Detox Local

Valium Withdrawal & Detox

Medically Reviewed By: Benjamin Caleb Williams RN, BA, CEN

Written By: Gary Bowers

Article Updated: 09/25/2020

Number of References: 2 Sources

Valium, the brand name for the chemical compound diazepam, has a long pharmacological history. Valium belongs to a drug classification called benzodiazepines, or benzos. One of the very first benzos to be branded and marketed for prescriptive use, Valium emerged in the 1960s as a revolutionary form of treatment for a wide range of disorders including anxiety, epilepsy, and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The effectiveness of Valium in treating some conditions soon became overshadowed by an underestimation of the side effects, overprescription, and misuse. This guide will reveal the realities of Valium withdrawal and detox. Although Valium isn’t commonly recognized as a powerful drug, Valium use can have a significant impact on the body, and withdrawal and detox can be dangerous and, though rarely, deadly.

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Symptoms of Valium Withdrawal

The physical effects of Valium detox can range from mild to deadly, but they’re all treatable. Yes, there are dangers, but with medical care and observation, detoxification from Valium can be done safely. The symptoms of Valium Withdrawal can be divided into two categories: acute withdrawal, and post-acute withdrawal.

Acute Withdrawal

Acute withdrawal will begin 6-11 hours after the last dose of Valium. The severity or intensity of withdrawal symptoms will vary. If Valium withdrawal isn’t facilitated by medical professionals in a detox setting, symptoms can be intense, painful, and possibly dangerous. The acute withdrawal symptoms of Valium detox will be a combination of mental and physical symptoms:

  • Body Tremors and Shaking
  • Nervousness
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Depression/Mood Swings
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks
  • Body Aches and Pains
  • Psychosis
  • Irritability
  • Gastrointestinal Issues
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Cravings for Valium
  • Cognitive Impairment

Abrupt cessation of Valium can trigger the most severe symptoms. Doctors may initiate a tapering schedule to mitigate symptoms and prevent deadly complications. A tapering schedule would be a gradual reduction in the amounts of Valium taken over time until no Valium is taken. Managing this aspect of withdrawal will assist in preventing seizures which is the most dangerous symptom of Valium detox. The exact tapering schedule will be individualized by the medical staff at Valium detox centers. Other symptoms can be managed with medical therapy.

These symptoms may not be present all at once, and some may not present themselves at all. With care and supervision from the medical staff, these symptoms can be managed with minimal complications.

Post-Acute Withdrawal

Post-Acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), is a troubling phenomenon that often occurs after the acute withdrawal phase. There is no way to predict how someone will respond after detox, and the exact causes, or contributing factors, of PAWS, are unknown.

What is known, is that benzos like Valium produce the worst cases of PAWS, with symptoms persisting for months, sometimes even years, after detox.

The symptoms of PAWS are primarily psychological:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive Impairment
  • Lack of Concentration
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Drug Cravings
  • Troubles Managing Stress

PAWS symptoms are troublesome, but they are treatable. The most effective approach would be to address PAWS from a variety of directions. Medical therapy in the form of antidepressants and anxiolytics can address deficiencies in brain chemistry. Individual, family, and group therapy can address the thoughts and behaviors that can contribute to the stress of PAWS. Support groups and 12 step programs can help break down barriers and enhance social connection.

Valium Withdrawal Timeline

There will be many factors that can affect how someone will respond to Valium detox. For example, someone who has reached a point of physical dependency upon Valium may experience a more drawn-out detox process. Someone who was abusing other drugs in addition to Valium may experience additional complications that can affect the timeline. Despite this variability, there is sufficient clinical and anecdotal evidence that can provide a reasonable timeline for the detoxification process.

First Week

The most intense physical symptoms of Valium detox will be present. Valium has a longer half-life than other benzos which means it remains in the system for longer periods. It’s also been noted that elimination half-life increases with the age of the person, meaning older adults will likely experience a longer withdrawal timeline. Peak symptoms would likely occur 5-7 days after the last dose and include:

  • Body Tremors and Shaking
  • Neurological Disturbances
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Body Aches and Pains
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations (visual, auditory, tactile, or a combination)
  • Psychosis
  • Intense Cravings

Ideally, this first week would take place under the care and observation of a Valium detox center. A stay at a detox facility will likely continue into a second week if the physical symptoms are not under control.

Second Week

By this time, the physical symptoms will likely have diminished, but may still be present. Symptoms during this time will be mostly psychological in nature. Someone may experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks
  • Depression
  • Mood Swings
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Thoughts of Suicide
  • Cravings

With a combination of medication and therapy, these symptoms can be managed. If Valium detox is being managed by medical professionals, these symptoms will remain under 24/7 observation, with interventions as necessary. By the end of 2 weeks, Valium will likely no longer be present in the bloodstream, but the body and brain will continue to repair itself, resulting in ongoing symptoms.

