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Valium Addiction, Abuse and Treatment
Valium is the brand name for diazepam, a benzodiazepine derivative used for its calming properties. Valium is most often prescribed to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms and seizures. Valium is also used to ease the difficulty caused by alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Nicknamed “mother’s little helper” after a Rolling Stones song of the same name, Valium has only grown in popularity since the drug’s official release in the 1960s. This has sparked concern for the type of clean-cut, middle-class demographic an outside observer might not expect to house a debilitating addiction–even to a prescription.
Users of the drug refer to diazepam as Vs, Yellow Vs (5 mg), Blue Vs (10 mg), benzos or tranks (short for tranquilizers).
Valium Abuse and Addiction
As a potent drug of the benzodiazepine class, Valium is most often used by people who need help dealing with the stress of daily life. Although researchers long believed Valium addictions were based on a negative reward system rather than a positive one (people took the drug to avoid feelings of stress or despair), a study out of the Academy of Finland suggested that diazepam produces the same sense of reward in the brain as alcohol or morphine.
Valium is often abused in combination with additional prescription medications and alcohol.
Because Valium depresses the central nervous system, it is especially dangerous to combine with other anti-anxiety drugs. Most overdoses from Valium occur when the drug is mixed with other depressants.
Effects of a Valium Addiction
An addiction to Valium can progress quickly, as tolerance to benzodiazepines develops fairly rapidly. As a benzo, Valium works on neurotransmitters in the brain to slow down mental processes. It doesn’t take long for the brain to stop functioning normally without the drug.
Studies suggest continued use of Valium beyond 3 months raises the likelihood of developing an addiction. Once someone becomes physically and psychologically dependent on it, Valium is difficult to overcome.
The physical effects of this addiction include:
– Drowsiness and tiredness
– Diarrhea or constipation
– Difficulty urinating or frequent urination
– Blurred vision
– Skin rash
– Irregular heartbeat
Admissions for benzo treatment (including valium) tripled between 1998 and 2008, while overall treatment increased only 11%.
95% of all benzo and Valium ER and treatment admissions reported another substance as well.
Over 60 million prescriptions for Valium are written each year, among the most prescribed drugs.
“Mother’s Little Helper”—Valium and Pop Culture
The Rolling Stones released their hit song “Mother’s Little Helper” in 1966 lamenting the pangs of growing older. It resonated with a generation that came to view the little yellow (or blue) pills as a quick fix to turbulent lives.
Approved by the FDA in 1963, Valium was cultivated in a decade known for recreational psychoactives. It presented itself as a safe alternative to the freewheeling consumption of street and designer drugs of the age. Bolstered by an aggressive advertising campaign targeting the middle-aged and middle-class, diazepam became the drug of moderation. It was created to help hard-working people deal with the stresses of everyday life.
When Vogue ran a cautionary article in 1975, its message was clear: Valium isn’t as safe as you think, and could be more addictive than heroin. The Justice Department designated Valium as a Schedule IV drug, tightening regulations on its distribution. Still, scripts were written in the millions.
Valium became the first prescription drug to net more than $1 billion. Betty Ford opened one of the most renowned treatment centers after coming clean about her own struggle with the powerful drug (alongside alcohol). Today, the estimated number of benzodiazepine addictions run in the millions.
Diazepam (Valium) stays in the body for a long time meaning treatment can be difficult. Withdrawal from Valium is extremely uncomfortable and potentially deadly if attempted without a doctor. Many doctors recommend a taper-down method of detoxification. During detox, the physician will create a strict schedule to wean the addict’s body off of the drug.
Some withdrawal effects include:
– Muscle cramps
Depending on the severity and length of the addiction, detox can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Most successful treatment plans require inpatient therapy (a closed environment free of distractions and temptations) or outpatient treatments, including support groups and ongoing group or individual therapy. Recovery is a long road, but as many former addicts will attest, worth every step.
You can overcome your Valium addiction. Get in touch with someone who can help you get the treatment you deserve to overcome this addiction.