Why Diazepam (Valium)?
Diazepam is a drug best known by the brand name Valium. Diazepam is mostly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, muscle spasms, restless leg syndrome and symptoms of alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal. Other uses of valium include inducing amnesia and reducing tension during surgical procedures and as pre-medication for endoscopies.
How Does Valium Work?
Diazepam (Valium) produces depression in the central nervous system. It contains anticonvulsant, amnesic, anxiolytic, sedative and muscle relaxant properties. Valium also affects areas on the limbic system, the thalamus and hypothalamus contributing to the relief of anxiety. Valium is long lasting and can be given intravenously, orally, intra muscularly and also as a rectal suppository. Due to Valium producing dependence and tolerance, short term use is recommended.
Diazepam has a broad spectrum of indications (most of which are off-label), including:
- Treatment of anxiety, panic attacks, and states of agitation.
- Treatment of neurovegetative symptoms associated with vertigo.
- Treatment of the symptoms of alcohol, opiate and benzodiazepine withdrawal.
- Short-term treatment of insomnia.
- Treatment of tetanus, together with other measures of intensive treatment.
- Adjunctive treatment of spastic muscular paresis (paraplegia/tetraplegia) caused by cerebral or spinal cord conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, or spinal cord injury (long-term treatment is coupled with other rehabilitative measures).
- Palliative treatment of stiff person syndrome.
- Pre- or postoperative sedation, anxiolysis and/or amnesia (e.g., before endoscopic or surgical procedures).
- Treatment of complications with a hallucinogen crisis and stimulant overdoses and psychosis, such as LSD, cocaine, or methamphetamine.
- Prophylactic treatment of oxygen toxicity during hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Dosages should be determined on an individual basis, depending upon the condition to be treated, the severity of symptoms, the body weight of the patient, and any comorbid conditions the patient may have
Diazepam may be taken with or without food. Diazepam is metabolized by the liver and excreted mainly by the kidney. Dosages of diazepam may need to be lowered in patients with abnormal kidney function. The usual oral diazepam dose is 2-10 mg given 2-4 times daily. The usual rectal dose is 0.2-0.5 mg/kg and depends on the age of the patient.
Warnings and Precautions
Some warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to taking Valium include:
- Valium is a controlled substance, which means that it has the potential to be abused. There are special rules and regulations for prescribing and dispensing Valium. Valium is generally not recommended for people with a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
- Valium should not replace more appropriate treatment for calming agitated psychotic patients.
- Valium can cause psychological and physical dependence and is often abused. The risk of abuse and dependence is greater for those taking higher Valium doses for long periods of time (more than a few weeks). Because Valium can cause dependence, you should not stop taking Valium suddenly without first discussing it with your healthcare provider.
- Valium can cause severe drowsiness and difficulty breathing, which may be life-threatening. This risk is increased when Valium is combined with alcohol, narcotics, or other medications or substances that cause drowsiness and sedation. You should not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how Valium affects you.
- Valium may cause depression or worsen preexisting depression. Prior to treatment with Valium, make sure your healthcare provider knows if you are depressed or have a history of depression. People with depression should take Valium only if they are also taking an antidepressant.
- Elderly people are more sensitive to the effects of Valium and should be started with a low Valium dosage. Valium may increase the risk of falling, which is especially dangerous in elderly people (who often have weak or brittle bones).
- Sometimes, people react to Valium in a way that is the opposite of what is usually expected. That is, they may become agitated, aggressive, and restless and may have difficulty sleeping. Tell your healthcare provider if you experience these effects.
- Let your healthcare provider know if you have liver or kidney disease, as your body may not handle Valium as well as it should.
- Valium is considered a pregnancy Category D medication. This means that it is probably not safe for use during pregnancy. Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of using the drug during pregnancy.
- Valium passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start breastfeeding, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to taking the drug.
When abusing diazepam recreationally or taking more than prescribed there is a chance of overdose and death. Individuals who consume too much diazepam may experience these symptoms hours before overdosing: Drowsiness, mental confusion, weakness, impaired motor functions, and hypo-tension. The consumption of too much diazepam can result in a coma. The chances of an overdose are increased when diazepam is mixed with other mind altering chemicals such as alcohol and opiates. This is a serious issue that has resulted in the premature death of many individuals.
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