Third Week

If someone chooses to continue their treatment, at this time, they are likely now in an inpatient Valium treatment center, the staff of which will continue to treat the ongoing detox process. Physical symptoms will begin to subside, but there will be continued evidence that the body is still repairing itself. In addition to ongoing psychological symptoms, there will be neurological symptoms to deal with. Examples include:

  • Shaking and Tremors
  • Excitability and Restlessness
  • Cravings

These symptoms are a frustrating but necessary element of the detox process. While bothersome, these symptoms aren’t dangerous and represent the neurological repair being done. In some situations, medications may be administered to improve neurological symptoms, but mostly it’s just a process one has to go through.

Fourth Week and Beyond

Four weeks after the last dose of Valium, there can still be lingering and persistent problems to deal with. By this time, the risk of deadly seizures is eliminated. Sleep patterns should be improving. The shakiness, jumpiness, and other neurological effects will be less present. Ongoing therapy and medical treatment will still be necessary at this time to provide relief for the ongoing psychological that will be present at this time.

The most common symptoms at this stage are:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Cravings

Ongoing treatment is vital to continue the progress made thus far. It can be helpful to remember the amount of time spent using Valium or other drugs before treatment was initiated, and compare that to the time spent in recovery. The time spent over the last 4 weeks will prepare you for the weeks ahead. With help from doctors, therapists, and supportive people, recovery is possible!

Physical Effects of Detoxing From Valium

To better understand the symptoms of Valium withdrawal, it is important to understand how Valium interacts with the body. Valium is a sedative/hypnotic drug that acts as a central nervous system depressant. Specifically, Valium interacts with the body by enhancing the effect of endogenous (naturally-occurring) GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors. Enhancing the body’s response to GABA results in a calming effect in many brain systems including the limbic system and the cerebral cortex.

Here are some of the physical effects of detoxing from Valium:

Neurological Symptoms

Valium is a very effective medication for calming the body and brain, hence its success as a tool in treating seizures and convulsions. This success comes at a price, however, because it can become easy for the body to build up a tolerance for Valium. This means more and more Valium is needed to achieve the original effect of the drug. This also means the GABA receptors in the brain begin to rely upon Valium to function properly. Once Valium is removed from the system, the naturally-occurring GABA receptors in the brain are under-functioning. This results in a dramatic “rebound” effect wherein the body begins overcompensating. This can also lower the seizure threshold, as GABA plays a role in reducing the likelihood of experiencing a seizure. The result is a sort of neurological overdrive. Seizures, shaking, convulsions, sensory malfunctions, and excitability will become common until the brain has recovered from the effects of Valium. This can also include hallucinations of an auditory or sensory nature; that is feeling or hearing things that aren’t there.

Aches and Pains

The aches and pains experienced during Valium detox are directly related to the neurological side effects. What commonly occurs, is that people will unconsciously create tension in their bodies as a result of anxiety or as they battle with shaking, twitching, and convulsions. To illustrate this phenomenon, imagine your hand is shaking uncontrollably. You may make a fist or tighten your hand muscles in an attempt to stop the shaking. You may hold your fist tighter and tighter to control the shaking. The result is a pain in your hand from muscle tension. This can occur in the body without someone being cognizant of what is going on. This tension can result in body aches, headaches, soreness.

Gastrointestinal Issues

These symptoms are not typically dangerous, but they can be uncomfortable. Gastrointestinal issues would include bloating, gas, nausea, upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea are common. Sometimes colloquially called ‘benzo belly’, it is thought that these problems are related to GABA receptors in the gut. Additionally, anxiety can contribute to stomach issues as well by increasing someone’s stress levels.

Psychological Effects of Detoxing From Valium

Detox from Valium can be challenging psychologically. This challenge is heightened for anyone who began taking Valium to cope with anxiety or other psychological disorders. In any event, it can be very easy to become psychologically addicted to Valium. The depressant effects of Valium can offer temporary pleasure and euphoria which can develop into a powerful, although unhealthy, coping mechanism. Becoming psychologically adapted to the pleasure and relaxation of Valium, there can be a significant psychological “rebound” as someone begins Valium detox.

Here are some of the psychological effects of detoxing from Valium:

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Senses will be heightened during Valium detox. Remember that Valium is a powerful depressant that slows reaction and response to outside stimuli. When the depressant is removed from the system, it can feel like the world speeds up, becomes louder, more abrasive, and scarier. It is thought this could be a result of GABA downregulation. Finally, it is common for those who abuse benzodiazepines to have done so because of a pre-existing anxiety disorder. If someone had a prior issue with anxiety, then they would have more severe symptoms of anxiety during Valium detox than someone with no such prior anxiety issue.

Depression and Mood Swings

Depression during detox is common. Depression could be related to a chemical imbalance such as fluctuating serotonin levels in the brain, or it could be more psychological in the sense that someone is simply struggling with the sudden loss of a powerful coping mechanism. Medications and therapy can help reduce the symptoms and provide effective coping skills that can help someone deal with life without Valium.

