Prescription benzodiazepines are widely used in the United States, but none so much as Valium. In fact, American doctors wrote 14.7 million prescriptions for this drug in 2011 alone.
Looking at the history of the pharmaceutical market, Valium kicked off the era of blockbuster drugs. From the time it was introduced until the 1980s, there were more prescriptions written for this brand than any other on the market.
Unfortunately, this popularity is largely due to its potential for abuse. If you or a loved one may be suffering from Valium addiction, keep reading to find out more about this dangerous and addictive drug.
What Is Valium?
Valium is a well-known brand name of the drug diazepam. This medicine is in the benzodiazepine family, which is a class of psychoactive drugs that produce a mildly tranquilizing effect.
Drugs in this family stimulate the gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in sedation, muscle relaxation, sleepiness, and reduced anxiety.
Although this drug is widely abused and many suffer from Valium addiction, the World Health Organization still lists it on their “List of Essential Medicines.” When used properly and in the short-term, it can be a helpful and effective drug.
How Is It Taken?
Valium is meant to be taken orally, and usually by tablet. When administered by a professional, Valium can also be given intravenously, rectally, or intramuscularly. The dosage is explicitly defined by a physician and calculated to their patient’s age, weight, other medications, and condition.
Usually, an adult dose is in the range of 2 to 10 milligrams and is taken two to four times a day. Consult your physician for the best dosage that specifically suits your needs.
Valium should never be snorted or inhaled, as this can increase the likelihood of overdose. Consumption by these methods signals Valium abuse, and users should seek immediate treatment.
Medical professionals most often intend for Valium to be a short-use treatment method, as long-term use can lead to physical dependency. It’s not recommended to abruptly stop Valium use as withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.
Who Takes It?
Valium has a wide range of effective uses, which is why it’s on WHO’s “Essential Medicines” list. By calming the body through the GABA receptors, it can relieve muscle spasms, anxiety, withdrawal symptoms, sleeping problems, restless leg syndrome, and seizures.
Unfortunately, some individuals are not advised to take this medicine. They include individuals with, or who are, or who have:
- Allergies to its ingredients
- Allergies to this class of medicine
- Sleep apnea
- Liver problems
- Myasthenia gravis
- Breathing problems
- Low albumin proteins
- Renal impairment
- Drug abuse
- Wide-angle, narrow-angle, and closed-angle glaucoma
As always, consult your primary care physician to determine if your health condition will interfere with your use of this drug. Additionally, other medications can react to this drug.
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A Brief History of Valium
Before benzodiazepines existed, doctors prescribed opiates, barbiturates, and anti-psychotics to patients with anxiety. These options were far too addictive and produced bad side effects. Then came Leo Sternbach’s discovery.
Valium has a significant history in the United States. Its creation and production made a lasting effect on American culture, especially the American prescription drug culture.
Colloquially known as “mother’s little helper,” this drug was immensely popular with housewives upon its release. It was advertised to help with the daily stresses of motherhood. This marketing succeeded as the drug became a household name.
Despite the fact that their addictiveness is now apparent, their popularity hasn’t changed. But, more medical professionals are recommending alternatives like cognitive behavioral therapy rather than chemical dependence to the drug.
Consequences of Valium Misuse
Because of its effects on the GABA receptors, Valium slows down brain function. This affects your thinking skills and judgment. Activities that require alertness should be avoided while using Valium.
Valium can cause decreased motor function and physical dependency. Activities that involve fine motor skills should be avoided while using the drug. Due to potential physical dependency, consult your physician before discontinuing use.
Along with these effects, Valium also causes long-term and short-term effects.
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Short-Term and Long-Term Health Effects
The short-term effects of Valium include:
- Decreased appetite
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
The long-term effects of Valium include:
- Sleeping problems
- Constant drowsiness
- Muscle weakness
- Memory loss
- Blood in urine or stool
Using Valium With Other Drugs
Contraindication defines a situation where a drug or medical procedure cannot be used due to its potential harm to the patient. This can present with Valium use as well. The two types of contraindication are relative and absolute.
Relative contraindication refers to a situation where two drugs or procedures may present a dangerous situation if caution is not used. However, it can still be done if necessary.
Absolute contraindication means that the two drugs or procedures will cause a life-threatening result. Thus, they should be avoided. Of course, in some situations, there are limited alternatives.
Which Drugs Are Commonly Used With Valium?
There are 960 drugs that interact with Valium. Of these, 134 cause major interactions and should be avoided.
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Other depressants, and especially opioids, should be avoided with Valium use. These can cause confusion, depressed respiration, reduced psychomotor coordination, drowsiness, and sedation. These symptoms can worsen and lead to overdose.
Taking Valium with stimulants causes adverse effects to the heart. Together, these two drugs overwork the heart, causing severe symptoms. This can lead to heart attack, heart damage, or even death.
Antacid and Acid Reducers
The desired therapeutic effect of Valium is reduced with acid-suppressing drugs. These drugs limit diazepam’s metabolism and make it harder for the body to absorb.
Cold and Allergy Medicine
Valium depresses the central nervous system. This effect can be intensified by allergy and cold medications. Together they can lead to increased drowsiness and more severe side effects.
These medicines can slow down the metabolism of diazepam in the body. This leads to a build-up of the drug in your system, which can cause dangerous side effects.