for Valium Withdrawal and Addiction
After or during a tapering period, persons who have misused or become dependent on Valium are strongly encouraged to undergo a long-term, comprehensive addiction treatment program. Integrated treatment can be administered in both partial hospitalization and inpatient formats, but should always include behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, substance abuse education, and group support.
Just Believe Recovery provides individualized treatment delivered by caring medical and mental health staff who specialize in addiction. We provide those we treat the tools and support they need to recover and sustain long-lasting health and wellness.