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Valium Withdrawal Timeline

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

Written By: Gary Bowers

Article Updated: 01/24/2021

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, and these drugs can produce uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms including insomnia, severe anxiety, seizures, and delirium and these symptoms may last for several weeks. This guide will reveal the realities of Valium withdrawal and detox. 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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Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

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 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.

There will be many factors that can affect how someone will respond to Valium withdrawal. 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.

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.

A general overview of the Valium withdrawal process may look like this:

Week 1

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.

Week 2

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.

Week 3

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.

Week 4

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!

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 and may include:

  • 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.

The Importance of Detox

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.

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.

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.

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