Overview Of Diazepam (Valium)

Diazepam, which can be sold as Valium, is part of a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It is a controlled substance and should not be prescribed for long periods. This medication has a significant risk of withdrawal that worsens depending on how long a patient has been taking it. Patients need to talk to their doctor about managing their symptoms on a long-term basis without this medication.

Despite the risks, diazepam is an effective short-term medication for anxiety and muscle spasms. Patients in an emergency detox center can take this medication to manage withdrawal from substances. It can also be a good medication for seizures. Doctors prescribe it alongside other epilepsy treatments to better prevent their seizures.

How It Works

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Benzodiazepines are a class of powerful sedatives, including diazepam, that all act in very similar ways. Different medications in this class may have different effects when treating muscle conditions and anxiety symptoms, but they tend to use the same mechanisms of action in the brain. Diazepam slows functions in the body. This helps alleviate panic symptoms and reduce the brain function that leads to muscle spasms. 

When used as part of an epilepsy regimen, this medication is meant to regulate abnormal electrical impulses in the brain. It also increases the GABA levels in the brain. GABA is a chemical that helps individuals calm down. It keeps the brain from having such strong activity in the areas that govern memory and rational thought. It also reduces the severity of an individual's emotions. Diazepam causes patients to feel sedated, have a reduction in their anxiety levels, and have more relaxed muscles. 

Reveal the major uses for this medication next.

Uses And Benefits

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Diazepam has been approved to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, muscle spasms, seizures, and anxiety. Some doctors may use it to sedate patients before a medical procedure, particularly when they are not undergoing full anesthesia. This medication can calm anxiety symptoms and reduce the physical symptoms of a panic attack. It makes it very difficult to continue with distressing thought spirals, which patients may be unable to stop otherwise. Diazepam has been proven effective at reducing anxious thoughts related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

This medication is often prescribed on a short-term basis for individuals experiencing acute symptoms of panic following a catastrophic event. It may also be prescribed as a short-term means of helping generalized anxiety disorder patients. While they are taking diazepam, they can work on learning coping mechanisms for their anxiety. Their doctor can then transfer them to a different long-term medication that does not have the same effects on the brain.

Continue reading to learn about the side effects of this medication next.

Potential Side Effects

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Most of the common side effects of diazepam are mild, provided the medication is taken on a short-term basis at a low dose. However, abuse of the medication can lead to more serious side effects. If patients have symptoms of an allergic reaction like hives or swelling in the throat, they need to seek emergency medical treatment. This medication interferes with the systems in the brain that regulate automatic functions like breathing. If someone using diazepam has blue lips, long pauses in their breath, or is difficult to wake, it is vital for them to seek emergency medical treatment. Patients should call their doctor right away if they have serious breathing troubles, drowsiness, mood changes, or suicidal thoughts. They must also do this for increased anxiety, irritation, agitation, and new seizure development. 

The sedation from the medication lasts longer for older adults than young ones. Elderly individuals who take diazepam may be at an increased risk of falling, due to the muscle weakness and potential drowsiness. Common side effects include feeling tired and drowsy, having weakness in the muscles, and feeling like they have lost some coordination.

Discover the precautions linked to this medication next.

Precautions To Remember

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The most important precaution to remember is that diazepam is not meant to be taken long-term. Even if individuals do not take it regularly, they may still build up a tolerance. The medication has a physical effect on brain function. It does not have to do with addiction. Even if patients are not predisposed to addiction, they cannot prevent the physical dependency that the medication causes. As it affects the GABA centers of the brain, the patient's brain will stop producing as much GABA by itself. This means that there is a long withdrawal process, and quitting suddenly can lead to potentially dangerous symptoms. 

There are other major precautions to remember with this medication. Patients should not drink alcohol with it, as this might cause an impairment in their breathing that can be fatal. Elderly individuals and those with motor function issues should be wary of potential falls.

Get information on potential medication interactions next.

Potential Medication Interactions

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Diazepam can interact with a large number of different medications. Thus, patients must make sure that they have talked to their doctor about all of the medications they are currently taking. This includes herbal supplements and over-the-counter medicines, as well as prescription medications. Sodium oxybate can have life-threatening interactions with diazepam. As mentioned, drinking alcohol while on diazepam increases the risk of severe breathing issues. This also applies to taking opiods alongside this medication. 

Diazepam can interact with St. John's wort, hydrocodone, darunavir, cimetidine, and ketoconazole, among many other medications and supplements. Certain herbal medicines for anxiety and insomnia, like passionflower and valerian, can cause increased drowsy effects when taken with this medication. Combining amphetamines and stimulants with diazepam can cause drowsiness. 

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    Katherine MacAulay