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Is Mixing Alcohol with Valium (Diazepam) Dangerous?

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Many people who have been prescribed a benzodiazepine like Valium aren’t aware that it shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol.

Because both Valium (also known as diazepam) and alcohol are sedatives that depress the nervous system, taking them together will intensify the effects of both. Both substances are also capable of causing addiction, and this is even more likely when they are abused together.

In this article we take a look at what combining Valium and alcohol does to your body, the symptoms it can cause and what to do if you have mixed the two. We’ll also take a look at the best methods for treating dependence on Valium and alcohol. 

The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol with Valium Summary

  • Around 1 in 5 people who abuse alcohol also engage in benzodiazepine abuse
  • Both substances work by depressing the central nervous system
  • Alcohol and Valium are both a sedative and taken together the effects of each are intensified
  • Mixing Valium and alcohol can cause a range of issues from drowsiness and reduced motor control to breathing problems and brain damage
  • Alcohol and Valium addiction can happen accidently and quickly progress
  • If you have mixed alcohol and Valium, you should stay calm and seek urgent medical care if you experience any concerning symptoms, such as breathing issues
  • Valium addiction and alcohol dependency is best treated through a medical detox and supportive complementary treatments such as therapy and support groups
  •   Treatments for Valium addiction and alcohol dependency can take place as an inpatient or an outpatient
  • Given the complicated nature of a multiple substance abuse issue, comprehensive inpatient addiction treatment is advised

Mixing Valium & Alcohol — Side Effects & Risks

Alcohol and Valium are both sedatives, so when you take them together it increases the sedative effect and can result in substance abuse, unconscious, brain damage and it can be fatal.  

 While some people have an accidental glass of wine or beer without realising you shouldn’t mix Valium with alcohol, others enjoy the effect mixing alcohol and Valium has. Either way, it is vital to become aware of the downsides of mixing the two. While taking Valium as prescribed is generally considered safe, when it is mixed with alcohol it can have some negative health impacts.

Effects & Dangers of Combining Valium & Alcohol

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism warns that drugs like Valium can boost the sedative effect of alcohol, making you confused, sleepy and at risk of accidents and injuries. It can also cause respiratory depression and unresponsive loss of consciousness, and in some instances, it can result in death. Despite this, research has found that 1 in 5 people who abuse alcohol also abuse benzodiazepines.

Mixing Valium with alcohol can cause:

  • Unsteadiness and dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced motor control
  • Memory issues
  • Breathing problems
  • Unconsciousness
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Alongside those physical symptoms, abusing the two substances together can cause all manner of psychological and social problems in your life. You could experience depression and anxiety, isolation from friends and family or even issues at work or with your finances.

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 How Does Valium & Alcohol Affect the Body?

Valium affects the central nervous system by slowing down the brain’s activity. It does this by increasing the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which calms the nervous system. This effect is useful for people dealing with seizures, and muscle spasms and it can also be good to relieve anxiety in people suffering from high levels of anxiety.

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that, like Valium, impacts the brain’s neurotransmitters and alters the central nervous system by depressing it. Also, similarly to Valium, alcohol is an addictive substance that can be abused.

Both Valium and alcohol are depressants. They calm the central nervous system and this can lead to feeling more relaxed and in some cases happier, while taking these substances. The issue with taking them together is they essentially intensify one another.

Taking Valium while drinking alcohol can synergize the intoxication of both, and this can have dangerous and sometimes lethal results. Together they can cause major central nervous system depression, overdose and death.

A Slippery Slope to Addiction?

Once you understand the interaction of both substances, it’s easy to see how addiction to either or both can be formed. In many cases, this is not done intentionally. Many people have a benzodiazepine prescription for a valid issue, such as anxiety or muscle spasms, but as it is a highly addictive substance, you could become physically and psychologically dependent on it, especially if it is taken for longer than four weeks.

