Some prescription medications are obscure, and others are very well-known. Valium definitely belongs to the latter category. A brand name of the generic drug diazepam, Valium belongs to the benzodiazepine group.
Sometimes called benzos, benzodiazepine drugs are depressants, and they’re often prescribed for their calming effects. Thus, they can help patients who struggle with conditions like chronic anxiety and insomnia.
If your doctor has given you a Valium prescription — or if a loved one has started taking this medication — you might be wondering how it can affect thoughts and feelings. With that in mind, let’s examine the effects Valium often has on someone’s overall mental state.
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What Is Valium?
Valium has been around for about six decades. Before 1960, doctors typically treated anxiety-related disorders with hypnotics and sedatives — that is, drugs that can induce sleep. However, such prescriptions were generally imprecise, and they could also be dangerous.
Then, in the 1960s, new types of anxiolytics — drugs for anxiety — became available, and benzodiazepines were chief among them. They were safer and more effective. Indeed, the odds of a lethal benzodiazepine overdose are much lower than the odds of a lethal barbiturate (a common sedative) overdose.
In 1963, doctors began prescribing diazepam under the brand name Valium for conditions such as muscle spasms, epilepsy, and anxiety.
Within a few years, diazepam was one of the most-used drugs in human history. In 1966, the Rolling Stones even wrote a song about it: “Mother’s Little Helper.” And, between 1969 and 1982, Valium was prescribed more often than any other medication in the U.S.
During the 1980s and 1990s, however, the public became more aware of a Valium downside: namely, that people can grow dependent on it. In fact, people started realizing that it was relatively easy to abuse this drug.
For that reason, psychiatrists curtailed its usage to some degree. Nevertheless, for better or worse, it remains a common medication. Yes, it’s still widely prescribed for anxiety treatment, muscle relaxation, seizure control, and general sedation, among other purposes. And it’s especially prevalent for alcohol withdrawal since it can ease such symptoms as confusion and muscle trembling.
Valium in the Brain
After a person ingests Valium, this drug attaches itself to the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA receptors can be found throughout the central nervous system: the brain and the spinal column. And, once a dose of Valium binds itself to those receptors, it stimulates them to release extra GABA.
For its part, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that can block certain signals throughout the central nervous system. Thus, GABA slows down the functioning of the brain; more precisely, it impedes neurons from firing away at their normal rates. And that effect, in turn, can calm the entire body.
Note, too, that it can take up to 10 days for the body to completely remove a dosage of Valium from its system.
Common Experiences and Feelings on Valium
What does it actually feel like after you’ve taken a dose of Valium? Well, this experience varies from person to person, and it depends on factors like the size and frequency of the doses as well as the physical condition and medicinal tolerance of the patient.
In most cases, a major effect of Valium — as alluded to earlier — is that the entire body feels relaxed. Fears, negative thoughts, trembling, and other symptoms of anxiety may subside. Many people feel a little drowsy — and some people feel very drowsy.
It’s likely that Valium will improve your sleep as well, letting you reach deeper levels of slumber for longer periods of time. And high-quality sleep is healing and health-giving.
At the same time, however, not all potential effects of Valium are positive. After taking this drug, some people find that they lack energy, concentration, motivation, or all of the above. As such, it can be harder to complete one’s daily tasks and chores. And some individuals who take Valium feel confused or disengaged from those around them.
Beyond that, some patients have reported that Valium makes them dizzy or unsteady, which are consequences of the central nervous system’s slowing down. Likewise, hand-eye coordination and muscle coordination could be adversely affected, and a person’s reactions to physical stimuli could be slowed. In certain cases, muscle weakness is yet another side effect.
For all these reasons, when you start taking Valium, it’s wise to avoid activities like intense exercising, driving, and operating heavy machinery. That way, you can get a sense of how the Valium affects you physically and mentally. Then you can adjust your routine however you must in order to stay safe.
Some Valium users have even experienced short-term memory issues. That is, they might have some trouble remembering things that happened within the prior 30 seconds or so. (This side effect tends to occur when there’s a high level of Valium within the bloodstream.)
Fortunately, a healthy lifestyle may help you temper any negative Valium side effects. To that end, always try to get a good night’s sleep; keep up a rigorous routine of physical exercise, and enjoy a balanced and nutritious diet. In particular, foods like oatmeal, eggs, berries, and dark chocolate could help boost your energy levels.
If a person were to take too much Valium or take it for too long — perhaps due to an addiction — it could become dangerous. Among the severe side effects of Valium are vomiting, appetite loss, seizures, muscle spasms, speech impairment, and painful urination.
