What Is Valium? — Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects
After coming into popular mainstream use between the late 1960s and early 1980s, the prescription drug Valium became one of the top-selling drugs of all time. Since then, other medications have arisen to treat some of the same conditions, but Valium remains a commonly prescribed drug.However, this drug must be taken cautiously to manage possible side effects and its addictive potential. Let’s take a look at the benefits, side effects, and other vital facts surrounding the use of Valium today.
What Is Valium?
Valium is a well-known brand name for the generic drug diazepam. Belonging to a larger class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, Valium and its counterparts are considered sedative prescriptions and are not available over the counter. Anyone who believes they are in need of Valium for medical reasons must approach their physician to obtain the required prescription, which can then be filled at a pharmacy.
What Are the Intended Uses and Benefits of Valium?
Valium and other forms of diazepam work by calming your brain and nervous system. As such, these drugs are often prescribed to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures. As a sedative, it is sometimes also used to relieve muscle spasms or as a form of sedation before medical procedures.
The dosage of Valium prescribed will vary on a case-by-case basis, taking into account factors such as your age, medical condition, and other treatments. Over time, it is possible to develop a tolerance for Valium, necessitating an updated dosage. In this case, speak with your doctor about a new prescription.
How to Take Valium
As with any prescribed medication, it is recommended that you begin by reading any literature or medication guides provided by your physician or pharmacist. If you have any questions about the guidance, address them to your doctor before beginning use.
Generally speaking, the directions to use Valium are as follows:
- If using Valium pills or tablets, take your prescribed dose by mouth with or without food, following the recommendations of your prescribing physician.
- If you are taking Valium in liquid form, carefully measure your dosage with an appropriate medication cup, spoon, or other approved liquid measure. Do not use a household spoon, as they vary in size and may provide inaccurate doses.
- If you are taking Valium as a concentrated solution, use the provided medicine dropper to mix the appropriate dosage with a small amount of your preferred beverage or soft food (such as applesauce or pudding). Consume the entire mixture immediately without storing any for later consumption.
- Never change or suddenly quit your dosage without express instructions from your doctor. Furthermore, do not continue to take Valium for longer than the prescribed period. This can significantly increase your risk of side effects without improving your condition.
Typically, Valium is not recommended for long-term use. As such, do not continue taking Valium for more than 4 months without consulting your doctor.
What Are the Side Effects of Valium?
While there are distinct therapeutic benefits to Valium, this medication can also be addictive. The risk of addiction may be especially high for patients with a history of substance abuse. The addictive nature of Valium is one of the reasons it is important to follow your prescription precisely, taking only the assigned dose at doctor-recommended intervals.
In addition, Valium may cause some patients to respond with any of the following side effects:
- Muscle weakness
- Balance issues
The above side effects are common and do not necessarily require emergency medical intervention. However, contact a medical professional if you experience any of the following:
- Severe dizziness or drowsiness
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble sleeping
- Sudden mood or behavior changes (including panic attacks, anxiety, depression, irritability, or impulsiveness)
- Confusion, paranoia, or memory problems
- New or worsening seizures
You can also consult your physician about your prescription if you notice ringing in your ears, a crawling sensation beneath your skin, or a burning or prickling sensation. They may wish to reevaluate your prescription and/or dosage.
Patients experiencing the signs of an allergic reaction — such as hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, tongue, lips, or throat — should stop taking Valium and immediately seek emergency assistance.
When using Valium, avoid drinking alcohol, which can exacerbate dangerous side effects. Due to certain chemical interactions, you should also avoid consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice while using Valium.
Valium withdrawal can precipitate seizures and other life-threatening side effects. Seek immediate medical assistance if you have recently stopped using Valium and notice any of the following:
- Erratic muscle movements
- Manic energy
- Severe mood swings
- Hallucinations or confusion
- Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
Some of these withdrawal symptoms can be persistent, lasting up to 12 months after suddenly quitting Valium use.
Can I Take Valium?
Before taking Valium, consult a doctor to evaluate your medical needs on an individual basis.
However, you should not use Valium if you have any of the following conditions:
- An allergy to diazepam
- Severe breathing problems
- Sleep apnea
- Severe liver disease
- Myasthenia gravis muscle disorder
- Narrow-angle glaucoma or untreated/uncontrolled open-angle glaucoma
Valium also should not be given to children without a doctor’s advice, and never to a child younger than 6 months old. Do not breastfeed an infant while taking Valium.
Do People Abuse Valium?
Technically speaking, any non-prescribed drug use is considered substance abuse. So if you take Valium in a manner not prescribed — for example, more often than recommended or in higher dosages — this is Valium abuse.
Often, this kind of abuse is due to growing drug tolerance and physical or mental addiction to the drug’s effects. But it also has a presence as a black market street drug. Valium has several street aliases, such as:
- Vs or Blue Vs
- Valley girls
However, misuse or recreational consumption of Valium can cause serious consequences, including overdose, coma, or death.
Selling or giving away Valium outside of a prescription is illegal, so be sure to keep such drugs stored securely and dispose of them safely if no longer needed for use.
Can You Overdose on Valium?
Inappropriate Valium usage can trigger an overdose, particularly if used in conjunction with or closely following alcohol, opioid medications, or other sedatives or depressants.
Signs of a Valium overdose can include:
- Slow breathing with lengthy pauses
- Blue-colored lips
- Excessive difficulty waking up or remaining awake
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Limp or weak muscles
Without medical intervention, a Valium overdose can result in coma or death. If you suspect a Valium overdose is occurring, immediately reach out for emergency medical help nearby or contact the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222.
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