When it comes to alcohol, there are plenty of cases of people combining a glass of wine or beer with Valium without realising it is dangerous to do so. They may find they like the feeling it produces and be unaware that they are setting themselves up for a substance abuse issue, or it may get to the point that they are aware but have difficulty stopping.

You can help yourself avoid this course by staying on the lookout for early warning signs of Valium addiction which can include:

  • Losing interest in hobbies
  • Apathy
  • Difficulty experiencing pleasure
  • Becoming private about Valium use 
  • Having cravings

 If these signs are ignored, the Valium addiction will continue to progress leading to a long-term diazepam addiction. Signs of this stage include:

  • Prioritising Valium over everything else
  • Using it in spite of negative health impacts
  • Becoming argumentative or defensive about substance abuse
  • Needing bigger doses of Valium to experience the same feelings  
  • Experiencing strong cravings
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

As well as these warning signs, people with a Valium and alcohol problem may notice physical symptoms including:

  • Dizziness
  • Clumsiness and accidents
  • Memory problems
  • Lack of focus
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression

Whether you notice the early warning signs or are in the later stages of addiction, it’s never too late to get help. If your or someone you love has a problem with alcohol and Valium addiction, you should reach out for help. It may be challenging, but there are alcohol and Valium addiction treatment options which can be successful.

What Should You Do If You Have to Take Valium & Alcohol?

It goes without saying that before taking any form of medication it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider about any queries and read the literature that comes with it in full. If you’re unsure about anything, please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0808 271 7500. However, here’s what to do in the event you have drank alcohol while taking Valium

If You Have Accidently Drank a Small Amount of Alcohol

Perhaps you have been prescribed Valium for a health condition and weren’t aware you couldn’t drink alcohol with it. Or maybe you thought the Valium was out of your system and so had a glass of wine or beer.  

If this is you, first of all try and stay calm and avoid panicking. If you’re not experiencing any symptoms hopefully you will be OK. Depending on how much Valium you’ve taken and how much alcohol you’ve drunk, you may feel a little more tired than normal. The main thing is to check you don’t develop any concerning symptoms such as dizziness, confusion or breathing problems. If you experience any such symptoms, you need to seek urgent medical care or call your emergency services.

If You Have Mixed Valium and Alcohol on a Few Occasions

You may have accidentally been mixing Valium and alcohol for a little while, without being privy to the dangers of doing so. Perhaps you have only just realised that Valium has a long half-life (which means it stays in your body for a long time, longer than the effects last) and thought you were drinking when it was safe to do so.

In this case, you should also monitor yourself for symptoms and seek medical care at the first sign of any. It’s also crucial to avoid mixing alcohol and Valium going forward. If you have difficulty abstaining from that, you may have developed an addiction and you should get some support to help you detox if it is safe for you to do so.

If You Mix Valium and Alcohol Regularly

If you are deliberately mixing Valium and alcohol together because you like the way it makes you feel, it is important to recognise that you may be dealing with an addiction. While the effects might feel pleasant, you are putting your health at serious risk by continuing to mix these two substances together. We’d advise you to contact support and seek addiction treatment to help beat it.

If You Have Mixed Valium and Alcohol and Are Experiencing Side Effects

It is important to call your emergency services or seek urgent care if you, or anyone, is experiencing any symptoms such as:

  • Unsteadiness and dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced motor control
  • Memory issues
  • Breathing problems

You should also contact help if you are with someone who has mixed Valium and alcohol and they have become unconscious.

What Is the Safest Way to Treat Alcohol & Valium Dependence?

If you have developed a dependence on alcohol and Valium, addiction is a potential consequence. An addition means that you are no longer able to control your use of these substances. It’s often easier to develop an addiction when two or more substances are involved.

Because alcohol and Valium both act in a similar way within the body and brain, used together over the long-term you may develop a cross-tolerance to them. And combined, you are more likely to experience dependence, withdrawal symptoms and addiction.

Of course, it’s not just using multiple substances which puts you at a higher risk for addiction. The age you started using these substances plays a role, along with genetic, biological and environmental factors. Having co-occurring disorders can also contribute to developing an addiction in the first place, and impact the severity of withdrawal symptoms experienced.

