The Safe Way to End Valium Addiction And Dependency
Valium is a drug that suppresses the central nervous system, which means that some of the brain’s functions are slowed down.
When prescribed by a doctor, Valium is used to treat things such as anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and seizures.
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While it can be a highly beneficial medicine to those who need it, the problem is that Valium is highly addictive, and it is extremely easy to become dependent on it.
But what does it mean to be dependent on or addicted to Valium?
Dependency is when the brain or body starts to rely on a substance to operate normally.
With most drugs, dependency happens when the body gets used to Valium producing the anxiety-reducing chemicals, so it slows down producing natural ones.
Once the brain is dependent, a person cannot stop taking the drug (and sometimes has to increase the amount), or they risk facing some fairly severe withdrawal symptoms.
Addiction is then when someone can no longer stop taking or self-moderate the amount of a substance they are taking.
How Does Addiction Develop?
Addiction starts as abuse. Valium abuse is anytime you take the drug outside of the direction of a doctor. That can mean one of two things:
One, someone who was previously prescribed Valium may take more than prescribed or take it more often than prescribed. Even though they have the prescription, they are taking medicine outside of the direction given to them.
Two, someone can buy the drug online or on the streets and take it without the prescription. Without the prescription, someone is abusing the drug from the very first time they take it.
Once someone abuses the drug, their body starts to become both dependent on, and tolerant of, Valium. The person will have to start taking more and more to get the effect they are looking for and may start to feel uncontrollable compulsions to take Valium.
At that point, the person is addicted. They no longer are simply abusing the Valium by choice, but rather they cannot seem to make themselves stop, even if they want to.
How Do You Withdraw Safely?
In order to recover from an addiction, you first must detox, which means going through withdrawal, but there are ways to do it more comfortably and safely than others. The safest way to do it is, of course, with a doctor or professional team to help you through it.
Usually, if you are following the advice of a doctor, they will put you on a gradual reducing dosage schedule. This means they will slowly decrease the amount of Valium entering your system to minimize withdrawal symptoms and danger.
Beyond safety, going through withdrawal under the care of a medical team (usually at a facility) will make the process go along a lot faster. Even when done safely, a detox at home can take six weeks to six months to complete. On the other hand, with medical professionals, detox can go a lot faster, possibly done in just two weeks.
What Are Valium Withdrawal Symptoms?
Detoxification is the process of cleansing all traces of Valium from the body’s system. When this happens, to someone who is dependent, they experience withdrawal.
Because the body has learned how to function with the Valium in the blood and organs, and may even rely on the Valium to live on properly, it is hard to readjust to a lack of Valium.
People experience often unpleasant and sometimes scary withdrawal symptoms when they go through Valium detoxification. This is usually because their body has grown to be dependent on the drug and therefore reacts negatively when it has to readjust to operating without it.
Withdrawal can be dangerous, but when done under the direction of a doctor, it can be completely safe, even if it does not feel like it.
You can divide Valium withdrawal symptoms into two categories: more common symptoms and more dangerous symptoms.
First, let’s go over the more common symptoms that almost everyone will have when going through Valium withdrawal. These include:
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle and joint pain
- Muscle and joint cramps
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Memory problems
- Overall weakness
- Reduced appetite
- Sensory hypersensitivity
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle twitching
Unfortunately, with more serious addictions/dependency levels, more serious symptoms can occur when someone is withdrawing from Valium.
It is these symptoms that make it so important to have help when going through withdrawal.
More serious symptoms of Valium withdrawal include:
- Numbness and tingling in arms and legs
What Are the Dangers of Late-Withdrawal?
Late-withdrawal is all the symptoms that persist after most symptoms stop (usually around a week or two).
There are not many physical symptoms involved in late-withdrawal, but the psychological symptoms can be extremely damaging, and last until further treatment is completed.
These symptoms include:
- Sleeping problems
- Suicidal thoughts
There are a few risks to late-withdrawal. One, the mental state of someone going through late withdrawal can be extremely bad. The person may think about self-harming or attempting suicide if their mental state feels like too much to bear.
