Diazepam Side Effects, Overdose and Pregnancy Risks

Last Updated: March 25, 2024

Nena Messina Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.
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Diazepam is a drug from the benzodiazepine class used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other conditions. Like any other benzodiazepine, it has sedating properties and can cause side effects. Valium side effects can be present regardless of the amount taken. Because it is not meant for long-term use, those who use it for prolonged periods may suffer more severe Diazepam side effects. Those who take doses higher than prescribed or mix it with alcohol are at risk of Valium overdose. Learn more about the drug’s adverse health reactions, use in pregnancy, and natural alternatives.

Common Diazepam Side Effects

Diazepam causes a calming effect on a patient, but due to its influence on the body and brain, it can cause some unwanted health reactions. Everyone reacts to medications differently, meaning not everyone will experience these Valium effects.

Valium Side Effects

The following reactions are not severe in nature and tend to subside over time. However, if they persist or cause significant distress, one needs to talk to a medical professional.

Common Side Effects Of Valium Are: 

  • Agitation
  • Balance problems caused by spinning sensation
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Drowsiness, dizziness
  • Dryness of mouth
  • Dysarthria or slurred speech
  • Inability to focus or impaired memory
  • Itchy skin often with rashes
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness

Severe Valium Side Effects

Though not common, some Diazepam side effects are severe and may be fatal at times. If anyone uses this drug and experiences any of the following symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately.

Severe Valium Effects Include:

  • Decreased respiration
  • Excessive restlessness and aggressive behavior
  • Loss of fear or taking unwanted risks
  • Low moods often accompanied by suicidal or self-harming thoughts
  • Mental confusion
  • An occurrence of convulsions in patients who were previously non-epileptic
  • Reduced or inhibited urine output
  • Seeing or listening to things that do not exist in reality
  • Shaking of body or limbs
  • Unable to control bladder

Apart from the mentioned above Valium side effects, a small number of patients may also experience any of the following symptoms.

These Are Less Common:

  • Severe mood swings
  • Muscle weakness
  • Concentration problems
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Excessive agitation
  • Problems with sleep, too much or too little sleep
  • Severe pain in the stomach
  • Seizures

Moreover, mixing Diazepam with alcohol or opioids causes even more serious reactions. Alcohol works as a depressant, the same as Valium. This combination can cause breathing problems and even an overdose.

Allergic Reactions to Valium

Some patients who are allergic to Valium and any other part of the drug prep may develop severe allergic symptoms. Allergy is a medical emergency, and one needs to visit a doctor right away if they develop any of the allergy symptoms.

These Symptoms Are:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest tightness
  • Swollen face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Welts

Effects of Long-Term Use

In general, treatment with Valium is given for less than 4 months in a row. It’s because the data regarding the usefulness of its long-term usage is inconclusive. Nonetheless, a doctor may prescribe it for a longer time after seeing the condition and response to the drug, and if there are no severe side effects of Valium observed in a patient.

Here Are Some Symptoms That Arise With Long-Term Use of Valium:

  • Loss of memory or inability to store new memories
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Labored breathing
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Coma
  • Heart attack

The most unusual among long-term Diazepam side effects is tolerance, which is followed by addiction. As a result, tolerance in most cases is admittedly an early sign of future drug dependence. Taking the medication for a prolonged period makes Diazepam addiction very likely, making the user unable to stop its use. So, for a drug like Valium, which has a high level of abuse potential, slowly reducing the dose rather than “cold turkey” can lessen the risk of tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and ultimately the addiction.

The Risks of Using Valium While Pregnant

Valium, or generically, Diazepam, is a Category D drug, the second most dangerous category of drugs for expecting women to take, which means there are connections between Valium and pregnancy birth defects.

Pregnant woman taking valium.

Even in cases where doctors suggest the pregnant mother continue taking the Diazepam, it’s not for long-term use or high doses. In general, it is only used at the lowest possible dose to treat sudden and severe panic or anxiety. When the mother is addicted to Diazepam, doctors tend to continue the use while slowly lowering the dose to prevent stress on both mother and child due to withdrawal risk.

Even if doctors suggest a pregnant woman continue taking the medication, it’s important to understand that Diazepam will affect an unborn baby.

The Effects Include:

  • Miscarriage
  • Malformation
  • Intrauterine growth retardation
  • Functional deficits
  • Oral clefts
  • Central nervous system defects
  • Ocular hypertelorism
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Cardiovascular abnormalities
  • Hemangioma
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Low birth weight
  • Floppy infant syndrome
  • Neonatal withdrawal syndrome

Use of benzodiazepines in the first trimester has been associated with a 5% risk of major oral malformations, including oral cleft; the risk lowers in later trimesters but is not eliminated. In the third trimester, there is a risk of neonatal withdrawal syndrome occurring after birth develops. The syndrome can lead to an inability to sleep, physical pain, decreased respiratory function, and even death. It means that the use of Diazepam in pregnancy is dangerous at any stage.

