As a prescription drug that is highly addictive, some people end up unintentionally addicted to Valium. If that’s you, you’re not alone: it’s estimated there are some 1.5 million people in the UK addicted to benzodiazepines.
If you, or someone you care about, is addicted to Valium you may be searching for the best ways to detox from it. In this article, we’ll look at some of the main withdrawal symptoms you can expect when you do so, the best methods to undertake a safe and effective Valium detox and measures you can take alongside your detox to support your recovery.
Valium Withdrawal Summary
- Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine that works by slowing down the central nervous system.
- It is prescribed to treat a variety of issues from general anxiety disorder to muscle spasms.
- It is a psychoactive drug which can be both physically and psychologically addictive.
- Beating a Valium addiction, also known as a diazepam addiction, requires going through a medical detox to get it out of your system.
- Withdrawal symptoms include physical effects such as fatigue, heart palpitations and insomnia, as well as psychological effects such as anxiety and mood swings.
- Withdrawal symptoms usually start within 12 – 48 hours of stopping Valium and peak around the two-week mark.
- Most symptoms level out after a month, although post-acute withdrawal syndrome can cause them to flare up months or even years later.
- To minimise the risk of relapse, addiction treatment for Valium should include not only a medical detox, but other supportive treatments such as peer support groups and therapy.
Valium Withdrawal Symptoms
Although Valium is prescribed by doctors, it is a psychoactive drug and can be both physically and psychologically addictive. There are plenty of cases of people taking Valium and becoming unintentionally addicted to the substance.
Unfortunately, if you have a diazepam addiction it can be a dangerous drug to withdraw from without the help of professional support. This medical help becomes even more important if you have been taking Valium for longer than four weeks.
The withdrawal symptoms you can expect when detoxing from Valium include physical symptoms like headaches, sweating and sleep disturbances, along with psychological symptoms such as anxiety, memory issues and confusion. In severe cases, symptoms can include serious symptoms such as psychosis and seizures.
Withdrawal symptoms usually start around 12 – 48 hours after stopping Valium and peak around the second week. From there, symptoms may persist but their intensity will lessen. For those that have developed a physical dependence, there is the risk of experiencing post-acute withdrawal syndrome, which is when withdrawal symptoms persist for months and even years.
Physical Symptoms of Valium Withdrawal
Some of the most typical physical symptoms associated with Valium withdrawal include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Increased blood pressure
- Faster heart rate
- Heart palpitations
- Lack of appetite
- Sensory hypersensitivity
- Weight changes
- Sleep disturbances including nightmares and insomnia
In cases of severe Valium addiction, physical symptoms can include:
- Numbness and tingling
Psychological Symptoms of Valium Withdrawal
Some of the most common psychological symptoms associated with Valium withdrawal include:
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Memory issues
In cases of severe Valium addiction, psychological symptoms can include:
Acute Withdrawal from Valium
The majority of the withdrawal symptoms will happen a few days after stopping Valium and up to two weeks afterwards.
Unfortunately, Valium withdrawal lasts longer than many other kinds of Benzodiazepines. This is because Valium is a long-acting drug which has been created to provide longer-lasting relief from certain conditions, such as anxiety. This means it stays in your system for much longer than similar, but short-acting, drugs like Xanax.
This time period is called acute withdrawal and it is when most symptoms occur, including those listed above.
Ultimately though, the severity and duration of your Valium withdrawal will depend on the severity of your addiction, along with other factors such as your support network, stress levels and life history including earlier traumas.
Valium Withdrawal Timeline
When it comes to withdrawing from Valium, there isn’t a neat timeline. Various factors impact which withdrawal symptoms you experience and how long the process lasts. These factors include:
- Severity of Valium addiction
- Medical history
- Detox method used
While it’s not possible to get a personalised withdrawal timeline without knowing these factors, the below timeline will outline roughly what is to be expected when you go on a Valium detox.
