Valium is a Benzodiazepine that is prescribed by physicians for its anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, sedative, amnestic and muscle relaxant abilities. It works on the central nervous system and is often a solution for those suffering from anxiety, nervous conditions or insomnia. There are currently 183 different formulations of Valium and over 60 million prescriptions for sedatives and tranquilizers being written yearly by US doctors alone. Since its launch in the 1960s (when it was predominantly prescribed to women with nervous conditions) its ability to have harmful and addictive effects has become widely recognized. However careful medical practitioners attempt to be with prescribing this drug, it is still difficult to regulate. Therefore, be wise and know the implications before use. If you suspect you, or someone you know, may have developed an addiction to Valium seek support and medical assistance.

So it is addictive?

If used over prolonged periods of time, yes. The chance of using it over long periods of time is increased due to the ability of the drug to give relief from emotional pain. Even with the support of the most conscientious of medical practitioners, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2010, 2.6 million people were taking Valium for non-medical purposes. Better translated, this means they were taking it because it felt good to take it. Or, they were taking it because it had originally felt good to take it and they had become addicted. Approximately 50% of people who have taken Valium regularly for a period of six months or more show signs of addiction. These can be physical and psychological. The physical signs include an increased tolerance to the drug (requiring higher doses to achieve the same result), an inability to sleep, or relax, without taking the substance and nasty withdrawal symptoms if left without it. Psychological dependence is demonstrated by a feeling of increased distress if the substance is not readily available, an increased feeling that you would do anything to get hold of it and signs of the drug having a negative impact on your life, coupled with a seeming inability to stop taking it.

Even if I am addicted, is it bad for me?

Over time regular Valium use can have unpleasant effects. It can lead to increased feelings of anxiety, irritability and paranoia, a lack of co-ordination, significant memory impairment and a general dulling down of emotional responses to life. This can affect an individuals ability to work, socialize and care for themselves, or their families. Valium mixed with alcohol can be significantly dangerous and potentially fatal. 36, 000 fatal overdoses each year are attributed to prescription painkillers. Valium is a painkiller regardless of whether it is used for emotional, or physical pain, the same area of the brain is being targeted.

Shall I just cut it out then?

Dependent on the duration of time someone has been taking Valium, and the dosage, Valium takes three to seven days to leave the body. It can be dangerous for a long-term user, or those on high dosages, to stop taking Valium in one go. Valium withdrawal should be discussed with a doctor who will ensure that the dose is decreased incrementally to allow the body to adjust. Withdrawal symptoms from prolonged Valium use can be similar to those from Heroin Use. These include sweating (as the body detoxifies), stomach cramps and vomiting, shaking, a high blood pressure and increased heart rate, hyper-anxiety, psychosis and insomnia. In some cases, in-patient detoxification may be the best solution for prolonged and heavy Valium use. Medical staff can help manage the symptoms.

What support is available?

Addiction to prescription drugs, Valium included, is not to be taken lightly. Narcotics Anonymous recognizes these drugs as being addictive. Many people who attend these support groups have been addicted to pharmaceutical drugs. The support groups are not just for street drug addictions. Attending a support group is beneficial for many people who are recovering from an addiction. It can help to meet people who have shared a similar experience and who understand the feeling of powerlessness around taking the substance. It can support you to stay motivated and focused. It offers relief to be able to share some of the emotional pain that you have become unaccustomed to feeling or re-solving due to the sedative effects of the drugs. A support group can aid you in finding new ways to cope with your life.

Aside, from support groups, treatment centers can be accessed, predominantly via your doctor. There are residential and non-residential programs offered. These programs are tailored around a wealth of experience and research to help people re-build their lives as they manage the transition from drug dependence to life without drugs. This level of support is incredibly valuable. Although it may feel frightening, seeking help for your addiction will likely be the best decision you ever make.