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Valium Addiction Treatment

Posted in Substance Abuse & Addiction Treatment on March 20, 2017
Last modified on May 12th, 2019

Valium® (diazepam) is a tranquilizer that belongs to the drug class benzodiazepine. It is used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms and to mitigate withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and more addictive benzos. It is also sometimes prescribed with other medications to treat seizures. Valium was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1963 and quickly gained popularity for its sedative effects. In the early years, Valium was frequently prescribed to treat insomnia. However, newer sleep-inducing drugs such as Ambien have largely replaced diazepam for this purpose. Valium is currently available for oral administration in tablets containing 2, 5 or 10 mg of diazepam. The recommended dosage is based on the condition being treated. For example, in people with anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety, the dose is 2 mg to 10 mg, two to four times daily, depending on the severity.1,2,3

Between 1969 and 1982, Valium was the most prescribed drug in the U.S., and in 1979, sales reached a peak with more than 2.3 billion pills sold. While diazepam has similar sedative and hypnotic effects as barbiturates, it is much less likely to result in lethal overdose and is thought to have less potential for abuse and dependence. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, diazepam ranks as one of the top five prescribed benzodiazepines, as well as one of the top five sold illegally.1

Valium Abuse

Although it was touted as a safer alternative to barbiturates, by the 1980s to 1990s, the use of diazepam and other benzodiazepines became more controversial. Many psychiatrists continued to prescribe Valium for anxiety disorders amid growing concerns regarding overprescribing and the potential for abuse and dependence. Although Valium is abused, it is believed to have less risk of dependence relative to other benzos. Due to the lower risk of Valium addiction, it is used to mitigate withdrawal symptoms during medically supervised detox in individuals addicted to other benzos and alcohol.1

Stats and Facts

  • Currently, diazepam is the third-most widely abused tranquilizer in the U.S. after alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan).1
  • Diazepam comprised 3.8% of all drug-related overdoses in 2010 with 1,448 deaths. Although the number of diazepam overdose fatalities increased to 1,729 in 2014, the relative percentage decreased to 3.7% due to the increase in overall drug overdoses.4
  • Valium was immortalized by the Rolling Stones in their 1966 song, “Mother’s Little Helper.”5
  • The myth has been largely debunked that Valium was prescribed in the 1960s to early-1970s primarily to well-functioning slightly neurotic housewives seeking happiness. In fact, Valium was marketed equally to men and women and most people taking it had high levels of distress associated with diagnosable mental illness.5
  • While an estimated 4.9% of 12th-graders abused tranquilizers in 2016, Xanax was more subject to abuse than Valium.6

Relapse Prevention

Diazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine so withdrawal can be prolonged, increasing the risk of relapse. At The Right Step, clients undergo detox supervised by medical professionals around the clock, an essential first step in recovery due to the dangers of sudden withdrawal. Gradual tapering of the drug is the preferred detox method to mitigate the worst symptoms and help reduce the chance of a client relapsing. During inpatient drug rehab or an intensive outpatient program, cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of therapy focus on modifying thoughts, expectations and behaviors to help prevent relapse. Clients also work on building multifaceted coping mechanisms to deal with various life stressors.

  1. Valium History and Statistics. Drug Abuse website. http://drugabuse.com/library/valium-history-and-statistics/ Accessed February 22, 2017.
  2. RX List website. http://www.rxlist.com/valium-drug.htm Accessed February 22, 2017.
  3. Valium Dosage. Drugs website. https://www.drugs.com/dosage/valium.html Updated February 6, 2017. Accessed February 22, 2017.
  4. Warner M, Trinidad JP, Bastian BA, Minino AM, Hedegaard H. Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2010-2014. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2016 Dec;65(10):1-15.
  5. Judith Warner. Valium Invalidation: What if Mother (and Father) Really Did Need A Little Help? October 5, 2012. http://ideas.time.com/2012/10/05/valium-invalidation-what-if-mother-and-father-really-did-need-a-little-help/ Accessed February 22, 2017.
  6. Monitoring the Future 2016 Survey Results. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/monitoring-future-2016-survey-results Updated December 2016. Accessed February 22, 2017.
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