Not to mention, Valium can have major effects on a person’s mental health over time. Such consequences include depression, paranoia, hallucinations, forgetfulness, erratic thought patterns, and inexplicable anger.
Plus, if someone takes Valium for an extended period of time, it can have a desensitizing effect, making it hard for that person to feel any emotions at all. Thus, it can be tricky to maintain healthy relationships with family members and friends. It can also lead to poor judgment overall.
Moreover, an addiction to Valium — as distinct from the drug itself — can be damaging. For starters, it can make people obsessed with getting more and more Valium doses, even if that means stealing the drug or stealing money to pay for it on the streets.
People who struggle with a Valium addiction can also become isolated from society. They might neglect their work responsibilities, family obligations, and even their hygiene. Thus, they may lose their jobs and face serious financial repercussions.
Another danger is a toxic mix of Valium and alcohol or Valium and other drugs. Some people inadvertently drink alcohol or take other prescription medications when they’re on Valium, unaware of the potential hazards. Others intentionally combine Valium with other substances in order to feel euphoric sensations.
Either way, such combinations can be fatal. And, short of death, the problems that could arise include severe disorientation, nausea, loss of consciousness, brain damage, and falling into a coma.
The Proper Use of Valium
Given the dangers of Valium, it’s crucial to take this drug correctly.
Below are some general guidelines for Valium usage, just to give you an idea. However, these tips are no substitute for your doctor’s specific instructions, which you should always heed carefully and completely.
To begin with, provide your doctor with all the info you can regarding your medical history and current condition. In particular, discuss your allergies, your other medications, your typical alcohol intake, and any physical or mental health challenges you’ve been dealing with. If you’ve ever struggled with addiction, talk about that subject as well.
Then, once you have a Valium prescription, follow it precisely. Take the right doses at the right times, and stop taking this medication as soon as your prescription runs out. (Naturally, doses vary depending on the medical condition that’s being treated and the physical condition of the patient.) Also, read the guide that’s included with your Valium, and follow those directives as well.
Note that, if you’re taking Valium in tablet form, you should swallow all of your capsules whole. Do not, for instance, split your tablet in two and ingest those pieces separately. And don’t crush a pill and consume it in powdered form.
What should you do if you forgot a dose of Valium one day? You could simply take that dosage as soon as you remember it. However, if you suddenly remember a dose and it’s almost time for your next dose, just skip the forgotten dose altogether. Don’t take two Valium dosages too closely together. (Your doctor could tell you how much time constitutes “too closely together.”)
Be careful how you store your Valium as well. Keep it at room temperature — between 59 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit — and in a container that’s sealed, dark, dry, and secure. Make sure that your children and pets can’t reach it.
In addition to abstaining from alcohol, avoid grapefruit products when you’re on Valium. Grapefruit can cause Valium blood levels to spike.
Again, this medication increases the risk of falling for some people. Therefore, take extra caution when you’re walking around, especially at night, and keep your home’s pathways free of obstructions.
Once your prescription has ended, dispose of any remaining Valium with care. For safety’s sake, search the internet for a medication drop-off site near your home, and take advantage of it. If there aren’t any such locations nearby, your Valium’s packaging will tell you if it’s safe to flush your leftover medication down your toilet.
Do not, under any circumstances, give your remaining Valium to anyone else. Doing so is illegal and extremely dangerous.
Furthermore, if you experience any memory loss, confusion, dizziness, or other serious side effect when you’re taking Valium, call your doctor, and see if you should go in for a checkup. After all, certain conditions like dizziness and impaired coordination — especially in older adults — can easily lead to injuries.
Likewise, if for any reason you wish to stop taking Valium, contact your physician. However, don’t just stop taking Valium on your own. If you do, your medical condition could suddenly become more severe. Alternatively, you might experience serious withdrawal symptoms such as cramps, shaking, seizures, or hallucinations.
The Final Analysis
In the end, the decision to take Valium or not is deeply personal. It involves weighing the drug’s benefits against its potential drawbacks: side effects and even addiction.
In all of this, keep in mind that Valium is a short-term solution. For example, it may help a person to control anxiety or alcohol withdrawal symptoms for a while. But, to manage anxiety or alcohol addiction over the long haul, other forms of treatment — psychotherapy, mindfulness, different medications, and so on — would be needed.
In sum, Valium is a helpful yet occasionally risky tool for getting people on that all-important road to recovery.
Published on: 2023-12-20
Updated on: 2023-12-20