Is Valium Addictive?

The classification of drugs called benzos, are some of the most addictive substances available. It falls under the category of a sedative-hypnotic substance. Diazepam, also known by the brand name Valium, is one of the most widely prescribed and widely abused benzo. 

With polysubstance use, Valium in addition to other mind-altering substances can create dependency and addiction. This is especially common when mixing Valium with another CNS depressant such as opioid prescription medications. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 95% of people who were admitted into rehab in 2011 for an addiction to benzo such as Valium, also struggled with another substance addiction. In 2013, an estimated 1.2 million people reportedly abused benzos, including Valium, for the first time.

In 2020, medical professionals approved over 4.9 million prescriptions for Valium. Research has found evidence to prove that taking Valium for longer than 4-6 weeks even with a prescription, can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction. With more and more people receiving prescriptions for benzo medications, what are some important factors causing the misuse of the drug? Why is Valium addictive?

White circular Valium tablets lined up in rows on a black table begs the question, is Valium addictive?

What is Valium?

Valium is a fast-acting benzo that provides long-lasting effects. It absorbs quickly into the bloodstream and the effects can last anywhere from 20-100 hours per dosage. Valium was first approved by the FDA in 1963. Soon after, it was categorized as a Schedule IV Controlled Substance under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970.

Valium is prescribed to help patients relieve the symptoms of severe anxiety, muscle spasms and severe seizures. Valium works by reducing hyperactive brain functions. When brain activity is slowed down, it can help users relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. The substance produces an anti-anxiety chemical that causes sedation, muscle relaxation, anticonvulsant and amnestic effects. The sedative side effects of Valium can impair judgment and interfere with critical thinking skills and motor skills.

Valium and other types of benzos are also used to help treat these symptoms in those who are experiencing alcohol withdrawal. During alcohol withdrawal, some patients experience feelings of intense anxiety and insomnia. Benzo such as Valium is often used as MAT to help combat the uncomfortable symptoms and ease the emotional pain of withdrawal. 

Are you addicted to Valium?

Valium addiction is a Sedative, Hypnotic or Anxiolytic Use Disorder. The black box warning label drug is a medication with a high risk for dependence and addiction. According to the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), Valium addiction is a condition characterized by harmful consequences as a result of repeated use of Valium. Repeated patterns of compulsive use of Valium and the development of both a physical and emotional dependence on Valium are also key traits of addiction.

Despite its warning on dependency and addiction, many abusers of Valium take the drug to feel normal, manage stressful emotions and feel a sense of calm. Those who are long-time users of Valium can also develop other co-occurring mental health conditions that were not present before.

Signs of Valium Addiction:

  • Strong cravings and compulsion to continue taking Valium
  • Trouble keeping up with personal and professional responsibilities and obligations
  • Isolation and loss of relationships with friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination and loss of bodily control
  • Changes in appetite
  • Development of depression
  • Development of withdrawal symptoms once drug use has stopped

The side effects of having a Valium Addiction:

  • Development or worsening of seizures
  • Mental confusion
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Consistent thoughts of suicide
  • Memory loss
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Slowed breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Rebound effects include: rebound anxiety and rebound insomnia

Withdrawing from Valium Addiction

Substance withdrawal happens when drug use is suddenly stopped or slowed down after long-term use. Benzos such as Valium are known to be one of the most difficult drugs to experience withdrawal from. This is due to the severity and duration of the process. Because Valium is a long acting benzo, initial symptoms of withdrawal may not occur for up to 7 days after the medication was stopped. This is because the substance has not completely been expelled from the body.

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Symptoms of Valium withdrawal:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Tension and confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory impairment and headaches
  • Vomiting and sweating
  • Hallucinations, delirium and psychosis
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Hand tremors
  • Rebound anxiety: a syndrome in which the symptoms that lead you to seek out anxiety treatment can reoccur in a more intense form after discontinued treatment.

General withdrawal timeline:

  • During the first four days, the signs of anxiety and restlessness from Valium withdrawal can be felt usually within 12-24 hours.
  • During week 2, initial symptoms can peak and the development of more intense symptoms may occur. These can include insomnia, nausea, sweating and muscle aches and pain.
  • Between weeks 3-4, withdrawal symptoms can continue for up to a month after the last dosage was taken.
  • For week 5 and beyond, people who experience more severe addictions can develop Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Valium vs Xanax

Both Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) are popular prescribed benzo medications used to treat and manage symptoms of anxiety. Xanax is often used to treat severe anxiety and panic disorder. The medication takes about 15-30 minutes to start working in the body. Like other benzos, it can cause high dependency and withdrawal symptoms even when taken as prescribed by a medical professional.

Valium is more often used to treat anxiety disorders, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Valium provides fast relief in about 15 minutes. Both medications work by affecting the GABA neurochemicals in the brain.


Hotel California by the Sea provides high-quality care for those who are seeking treatment for a Valium addiction or another benzo addiction. The substance use disorder treatment program consists of medical detox, residential treatment and outpatient programs. Benzo addictions are some of the most intense and difficult to overcome.

The drug and alcohol addiction rehab in California, Ohio and Washington State offers medication management, intensive cognitive therapies and various social services. In addition to treating the physical symptoms of Valium addiction, the emotional aspects should also be treated concurrently. Hotel California by the Sea understands the value of co-occurring mental health treatments and its benefits for successfully helping patients overcome their addictions.