The first few days: Depending on the level of addiction, the first withdrawal symptoms might be experienced in as little as 12 hours after stopping Valium. However, Valium has a changeable half-life which can be as high as 48 hours, so it’s normal to experience no symptoms for a few days. Usually, by day 3 or 4 you will enter the acute withdrawal stage and begin to experience a range of symptoms. These symptoms usually begin faintly and increase in intensity. Along with withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, cravings and heart palpitations, you may also experience rebound symptoms of the condition that you initially used Valium to treat.
Up to Week 2: The symptoms listed above usually peak in the second week after quitting. During this timeframe is when you’ll likely experience the most intense symptoms of withdrawal.
Week 3 – 4: You may continue to experience withdrawal symptoms for up to a month after detoxing from Valium. However, during this time period, the intensity of the symptoms lessens. During this time period, most people move towards stabilising but experiencing issues like anxiety and depression are still common, and many describe a sense of feeling not quite themselves yet.
After a month: Those who have developed a physical dependence (this is characterised by a tolerance to Valium and withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it) on Valium may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome. This is when symptoms can suddenly appear out of the blue, after not having experienced any for months or even years. The symptoms associated with this syndrome typically include mood issues, irritability and general feelings of dissatisfaction. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome requires ongoing addiction treatment, such as therapy, to prevent relapse.
Having a comprehensive grasp of the withdrawal process for Valium is crucial because those experiencing it are at a much higher risk of relapse. Rebound symptoms, like anxiety and muscle spasms, can be especially challenging to deal with, as the person detoxing knows they can be addressed with Valium. Added to that, some of the other withdrawal symptoms can be deeply unpleasant, and this makes it incredibly difficult for anyone to stop Valium on their own without any support.
The point of a Valium detox is to get the drugs out of your body. The optimum way to achieve this, which maximises the chances of success, is to minimise withdrawal symptoms while doing so. This lessens the chance of relapse.
If you are addicted to Valium, it can be dangerous to try and quit it without medical help. You’ll need professional advice on how to gradually reduce your dose, as quitting cold turkey comes with its own set of serious risks, such as seizures. Slowly tapering off also minimises withdrawal symptoms, making the process more manageable.
While people do choose to home detox for Valium addiction, it’s not advisable because of the aforementioned risks. A medically supervised detox is always preferable because there are trained experts on hand to guide you through and provide you with the support you need to get through the process.
Home Detox for Valium
Understandably, many people would rather remain in the comfort and privacy of their own homes and would prefer to opt for an at-home detox.
This might include simply stopping the drug ‘cold turkey’ or taking their own medications. Either option is unwise. Stopping Valium cold turkey is inadvisable as it means bearing the full front of withdrawal symptoms, and in many cases, they are simply too intense and will result in a relapse. And attempting to self-administer medications puts you at risk of an overdose or developing a secondary addiction.
An at-home Valium detox might be appropriate if you have not been taking Valium for more than a few months and do not have an addiction to it, but instead need to taper off your usage. Even then, it is always sensible to work with a trusted healthcare professional to maximise your chances of success.
Work together with your practitioner, who will most likely advise that you gradually reduce your dose. This gentle tapering off will minimise the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and lessen the chance of experiencing a serious complication, such as a seizure.
For people struggling with an addiction to Valium, or taking a high dose, a medically supervised detox is the best way to manage withdrawal symptoms and keep yourself safe. You could choose to do this with either inpatient or outpatient treatment at a rehabilitation centre environment like Castle Craig.
Because Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine, and one with the potential for severe withdrawal symptoms, it is advised you do not stop cold turkey. This is because, at this point, your brain and central nervous system is now dependent on Valium to produce the neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When you stop taking Valium, your body temporarily isn’t able to produce GABA on its own and consequently cannot regulate activity in the brain.
Instead, a medical detox should involve slowly lowering the dosage over a period of about a week. This will get the drug out of your system while minimising the withdrawal symptoms.
The main goal of a detox is to get the person dealing with addiction in a healthy, stable state where they are able to maintain recovery and engage with other supportive Valium addiction treatment, such as therapy.