The Risks to the Pregnant Women

Diazepam can impact the pregnant woman’s health right from the start. For example, Diazepam can cause nausea and vomiting; this can make common morning sickness much worse, leading to dehydration and hospitalization. For pregnant women, severe risks can develop from such a condition.

While the risks of Valium and pregnancy first-trimester use are considered the worst for the baby—which is debatable—the risks to the mother are present throughout all three trimesters.

Valium Overdose

Valium overdose can be dangerous, so recognizing the signs of a potential overdose is essential. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Diazepam overdose cases leading to death have increased by over 10 times in amount between 1999 and 2017. This information highlights the importance of spotting the symptoms as early as possible.

The clearest sign of a Valium overdose is the individual may seem to be in a coma-like state.

This Condition Can Induce Deep Sleep, as Well as Other Symptoms Such As:

  • Blue nails and lips
  • Blurred vision
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Respiratory issues
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Dizziness and loss of coordination

Diazepam overdose can have deadly effects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that more than 30% of overdoses in the USA are caused by prescription medication such as Valium. Hence, their danger is unequaled by any other drugs on the market.

Man lying on the floor after Valium overdose.

The amount of the substance required to cause an overdose varies from person to person. It depends on BMI, tolerance, and a few other factors. Most doctors will only prescribe 2-10mg doses of Valium, to be taken 2-4 times daily depending on a person’s condition. However, some people may be prescribed less and could overdose on quantities far smaller. It means there is no precise Valium overdose amount. According to the US Library of Medicine, the lethal dose of Diazepam can be any amount larger than what is prescribed. That is why it is vital to follow the guidelines of a medical doctor when taking the prescribed Valium.

Natural Valium Alternatives

Having considered all the risks of Valium side effects, some people may want to find safer alternatives to treat their anxiety. With all the Diazepam health dangers, especially with long-term use, sometimes natural remedies can be a good substitute.

Some Examples Of Natural Valium Substitutes Are:

  • Magnesium – Many people suffer the psychological issues of depression and anxiety worst effects due to their diet. Foods such as milk or fish provide magnesium which is invaluable to the body and will help ward away anxiety.
  • Meditation – Taking some time away to meditate helps considerably with anxiety. Meditation helps to calm, soothe and give perspective on every worry-causing matter.
  • Exercise– It sounds obvious, but activities help produce positive chemicals in the body; these endorphins help decrease anxiety and depression and improve mood.
  • Vitamin and Herbal Supplements – There are various supplements out there that will help calm down and give the body the nutrients it needs to fight out the anxiety.

Natural Valium substitutes have many benefits, such as being less addictive and not causing the user to relapse into a state worse than they were initially in.

The doctor will provide all necessary information about the effectiveness of such methods for one’s particular condition and the possibility of quitting Valium with minimal risks.

Recovery Starts Today

Diazepam is a drug that, like any other, can cause side effects, some of which can be severe. Being not cautious enough while taking this medication or not following the doctor’s guidelines can cause an overdose. Due to a high rate of deaths among those who abuse benzodiazepines, it has become especially important to notice symptoms and act quickly when it comes to Valium overdose.

Valium is an effective anti-anxiety medication. Still, its use doesn’t come without a risk of addiction. Addiction is a chronic disorder and requires a group effort from family, friends, and healthcare professionals. Addiction treatment centers have a skilled team dedicated to giving patients all kinds of services, and they help get back to normal life. Addiction treatment experts can provide the right guidance and can help to deal with addiction or withdrawal.

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Page Sources

  1. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VALIUM: brand of diazepam TABLETS. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/013263s094lbl.pdf
  2. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES. VALIUM: INFORMED CONSENT FOR MEDICATION. 2017. https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/forms1/f2/f24277v-valium.pdf
  3. Chemm, FDA Pregnancy Categories, 2008. https://chemm.hhs.gov/pregnancycategories.htm
  4. Dolovich, L. R., Addis, A., Vaillancourt, J. M., Power, J. D., Koren, G., & Einarson, T. R. (1998). Benzodiazepine use in pregnancy and major malformations or oral cleft: meta-analysis of cohort and case-control studies. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 317(7162), 839–843. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7162.839
  5. Haybarger, E., Young, A. S., & Giovannitti, J. A., Jr (2016). Benzodiazepine Allergy With Anesthesia Administration: A Review of Current Literature. Anesthesia progress, 63(3), 160–167. https://doi.org/10.2344/16-00019.1
  6. Czeizel, A.E., Erös, E., Rockenbauer, M. et al. Short-Term Oral Diazepam Treatment during Pregnancy. Clin. Drug Investig. 23, 451–462 (2003). https://doi.org/10.2165/00044011-200323070-00004
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Overdose Death Rates, 2021. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  8. Boyle, N. B., Lawton, C., & Dye, L. (2017). The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(5), 429. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9050429
  9. Medline Plus, Diazepam Overdose. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002629.htm

Published on: March 15th, 2017

Updated on: March 25th, 2024


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