Identifying the Signs and Symptoms of Valium (Diazepam) Abuse

Last Updated: July 6, 2020

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Valium, known generically as diazepam, is a benzodiazepine that produces a calming effect and can create a sense of euphoria in the user. The medication is widely prescribed despite being heavily controlled, used to treat anxiety, withdrawal from various substances, muscle spasms, seizures, sleep disturbances, and restless leg syndrome. However, it is also highly addictive, and users and their loved ones should monitor for Valium symptoms indicating abuse.
Diazepam is addictive for a couple of reasons. First, the body can quickly develop a tolerance to the drug, needing more of it to achieve the right effects and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the medication is stopped. However, Valium drug abuse can also occur because the user likes the way the medication makes them feel. In these cases, diazepam abuse may start as mental dependence with physical dependence following.

General Valium Drug Abuse Symptoms

Girls suffers from a headache because of Valium withdrawal.
Valium is part of the benzodiazepine class of medications, and like all other medications in this class, it is known for its users developing tolerance to the medication and becoming addicted. In most cases, the medication is only prescribed for short-term use, but there are cases where patients have been prescribed Valium for decades. According to studies, the length of use does not have as much of an impact on addiction as the size of the dose taken, with larger doses contributing to Valium abuse.
Valium addiction symptoms can be both physical and psychological. It is essential that users and their loved ones can spot both types of signs.

Physical Signs of Valium Abuse

  • Queasiness and vomiting
  • Struggles with remaining conscious
  • Being conscious but not aware
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Skin reactions
  • Slow breathing
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Intestinal distress
  • Shakes
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Incontinence
  • Seizures

Psychological Signs of Diazepam Abuse

  • Intense feelings of happiness
  • An overwhelming sense of calm
  • The absence of stress even in highly upsetting situations
  • Alternatively, the development of extreme anxiety
  • A feeling of intoxication
  • Altered states
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares

While these are all Valium symptoms of abuse, these signs are not enough to determine that diazepam is the cause. However, they do indicate that addiction of some sort is present. Most of these signs will be found in those addicted to any central nervous system depressant, including diazepam, other benzodiazepines, opioids, alcohol, and other central nervous system depressants. No matter the cause, if these symptoms are observed, the user is in need of help.

Physical Symptoms of Diazepam Abuse

A diazepam prescription and pills.
While psychological symptoms can help users and their loved ones in determining if a Valium addiction is present, they are often harder to identify. Aside from the most severe psychological signs, they tend to be easy to hide and can be contributed to the underlying conditions being treated. As such, it may be easier, and more comfortable, to focus on physical Valium addiction symptoms.
Diazepam, like any medication, naturally has physical side effects. However, when the medication is abused, these side effects become more pronounced. Because there are so many signs, it is generally easy to realize they are not related to underlying physical conditions. Additionally, as these physical symptoms become worse, they are nearly impossible for the user to hide from others.
The most obvious physical signs will be those related to central nervous system functions. Some of these are expected to be present with prescribed use, even short-term. However, they should not be severe. It is often the severity that is the key to recognizing signs of valium drug abuse. If a patient struggles to remain awake, seems to lack awareness when awake, is taking slower or more shallow breaths, or experiences tremors, they need help. If they express that they are struggling with vision troubles or incontinence, these are also signs that their abuse of the medication is starting to impact their central nervous system.
Of course, the most worrisome signs are those that indicate an overdose is taking place. Overdosing on Valium alone is uncommon, but Valium and other benzodiazepines are present in about 30% of opioid overdoses. Should the user be using both diazepam and opioids, they should get help before it is too late. If diazepam overdose symptoms are noticed, medical attention should be sought immediately.

Behavioral Deviations of the Valium Addict

Depressed young man sitting alone in corner of room.
Because the user may be aware of their addiction and embarrassed that the physical symptoms are so obvious, they may start to pull away from friends and family. As such, behavioral signs may be the key to realizing there is a problem. Valium drug abuse tends to lead to numerous behavioral symptoms that are common to most drug addicts. As such, it may not be possible to determine that Valium is the drug the user is addicted to, but it is possible to determine that an addiction is present.
Behavioral Symptoms of Valium Abuse:

  • Increased agitation and irritability, often lashing out at friends and family
  • Taking Valium in large doses or more often than recommended
  • Expressing fear of being unable to obtain the medication
  • Talking about wanting to stop the medication, but never doing so
  • Spending significant time and mental energy on finding ways to get diazepam
  • Bringing up the topic of Valium often in conversation, or talking about other similar drugs
  • Withdrawing from work, school, friends, and family, potentially to hide their symptoms
  • Often claiming to be sick

These symptoms are often the earliest exhibited, making it easier to get the user help before the addiction becomes severe. With the right interventions upon noticing diazepam abuse symptoms, the abuse can be ended and overdose and other long-term complications prevented.

There Is Help for Valium Abuse

When both users and their loved ones can recognize the signs of Valium drug abuse, it makes it easier to get the help required. While physical and psychological symptoms are important to look for, the earliest and most obvious symptoms tend to be behavioral. There are many clinics across the country that offer the assistance needed to rise above diazepam abuse and live a healthy life.

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Published on: May 14th, 2018

Updated on: July 6th, 2020

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.


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