Medicines that can Support Valium Detox
After talking with your trusted healthcare professional, you may be advised to take some medications to help with your Valium detox. These could include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): these are an antidepressant which can be helpful during the withdrawal process from benzodiazepines, they can help address any rebound anxiety.
Melatonin: this hormone also eases the symptoms of anxiety and can promote sleep. It can also address tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
Anticonvulsant medications: In the rare event of having a seizure, anticonvulsants can be used. There are also reports of these medications proving useful at mitigating some of the other withdrawal symptoms.
Muscle relaxants: A muscle relaxant, such as baclofen, can be used to help reduce cravings for a range of different drugs, including benzodiazepines.
A doctor will be on hand to prescribe any other medication for any specific withdrawal symptoms you need help with, such as a headache or stomach upset.
Getting Help for Valium Withdrawals
Detoxing from Valium is the first stage. Once it is out of your system, you’ll need further support to avoid relapse.
If you have got to the point where you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, the chances are you have an addiction. While detoxing from the Valium is a necessary first step, follow-on support will be needed to get to grips with the addiction, explore what caused it and address these issues to avoid relapsing.
Addiction Support Groups
Support groups offer, in many people’s eyes, a more relaxed setting than therapy. Instead of sitting down one-on-one with a professional, the group setting of peers offers a more laid back approach. While it may be less formal, it is certainly not ineffective. Peer support is incredibly useful at motivating people to avoid a relapse by demonstrating real world success. People can share their backgrounds and success stories, which forms bonds, creates a vital support network and ultimately inspires others.
Addiction Counselling / Therapy
Addictions usually have an underlying cause behind them, and without getting to the bottom of it, the risk of relapse is always a very real threat. There are many types of therapy and counselling to choose from, with CBT being a popular choice for many people looking to beat addiction. With your therapist you will find practical, real-world tools that can help you to avoid relapse in the future.
For those that for whatever reason cannot access inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient treatment at rehabilitation is an excellent choice. You will attend a treatment centre, like Castle Craig, at regular intervals throughout the week or even daily for your addiction treatment, but return home afterwards. This form of rehabilitation is less intense, so it usually lasts for an extended period of time, in some cases up to a year or more.
Check-out our outpatient clinic that offers in-person as well as online outpatient addiction therapy and support.
With residential rehabilitation you will temporarily move into a treatment center. The main benefit of this is it removes all potential triggers and means you have professional support available 24/7 to help you through your Valium detox. Here you will be able to undertake a medical detox in a safe, clinical setting with medical help on hand to guide you through the withdrawal symptoms and give you support when you need it most. As well as the medical detox, you will be able to engage with other forms of addiction treatment, such as the previously mentioned support group and counselling.
Valium Withdrawal FAQs
What does Valium do to your system?
Valium boosts the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which relaxes the central nervous system.
What are the long-term effects of taking diazepam?
Long-term side effects of diazepam can include anxiety, sleep issues and memory problems. There is also some concern about similar brain damage to that seen in people with alcohol addictions.
What are withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines?
Physical withdrawal symptoms from Valium can include a fever, sweating, headaches, stomach pain and insomnia. Psychological withdrawal symptoms from Valium can include mood swings, anxiety and memory issues. In severe cases serious symptoms can include seizures, delirium and psychosis.
Does diazepam need to be tapered?
If you have taken Valium for longer than four weeks, you should avoid abruptly stopping. Instead, the dose should be gradually lowered over a longer period of time. Detox should be combined with ongoing addiction treatments like therapy for the best chance of success.
Are seizures a symptom of detox?
Seizures are a rare but serious complication that can happen when detoxing from Valium.
Does diazepam damage your brain?
Diazepam can slow down your brain’s activity which can impact your cognitive functions including your motor skills and judgement. There is also some concern over the capacity for people who use diazepam over a long period of time to experience the same kind of brain damage seen in people addicted to alcohol.