If you are dealing with multiple addictions, like to Valium and alcohol, this is indicative of a more complicated situation and will require a nuanced treatment approach to beat. You’ll ideally need an integrated addiction treatment program that can tackle both multiple addictions along with any mental health disorders or health issues, all while minimising the withdrawal symptoms you experience. This will set you up for the best chance of recovery.

Medical Detox

If you are dealing with an addiction to Valium and alcohol, the first step will be medically detoxing from them. This will involve slowing tapering down your usage in a gradual, safe manner to minimise withdrawal symptoms. Throughout the withdrawal process, you may be prescribed certain medications to help with this process or any symptoms. A medical detox of this nature is best carried out in a safe, clinical environment like Castle Craig where there are experienced staff on hand to guide you through the process and help you to avoid a relapse.

Inpatient Addiction Treatment

Once you have detoxed and got over the worst of the withdrawal symptoms you can start to focus on a treatment program that helps you understand why you developed an addiction so that you can address those issues and avoid a relapse. Here you might also engage with other treatment options, from support groups to yoga, all aimed at equipping you with the skills to aid your recovery and prevent a relapse. If you choose to do this as a patient you will stay at the treatment centre for the duration, this has the benefit of removing any of the major triggers involved in your addiction.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

If you cannot attend inpatient treatment, there is the option to receive the same treatment as an outpatient. This means that you will attend the treatment center daily throughout the withdrawal process, but remain based at home. This option doesn’t remove all the stressors and triggers of life, but it is a good option if in-patient treatment isn’t an option for you. It’s worth noting that because outpatient treatment is less intensive, it usually goes on for a longer time than in patient treatments.

Support Groups

While they are not the first step towards overcoming an addiction, a support group can be a very useful tool for maintaining sobriety. Once the initial alcohol and Valium detox is complete, a support group can be a very useful space for hearing from people who have been dealing with similar issues to you, gone through similar struggles and have continued to stay sober.

Counselling and Therapy

While it is important to deal with the physical symptoms of diazepam addiction through a detox, it’s crucial to address the psychological symptoms too. One evidence-based way to tackle this is through therapy and counselling. You will work with a therapist to understand where your addiction came from and develop some new coping strategies to help you avoid a relapse.

Valium with Alcohol FAQs

How long do you have to wait to drink after Valium?

Valium has a long-half life, which means it stays in the body for much longer than you might think. It has an elimination phase of 1-2 days, but various factors can impact this such as age, weight and other medications. You should wait at least two days before having any alcohol.

Can I have a glass of wine while taking diazepam?

You should avoid drinking any alcohol, including one glass of wine, while you are taking diazepam. They are both sedatives and combining them can result in unpleasant symptoms including drowsiness, confusion and it can even prove fatal. 

Can I have a beer after diazepam?

You should avoid drinking any alcohol, including a beer, while you are taking diazepam. They are both sedatives and combining them can result in unpleasant symptoms including drowsiness, confusion and it can even prove fatal. 

How long does 5mg diazepam last?

The effects of diazepam including the relaxed state you find yourself in can last up to 6 hours. However, diazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine, so the drug stays in your system for much longer than the effects of it are felt by you.

Can you drive on diazepam?

Diazepam can negatively impact your cognitive function, which in turn can impair your ability to drive safely. As such, this class of medicine is in the list of drugs included in regulations under 5a of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

How does diazepam make you feel?

Diazepam can make you feel relaxed and a bit tired when you start taking it. You might also struggle with focus, feel confused, experience blurred vision and have muscle weakness.

What does diazepam do to your body?

Diazepam relaxes your central nervous system by increasing the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). If you don’t have enough GABA in your system, you may feel anxious or experience muscle spasms or seizures.

Get in touch today

To find out how we can help you, please telephone Castle Craig on our 24-Hour Helpline: 0808 271 7500. or click here to arrange a free addiction assessment or here for more information.

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