Thoughts of Suicide

The depression that commonly accompanies Valium withdrawal can range from mild to severe. In cases of severe depression, it is not uncommon for someone to have thoughts of suicide. In these situations, someone can fell that life without Valium is not worth living, and this could lead to them thinking about, or even planning, suicide. Both medications and behavioral therapies can be very helpful and beneficial during Valium withdrawal, especially in cases of severe depression. These can help reduce the risks and improve someone’s overall mental health during the sometimes difficult Valium detox process.

When Is A Valium Detox Center Recommended?

Along with alcohol, benzos like Valium carry the greatest risk of death or serious complications from withdrawal symptoms. Some people have this perception that Valium isn’t strong enough to cause severe withdrawal symptoms and that’s simply not true. It can be very easy for someone to become psychologically addicted to Valium, making the idea of quitting difficult to confront. Valium use can also lead to drug tolerance (more of the drug is needed to feel the same effects) and drug dependence (the body requires the drug to function properly). Even in the absence of physical addiction, someone can become psychologically addicted and suffer profound mental symptoms during Valium detox.

Valium detox can present challenges for otherwise healthy individuals. Anyone with pre-existing medical conditions – including mental illness – would be at an increased risk for complications during detox. It is highly recommended that anyone with the following health conditions should receive medically-managed detox from a Valium detox center.

Epilepsy or Other Neurological Disorders

It would always be recommended that anyone with epilepsy seek the help of Valium detox centers. The depressant qualities of Valium have unique effects on the brain. Valium use enhances the body’s response to naturally-occurring GABA, creating a sedating and calming effect. Prolonged or excessive use of Valium can lead to dependency. Simply put, this is when the body/brain cannot function normally without the drug. Once the brain becomes dependent upon a sedative, cessation triggers the opposite effect – extreme excitability. This “rebound” effect is what triggers seizures and other neurological symptoms during Valium detox. Valium has noted anti-epileptic and anticonvulsant qualities and quitting can trigger the neurological events it treats.

There is a risk of seizures for anyone in Valium detox. Anyone with a history of epilepsy or neurological disorders will be especially vulnerable during this time. Medical monitoring and professional care can dramatically improve treatment outcomes.

History of Other Drug Use

Anyone with a history of drug use, or previous attempts to quit, should detox under the care of Valium detox centers. Valium is commonly used along with other drugs, including alcohol. Combining drugs is often referred to as polydrug use. Not only does polydrug use significantly raise the risk of overdose, but it can also create a challenging situation during detox. Anyone who has used, or regularly uses, other drugs will be at a higher risk of relapse and complications during detox.

Valium detox centers will have the staff and professional expertise to address polydrug use. Valium use combined with alcohol use would result in a dangerous detox situation that should be medically managed to ensure safety. Medical treatment will be a necessary approach to treatment and access to talk therapy during detox can assist in addressing the many sides of polydrug use.

Panic Attacks or Anxiety

Valium detox centers would be recommended for anyone who has a history of panic attacks or anxiety. Detox from Valium can result in panic attacks or anxiety. This can be a complicated topic to cover for anyone who has used Valium, as prescribed or otherwise, to treat anxiety or panic attacks. This is one of the reasons Valium can have such an incredible psychological hold on people. When detoxing from Valium results in the very symptoms Valium was intended to treat, it can create a self-perpetuating cycle of drug abuse. When someone wants to quit but can’t bring themselves to quit out fear, something needs to change to break that cycle.

Breaking that cycle is possible, with the help of Valium detox centers. It could start with a fresh perspective on medical approaches as offered by detox doctors. Various forms of therapy offered by detox centers can further the discussion needed to address the panic and anxiety that lies beneath it all.

Mental Illness or Previous Suicide Attempts

Detox from Valium can be mentally daunting. Anyone with a history of mental illness or a previous suicide attempt should undertake Valium detox under the care of medical and psychiatric professionals at Valium detox centers. Depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and thoughts of suicide are symptoms of withdrawal from Valium, and while thoughts of suicide may not necessarily be common, they are extremely serious and potentially dangerous when they do occur. Although not all of those concerns would be considered “mental illness”, anyone who has a pre-existing mental illness will be at a higher risk for experiencing problems during detox.

Death by suicide is preventable. At Valium detox centers, patients will have access to a variety of therapies, receive frequent visits from staff psychiatrists, and be under 24/7 observation. These tools combined provide peace of mind and safety.

Finding Help

Recovery is much closer than you think. Valium detox centers are located in cities big and small and are ready to help. Looking for a Valium detox center would begin with a search to find a location nearby. Once you have your search narrowed down, you can hone in on locations that meet your needs best. Some factors to consider would be your insurance coverage, proximity, specialization with certain drugs, and detox types. It’s never too late to start your journey in recovery.

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