Is Valium Addictive? Signs and Symptoms of Valium Addiction

Is Valium addictive? A few decades ago, it was among the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. Today, though its usage has dropped considerably, millions of people still take it for legitimate medical or mental health reasons (and many others abuse it). Understanding the facts about Valium addiction can help you protect yourself and your loved ones.

What Is Valium?

Valium is the brand name of a prescription medication that is typically prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, seizure disorders, and muscle spasms. It is also sometimes incorporated into treatment for people who are experiencing acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

The active ingredient in Valium is diazepam, which is a benzodiazepine. First synthesized in 1959, diazepam earned approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) four years later. 

By 1968, Valium was one of the best-selling medications in the U.S., and it would remain at or near the top of the list through the early 1980s. In 1978 alone, U.S. pharmacies sold more than 2.3 billion tablets.

In the 1980s, growing concern about Valium’s potential for abuse and addiction led to reduced sales of the medication, though it is still frequently prescribed. For example, in 2021, Valium ranked as the 149th most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S., with more than 3.9 million prescriptions written for more than 1.2 million patients.

How Does Valium Work?

When a person takes Valium, the drug binds to GABA receptors in the central nervous system. 

GABA (an acronym for gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This means that it slows the distribution of messages through the central nervous system. Valium’s interactions with GABA receptors lead to elevated levels of the neurotransmitter, which in turn has a calming effect on the body and mind.

Unfortunately, this effect has made Valium an enticing substance for people who are seeking a certain type of recreational high. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 3.9 million people ages 12 and above have admitted to intentionally misusing Valium or another benzodiazepine at least once in the previous year. 

Underscoring the potential danger of Valium abuse, NIDA has also reported that Valium and other benzos were involved in 12,499 overdose deaths in 2021 alone.

Is Valium Addictive?

As suggested by the prescription statistics we reported in the previous section, questions such as “is Valium addictive?” do not appear to have received significant consideration during the first two decades of the drug’s availability in the U.S. 

However, by the early 1980s, it had become difficult to ignore either the question or its answer. 

So, is Valium addictive? Yes, it is.

Valium is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance in the U.S. This means that, in the opinion of the federal government, the drug poses low risk of abuse and addiction. 

Other commonly abused substances (such as opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine) are generally considered to be more addictive than Valium. But anyone who uses this drug – even those who do so as directed by a qualified healthcare provider – risks becoming addicted to it.

What Does Valium Addiction Feel Like?

Having answered the question in the headline of today’s post, let’s move on to a common follow-on query: What are the signs and symptoms of Valium addiction?

We’ve broken the answer to this question into two sections. First, we’ll discuss what it can feel like if you have become addicted to Valium. Then, in the next section, we’ll highlight common warning signs of Valium addiction in someone else.

If you have been using Valium, the following symptoms could indicate that you have developed an addiction:

  • You spend considerable amounts of time seeking, acquiring, and using Valium (as well as recovering from its effects).
  • When you can’t acquire or use Valium, you become agitated or irritated.
  • You find it difficult to get through the day without using Valium.
  • You rely on Valium to help you deal with stress, frustrations, or setbacks.
  • You have used Valium in ways that you know are especially dangerous, such as taking it while also drinking alcohol or using other drugs.
  • You have experienced harm (such as job loss, lost relationships, legal issues, or health problems) as a result of your Valium use – yet you continue to use the drug.
  • Valium doesn’t have the same impact on you that it used to. As a result, you’ve had to take larger amounts in order to achieve the effects that you are hoping for.
  • You have lied to friends or family members about the amount and frequency of your Valium use.
  • You want to stop using Valium, but you simply can’t.

What Does Valium Addiction Look Like?

If you suspect that someone in your life has developed Valium addiction, keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • They exhibit dramatic shifts in mood, attitude, and energy.
  • They frequently seem disoriented, confused, or simply uninterested in what’s going on around them.
  • They struggle with their balance and coordination.
  • They have begun to exhibit uncharacteristic restlessness or irritability.
  • They have tried to buy or steal Valium that was prescribed to someone else.
  • They have been using Valium in larger amounts (or for a longer period of time) than directed by their doctor or pharmacist.
  • They have lied about their symptoms in an attempt to convince a doctor to write them another Valium prescription.
  • They have attempted to acquire Valium from illicit online pharmacies or other illegal sources. 
  • They’ve stopped participating in sports, hobbies, or other social activities that used to be important to them.
  • Their performance in school or at work has declined noticeably, for no apparent reason.
  • They have started to neglect important responsibilities, such as paying bills, keeping appointments, or even maintaining their hygiene and appearance.
  • They’ve been having unexplained financial problems.

Please note that none of the signs or symptoms listed in this section or the previous one are definitive proof of Valium addiction. But if you believe that you or a loved one has become addicted to Valium, you should schedule an assessment with your doctor or another qualified expert.

Valium abuse can be deadly – but Valium addiction is treatable. An assessment can be your first step on the path to a much healthier life, free from the dangers of compulsive Valium abuse.

Learn More About Valium Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts

Lake Avenue Recovery offers customized outpatient care for adults who have become addicted to Valium and other substances.

When you choose our drug rehab in Worcester, Massachusetts, you will have the opportunity to work in close collaboration with a team of highly skilled professionals. We will take the time to get to know you as a unique and valuable individual, so that we can develop a comprehensive, personalized plan to help you end your Valium abuse and live a healthier life in recovery.

When you’re ready to get started, the Lake Avenue Recovery team is here for you. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.