Understanding the Effects of Valium
Valium, generically known as Diazepam, is a prescription Benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures. Similar to other drugs in this class, it is also used to relieve muscle spasms and occasionally to provide sedation before medical procedures. The effects of using Valium can range from desired to debilitating, including overdose.
Short-Term Side Effects
Like most prescription medications, Valium can cause one or more potentially negative side effects. Because it directly impacts the central nervous system (CNS), the medicine can express itself in a number of ways. Common effects of the drug include dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, and light-headedness. Because the central nervous system governs a person’s ability to control their muscles, Valium can also cause a decrease in coordination control (ataxia). These effects can vary in degree of strength and length of time, so someone taking the medication should avoid driving, operating heavy machinery, or any other dangerous activity that requires focus and coordination.
Although rare, Valium can have other serious side effects such as memory impairment, irritability, and the engagement in unconscious actions like sleep driving, sleep calling, and sleep eating. As a long-acting “Benzo,” Valium remains in the system much longer than short-acting drugs in the same family, like Xanax or Ativan. This means that Valium can have a lingering effect on the body and brain, and cause someone to experience these effects much longer than intended.
Long-Term Side Effects
When a person takes Valium in any form, they run the risk of developing a dependence on the drug. The National Alliance on Mental Illness warns that, even with proper dosage and prescription, Valium can form mental and physical dependence after two weeks of daily use. Dependence becomes even more common after long-term use. Valium addiction can develop through both illicit use, which is any use without a prescription, and by misusing the drug, (i.e., taking more than is prescribed or combining the drug with other substances of abuse). An addiction to any substance can have incredibly dangerous effects on a person, and an addiction to Valium is no different. Long-term use of the drug can cause irreversible damage to a person’s cardiovascular system, liver, and even brain.
Additionally, as levels of the drug increase over time, Valium abuse can have serious effects on a person’s cognition, judgment, and memory. People rely on these medications to treat serious issues like sleep disorders and anxiety. Unfortunately, Valium misuse can actually exacerbate the psychiatric issues that caused someone to start taking the drug, including anxiety and insomnia.
Valium Addiction and Abuse
Chemical dependency and addiction are two of the most serious effects of Valium on the brain. The abuse problem surrounding drugs like Valium is often overshadowed by the current Opioid crisis that is ravaging the majority of the United States. Even though Valium abuse may not cause the same amount of pervasive harm as Opioids, misusing the medication can still lead to multiple serious repercussions. Once a dependency on Valium forms, users often have trouble sleeping or functioning normally without the drug in their system. These effects can be powerful enough to drive people into a full-blown addiction – taking more and more of the drug just to stave off the debilitating effects of withdrawal. Medical professionals suggest that those with previous histories of addiction avoid Valium because of its quick dependency rate and direct effect on essential functions.
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Mixing Valium With Other Medications
Regardless of whether someone uses their prescription responsibly or misuses Valium, other substances mixed in can lead to dangerous reactions. Any type of drug that also depresses the central nervous system can amplify the effects of Valium to a dangerous degree. Alcohol and Opioids are commonly alongside with Valium by recreational users to intensify intoxication; however, the interaction that these drugs create can cause serious health issues. A combination of sedatives can depress the central nervous system to the point of failure and lead to overdose much more quickly than if someone used Valium alone.
Substances to avoid using Valium with include:
Symptoms of Valium Overdose
Overdosing on Valium is rare, but there are some tell-tale signs to recognize when someone has taken too much. Because benzodiazepines depress the nervous system, overdoses often present with signs like extreme drowsiness, labored breathing, and loss of consciousness. Noticeable loss of control over muscles and normal functions are also possible indications that an overdose is occurring.
Symptoms of overdose may develop slowly so it’s important to know what to look for. Side effects should be taken seriously, as some may indicate an emergency. Patients should stop taking Valium and contact emergency services right away if any of the following occur:
- Extreme chest pain or tightness
- Difficulty breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Cold or clammy skin
- Constricted or pinpoint pupils
Even in the cases of drug abuse, overdoses occurring from Valium alone are rare. An overdose is more likely to occur when the drug is mixed with other drugs. Research has shown that a large percentage of overdoses come from mixing substances.
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Valium and Pregnancy
Valium is absorbed very readily into the body demonstrated by the speed at which it crosses the blood brain barrier and the placental barrier. Because of its ability to travel all around the body, doctors often advise expectant mothers to seek out a drug other than Valium while pregnant. Use during pregnancy can lead to birth defects like cleft pallet, withdrawal symptoms for newly born babies, respiratory problems, and feeding issues.
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