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Valium Withdrawal and Detox

The most common symptoms of withdrawal from Valium are anxiety, restlessness and nausea. Serious symptoms, like seizures, can be managed with a medical detox.

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What Is Valium (Diazepam) Withdrawal?

Anyone who has taken Valium for over four months (or even less in some cases) may experience withdrawal symptoms. Valium begins accumulating in the body the longer it’s taken.

As Valium builds up, the body cuts back its production of natural anxiety-relieving chemicals.

Valium users experience stronger withdrawal symptoms as the body starts depending more on the drug to fill the void left by the drug.

Once a physical dependence has developed, the user needs Valium to function and prevent the symptoms of withdrawal. Valium users often increase their doses to counter withdrawal symptoms as their tolerance to the drug increases.

Withdrawal from Valium can be dangerous, so users should never try to quit “cold turkey.” This can lead to seizures, coma, and other potentially fatal outcomes. Quitting Valium requires medical management as the body and brain recalibrate to be able to function properly without the drug.

Benzodiazepines like Valium are some of the most difficult drugs to go through withdrawal from, due to the severity and duration of withdrawal. For the majority of Valium addicts, the initial acute withdrawal lasts for an extended period of time, up to 90 days. The post-acute withdrawal phase is also often a difficult process as it may last from 18-24 months.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the period of time the substance was used, how much the user took on a daily basis, and whether the individual stopped “cold-turkey” (all at once)  or or slowly tapered off. Heavy Valium use over a long period of time leads to more difficult withdrawal symptoms. Valium withdrawal can be serious, but the symptoms are often less intense than more potent benzos like Xanax.

Common symptoms of Valium withdrawal include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting
  • Severe anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Numbness
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory issues
  • Weakness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Sensory hypersensitivity
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle twitching

More serious complications can also arise depending on the severity of use, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Depersonalization
  • Numbness/tingling in the arms and/or legs
  • Delirium
  • Psychosis
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Death

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it takes as little as 15 mg of Valium each day for several months to start experiencing withdrawal symptoms. People who have taken more than 100 mg of Valium a day are more likely to experience serious withdrawal symptoms and complications.

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Duration of Withdrawal

Valium withdrawal lasts longer than that of most other benzodiazepines. Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine designed to deliver extended relief from anxiety.

Because of its long-lasting effects, it takes a while for the symptoms of withdrawal to start. In some cases, the first symptoms of Valium withdrawal may not occur for up to seven days in heavy users.

A study from the 1980s examined the duration of withdrawal in people who had used 60 to 120 mg of Valium for 3 to 14 years. The withdrawal symptoms of the group lasted over a month.

The withdrawal period lasted about 6 weeks. The intensity of the symptoms and signs was high initially, fell during the first 2 weeks, then rose again in the third week, before finally declining.

- Canadian Medical Association Journal, “Diazepam withdrawal syndrome: its prolonged and changing nature,” 1982

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Valium Withdrawal Timeline

First 4 days The first signs of Valium withdrawal might be felt within 12-24 hours of stopping use. Symptoms of anxiety and restlessness start out faint and begin increasing in magnitude over time. Rebound symptoms of the condition Valium was designed to treat may also appear at this time. Symptoms usually begin mildly and slowly increase in intensity.
Week 2 The symptoms of Valium withdrawal often peak in the second week after quitting. The full-blown symptoms of withdrawal start taking effect during this time. These may include insomnia, sweating, nausea and muscle pain.
Weeks 3-4 Valium withdrawal may continue for up to a month after quitting use. The intensity of withdrawal tapers off during this time, and symptoms become more manageable.
Weeks 5+ Many people who have developed a physical dependence on benzodiazepines like Valium experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). These symptoms can appear suddenly after having no symptoms for months or even years.

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Valium Detox

Valium detox is the process of getting the drugs out of the user’s body. The goal of Valium detox is to remove the drugs from the body while minimizing withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxing from Valium can be dangerous without medical guidance. Most Valium users who want to quit follow a detox program that gradually reduces their doses, usually on a weekly basis. This minimizes the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and prevents dangerous complications such as seizures.

Most guidelines and researchers … advocate a fixed discontinuation schedule varying from 4 to 8 weeks in duration.

- Lowinson and Ruiz’s Substance Abuse Textbook, Fifth Edition

The severity of the addiction is the biggest factor on how long detox takes. Those who are more severely addicted take longer to detox because abruptly reducing their Valium doses causes harmful withdrawal symptoms.

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Recovery for a Valium Problem

Treatment is available for everyone struggling with a Valium addiction, regardless of circumstances and background. There are many types of treatments depending on your needs. There is also financial assistance to pay for treatment. The first step is deciding to get help for your addiction.

Treatment for a Valium addiction is meant to make getting off the drug as easy as possible. For heavy Valium users, an inpatient rehab may be the best option. Some people, like one writer who described her trials with Valium in an article for Vice, choose an outpatient clinic to beat their addiction. Either way, treating a Valium addiction is a process that takes time.

The coming months were spent tapering off Valium slowly, thanks to the help of a wonderful, completely nonjudgmental doctor.

- Writer and former Valium addict “Felicity Jones,” Vice, 2014

If you’re ready to get help achieving a life without Valium, a treatment provider can help you determine the best treatment options that fit your needs. Contact one today to get started on your recovery.

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