Diazepam may sound like an exotic drug, but that’s because it is far more widely known by its most famous brand name, Valium. Diazepam is a benzodiazepine that is most frequently used as a prescription treatment for panic attack disorders and other conditions dealing with anxiety or similar feelings. There is no over-the-counter version of Diazepam and it is only available with a prescription.
Diazepam is not a stimulant or a depressant in the way that other drugs are. It is commonly used in a mildly sedative capacity, but only when directed by a doctor. It functions to relax muscles and relieve muscular tension, it has an anticonvulsant effect, and it is typically longer lasting and faster acting than most other benzodiazepines.
The way diazepam works is by acting on the body to make the effects of the substance GABA much more potent, and to release more dopamine. GABA helps to slow brain activity and central nervous system activity to some extent. This neurotransmitter manipulation makes diazepam incredibly addictive.
Not only is diazepam highly addictive due to the feeling and the effects it produces, but since it acts on the neurotransmitter GABA, there is a very high chance to become physically dependent on the drug. The calming, moderately sedative effects create a very strong incentive for the users to use and the chemical reinforcement is able to build a use-reward cycle quickly.
Since diazepam is in its own class of drugs, benzodiazepines, it is often looked at differently when it comes to mixing drugs. Many people with polysubstance use disorder may be facing a potential overdose situation when diazepam is combined with other drugs.
With diazepam being one of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines, those living with diazepam addiction are only going to grow in number.
Signs You Have An Addiction To Diazepam
Since diazepam can form dependency and addiction both through illicit use as well as legitimate prescribed use, there are many people that are wondering how they might be able to identify a diazepam addiction. With nearly 10% of the US population reporting that they have misused prescription medication, as of the most recent SAMHSA survey, there is a very real chance that diazepam addiction could touch your life.
In order to be able to best recognize diazepam addiction, no matter where it occurs, you need to know what it does to the body and how the body reacts to being under the influence of diazepam. Being able to spot the symptoms can be the difference between someone getting help, and slipping through the cracks.
- Stealing diazepam prescriptions – This is one of the more popular options since “doctor shopping” became more difficult and fell out of popularity. By stealing legitimate prescriptions, those with a diazepam addiction can stay away from withdrawals.
- Buying diazepam from illicit sources close to them – In a very large portion of cases, the initial addiction is facilitated by friends and family. When the user runs out, buying more from family and friends on a similar prescription makes the people the user loves the most into drug dealers.
- Increasing dosage without medical advice – If you or someone close to you takes diazepam and you notice that a larger dose is needed to get consistent results, you should tell your doctor immediately. Not only can this lead to more serious dependency issues, but it can create potentially deadly withdrawal problems.
- Altering dosage frequency without medical advice – This is another sign, like boosting the dosage, that shows in no uncertain terms that the original dose is no longer effective. This can look like someone who takes their pill twice a day, taking an extra midway between doses.
- Taking diazepam in ways that aren’t intended – This means learning someone is taking their diazepam in ways that were not intended by the manufacturer or the individual’s doctor, such as insufflation or injection. Taking medication in these ways can create a long list of potentially dangerous risks and side effects. They also tend to create far harsher withdrawal processes.
What Withdrawal Symptoms Look Like When Detoxing From A Diazepam Addiction
One of the ways that diazepam is able to build a very strong use and reinforcement cycle with the user is that it helps release more dopamine into the system. It does this by not just triggering the release of the hormone, but altering the amount that is released by the body.
Dopamine is the same hormone that is released during pleasurable activities like eating or winning a game. This means it’s a very attractive hormone for your brain, and it will want more and more. In a very short time, an individual’s brain will associate the action of taking the diazepam with the release of dopamine.
This will be the foundation of diazepam addiction. Once the individual takes diazepam for a short while, the body will develop a tolerance to the drug, and a higher dose will be required to obtain the same effects. This tolerance will develop rather quickly, and it may develop without the user being consciously aware of it.
This tolerance will work hand in hand with the chemical dependency that will present when the supply of diazepam-fueled dopamine is stopped. If the user takes their diazepam on a schedule, the dependency will be predictable enough that withdrawal symptoms will begin to show up within a few hours after the first missed dose.
Depending on the individual, these withdrawal symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to incredibly painful, and even dangerous. Any time that someone is stopping or potentially stopping taking a regimen of diazepam, whether prescribed or not, they should leverage medical supervision for the acute withdrawal stage.
Diazepam Addiction Withdrawal Timeline
The diazepam withdrawal process will vary greatly depending on the individual beginning recovery. Addiction profile factors will weigh in, like the dosages, frequencies, and methods of administration that were being used. But the medical condition of the individual will factor in as well, like their age, sex, and medical history.
The timeline for everyone will be slightly different, but generally speaking, the first stage will be the first 24-48 hours after the last dose. Following this will be the bulk of the acute withdrawal stage, lasting up to 3 months though more commonly only lasting a few weeks, and the post-acute withdrawal stage. The post-acute withdrawal stage can last for several years after the detox has successfully been completed.
- First Stage (The Crash or The Rebound) – Within 20-40 hours after the last dose was taken will be the beginning of the withdrawal period. If the diazepam was being taken to mitigate any feelings of panic or anxiety, the individual will feel a resurgence of those feelings. There will also be disruption of the sleep cycle and the risk of seizure. The risk of seizure is why withdrawal from diazepam should always be done with medical assistance or supervision.
- Acute Withdrawal Stage – The acute withdrawal stage usually about two weeks long, will see the individual experience the peak severity of their physical withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms experienced during this stage will usually include drowsiness, headaches, feelings of panic, anxiety attacks, emotional instability, and even hallucinations. Often the peak will be happening about a week in and will taper off after that. This is generally regarded as the most difficult part of the detox and withdrawal process.
- Post-Acute Withdrawal Stage – The third and final stage of the diazepam withdrawal process is the post-acute stage, and will not always be experienced by those in recovery. The post-acute stage is often recognized by lingering emotional or psychological symptoms, like depression, anxiety, panic, and other similar symptoms. While these symptoms will not be as severe as they were during the acute withdrawal stage, they will diminish far less rapidly than the others, which often fade in a matter of days.
Diazepam Addiction Recovery Options
If you or someone you love may be having trouble with diazepam addiction, one of the most important things to remember is not to go at it alone. Quitting benzodiazepines like diazepam without medical guidance can result in serious and dangerous medical complications that can include seizures.
Even when taken for just a short time, diazepam can cause intense chemical dependency issues. This means it is crucial for anyone battling diazepam addiction to only attempt withdrawal or detox under controlled, medically supervised circumstances. In the event that anything goes wrong, the medical or healthcare staff on hand will be able to help reduce complications.
Since the shock to your neurochemical system can often prove too stressful for your body to handle without qualified medical help, don’t take the risk of going through detox by yourself. Contact experienced addiction professionals in your area today to begin planning the recovery that will give you back your life.
The most successful recoveries start with a free confidential and private consultation with a member of an admittance or care team that can answer your questions. For personalized, expert care, contact caring professionals today to begin planning your recovery.