Diazepam Abuse Symptoms, Withdrawal And Treatment Options

Diazepam is known to be a red flag for dependence and few doctors prescribe it as a long term solution. Unfortunately, there are still many caught in the cycle of addiction when it comes to these types of drugs, but there are a number of treatment options available for those in need.

What is Diazepam?

Benzodiazepines – sometimes called ‘Benzos’ – are a class of psychoactive drug often prescribed by doctors for short term treatment of mental health disorders such as anxiety, insomnia and panic disorder. The most common types are Diazepam (Valium), Lorazepam and Alprazolam.

Diazepam is a tablet that is known both by its generic name “diazepam” and its brand name: valium. It is commonly used to treat a range of conditions including anxiety, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, muscle spasms, seizures, trouble sleeping, and restless legs syndrome. It may also be used to cause memory loss during certain medical procedures, such as tooth extractions. Diazepam can be taken by mouth, inserted into the rectum, injected into muscle, or injected into a vein. Diazepam is marketed in over 500 brands throughout the world.

Diazepam is primarily used to treat anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks and symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal. Diazepam is the drug of choice for treating benzodiazepine dependence as it has a long half-life which enables easier dose reduction.

Use and Dosage

Most commonly, the prescribed drug Diazepam, or Valium, is given for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia or other acute psychological disorders. It is usually given for short term use only, to help in crisis situations.

Benzodiazepines are effective for treating a range of psychological and neurological disorders, these include

  • Insomnia: Benzodiazepines are normally only used as a short-term treatment for severe insomnia, as they can lead to dependence.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Benzodiazepines are often used in the treatment of GAD. Benzodiazepines to treat short-term GAD treatment are recommended for no longer than 1 month.
  • Seizures: Benzodiazepines are powerful anticonvulsants and highly effective at preventing prolonged epileptic seizures.
  • Alcohol withdrawal: Benzodiazepines are prescribed for alcohol withdrawal in the form of chlodiazepoxide, followed by diazepam.
  • Panic attacks: Because of their fast-acting anti-anxiety effects, benzodiazepines are very effective at treating anxiety associated with panic disorder.

Benzodiazepines are one of the most addictive drugs on the market – legal or illegal and the detox can be notoriously drawn out and difficult. There are as many as 1.5 million people addicted to benzodiazepines in the UK, making them second only to alcohol on the scale of addictive substances. At least 50% of those addicted are prescribed their medication via their GP whilst others purchase them over the internet, from street dealers, or through friends and family.

Diazepam is generally taken by mouth as a pill. The amount prescribed will depend on a number of factors, including your age and current medical condition. The usual oral dose is 2-10 mg given 2-4 times daily.

Alcohol should also be avoided when taking diazepam as it can affect your judgement, thinking and motor skills.

Side Effects

Common side effects of Valium include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tired feeling
  • Dizziness
  • Spinning sensation
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Ataxia (loss of balance)
  • Memory problems
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Drooling
  • Dry mouth
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Loss of interest in sex.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • Depressed mood, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself
  • Hyperactivity, agitation, aggression, hostility
  • Unusual risk-taking behaviour, decreased inhibitions, no fear of danger
  • Confusion, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behaviour
  • New or worsening seizures
  • Weak or shallow breathing
  • Feeling faint
  • Mmuscle twitching, tremor
  • Loss of bladder control; or little or no urinating.

This is not an exhaustive list.

Diazepam is not recommended for those who have a history of addiction because of its habit forming nature.

Overdose and Withdrawal

A Diazepam overdose requires high amounts of Diazepam, or can occur when the user is also drinking alcohol or taking other medications.

The most obvious signs of a diazepam overdose are a deep sleep and a significantly slowed down breathing rate. However, other symptoms to be on the watch out for might be:

  • Lack of alertness
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Lips and fingernails turning blue
  • Dizziness
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Tremors
  • Double vision
  • Confusion.

Withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable and can be frightening and quite dangerous without the proper medical assistance. They might include;

  • Return of the original anxiety (recurrence)
  • Worsening of the original anxiety symptoms (rebound)
  • Emergence of apprehension
  • Insomnia
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Pessimism
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Obsessive rumination.

More serious symptoms of valium withdrawal might include:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased heart beat (tachycardia)
  • Muscle tension
  • Agitation and severe restlessness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Grand mal seizures.

These withdrawal symptoms make supervised detoxification and treatment for diazepam addiction essential.

Treatment Options for Addiction

There are various approaches that can be effective for treating diazepam addiction, you may benefit the most from a blend of rehab, medication, and therapy.


Rehab will help you not only break the physical addiction but can help you address the contributing factors to your addiction with a combination of research-based therapies, in a warm and supportive environment.

Rehab generally approach addiction as a multifaceted problem, but one that can be treated effectively. Your treatment programme will be tailored to the individual person rather than to their drug(s) of choice. Medication will often be used where it necessary for detox or to treat mental health issues that are co-occurring.

Residential rehab is a great option for the treatment of diazepam addiction because it provides intense and rigorous professional support in a therapeutic community setting. Residential rehab programmes usually require a 90 day stay, giving you the opportunity to work with addiction experts, mental health counsellors, and holistic therapists. It is important to treat addiction on the physical, emotional, mental and physical level, and the programmes provided in rehab reflect that.

On attending rehab you will usually benefit from;

  • Access to a full medical detox assessment by a consultant doctor for any co-occurring illnesses
  • 24 hour support from the clinical and support team
  • A comprehensive therapeutic programme for recovery
  • A holistic approach including fitness, healthy eating
  • Ongoing aftercare and relapse prevention support.

Here at Banbury Lodge we provide all of them above services as part of our drug addiction rehab programme.


It is usually suggested that reducing from benzodiazepines should be a gradual process, over a period of weeks or months, rather than abruptly stopping the drug. Medications may be used in the treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal, in order to help you reduce use and wean off the drug. Medication may be used to treat withdrawal symptoms, and reduce discomfort.

If you are currently taking a benzodiazepine with a shorter half-life like lorazepam or alprazolam, your doctor may first prescribe one with a longer half-life, such as chlordiazepoxide or clonazepam to help ease your symptoms during detox and to facilitate the tapering process.

Other drugs that may be used in benzodiazepine withdrawal include:

  • Phenobarbital
  • Anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine and valproate
  • Sedating antidepressants such as trazodone
  • Antihypertensive medications such as clonidine or propranolol for those who experience severe autonomic consequences as part of the benzo withdrawal syndrome (e.g., racing heart, hypertension, profuse sweating)
  • Detoxing can be an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous process, this is why you should always seek help from professionals who can make the process as comfortable as possible and minimize the risk from symptoms like seizures.

Medications can be very effective when combined with psychological treatments talking therapies.


Individual Counselling

Individual counselling sessions between yourself and a focal counsellor typically last for fifty minutes to an hour. These sessions will give you the best opportunity to really explore your issues in depth and identify areas which you would like to work on in a private and confidential environment.

Your counsellor will help you to share, to challenge your unhelpful thinking patterns, and to heal from your diazepam addiction and any other contributing factors.

Group Therapy

Group Therapy usually consist of a small group of peers that share similar issues. These sessions you will benefit from both the facilitation of the counsellor and from the insights and experience of your peers.

Types of Addiction Treatment Therapies

Addiction treatment therapies include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
  • Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT)
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy
  • Integrative Approach
  • Person-Centered Therapy


Therapy offers those battling drug addiction a safe space to explore their past, their feelings, as well as their hopes for future, in a way that nurtures and nourishes and helps them lead happier and healthier lives.

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