Not only can the lack of Valium cause these feelings, but often people with addictions were using substances to distract from underlying mental health issues.
Two, if the late-withdrawal symptoms feel like too much or like they are lasting too long, people can be prone to relapsing and accidentally overdosing.
Often when people get to this point, their tolerance is not as high, so if someone relapses and takes the same amount they used to, they may overdose.
Below, we list the typical timeframe of a Valium withdrawal:
- Week One: During this week, the initial withdrawal symptoms will occur as early as the first day. The symptoms usually start out mild but become more and more intense with time
- Week Two: During this week withdrawal system reaches their peak, so it is one of the most physically draining periods
- Weeks Three and Four: While some symptoms may persist, during weeks three and four, the symptoms do begin to become less and less intense
- Week Five and Beyond: There are symptoms of withdrawal that will continue to appear randomly for weeks, months or even years after the original withdrawal period. This is what is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome. However, detox is usually complete by this point
Benefits of Quitting Valium
- Relief from side effects
- Decrease the risk of accidents due to delayed reaction time
- Repair relationships
- Prevent memory loss
- Learn to cope healthily with anxiety
- Prevent an overdose
Why Shouldn’t I Go “Cold Turkey”
When someone quits taking Valium cold turkey (an all or nothing approach, meaning to completely abstaining from Valium from a high level of dependence) they are risking more severe and dangerous side effects.
While many of these side effects are similar to regular withdrawal side effects, they will happen at a more extreme level. These dangers can include:
- Abdominal pains
- Extreme anxiety
- Dissatisfaction with life
- Muscle pain
- Suicidal thoughts
Treatments for Valium Dependency
Below, we list the various treatment options that are effective at treating Valium dependency:
Inpatient treatment is when a person stays overnight at a treatment facility/center and has access to 24/7 care from doctors, therapists, and other professionals that can help through detox and then counsel them through their recovery.
Usually, the goal of an inpatient program is to get a person to the point where they can move to a less intensive treatment plan, such as outpatient treatment or counseling.
During their time out of the inpatient treatment center, a person will have access to both individual and group settings to learn coping skills and recover safely.
Outpatient treatment is when a person goes to a treatment center for several hours a day, several days a week. During this time, the person will have access to things that inpatient patients have (doctors, counsellors, group support, etc.), but they do not have access to that all the time.
This can be beneficial because a person can continue to do outside activities such as work and school, but some people need the lack of distraction that an inpatient treatment center offers to recover fully.
Counselling is less intensive than both inpatient and outpatient treatment. For counseling, a patient will usually meet with a licensed therapist for about an hour once a week, but sometimes people will do more than that.
During each session, the counselor will offer the place a place to vent and teach them valuable coping skills to help them deal with fighting addiction and to recover from any other mental issues that may be related to their addiction.
A 12-step program is a group support system that will help a person recover from their addiction and prevents relapse. Having a support system of people who understand what they are going through is one of the most proven methods to help a person stay sober longer.
While a 12-step program is not usually designed to help someone deal with detox, afterward, it can be a great treatment option.
Medications For Valium Dependency
Often, a doctor will prescribe medications to help a person deal with withdrawal symptoms and underlying mental health issues.
These medication include:
- SSRI: SSRIs are medications that are usually used to treat mental illnesses such as depression. A doctor may prescribe this to someone recovering with addiction to help them handle mental health issues that may have led them to use the Valium and any symptoms they may have during detox
- Melatonin: Melatonin is a natural herb that helps a person sleep and eases anxiety, both symptoms of withdrawal
- Anticonvulsant Medications: Anticonvulsant medications are used to treat and prevent seizures, a common symptom of Valium withdrawal
- Baclofen: Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that can help with muscle soreness and tension (side effects of withdrawal), and it can help reduce cravings
How to Help Others
The most important part of supporting others through recovery from Valium addiction is to support them.
You can support them by going to groups with them, talking to them about it if they want, being a safe place to vent, and approaching them with a completely nonjudgmental attitude.
About the author:
Jon writes for ADT Healthcare and a number of other websites. Jon graduated with a degree in psychology in 1992. Jon has been in recovery for 19 years.