Anxiety disorders affect some 40 million adults in the United States, reports the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), and some may be using Valium to help improve their response to stress and uncertainty.
However, when it comes to the long-term management of anxiety symptoms, other treatment methods may be safer to use, as Valium is a potent medication that should be used for the short-term treatment of an anxiety disorder. Long-term use can make a person dependent on this potent drug and can lead to the development of an addiction.
What is Valium?
Valium (diazepam) is a benzodiazepine medication prescribed to treat anxiety symptoms and anxiety disorders. The drug is also prescribed to treat sleep disorders, seizures, alcohol withdrawal, and other conditions.
It comes in oral tablets of 2 mg, 5 mg, or 10 mg. The drug, which was first approved for use in the early 1960s, is a central nervous system depressant with a half-life of nearly 48 hours, according to Very Well Mind. This means it takes a healthy adult about two days to process half a dose of Valium to half its concentration. As a result, a person can have an accumulation of the drug in their system.
Valium suppresses excitability in the nervous system so that users can get to sleep or stay asleep or go about their daily activities with less stress and tension. It can also be taken as a muscle relaxant.
Why is Valium Used to Treat Anxiety?
Valium has been administered to people with panic disorder, an anxiety disorder that occurs when people have debilitating panic attacks.
Verywell Mind shares that Valium and other medications in the benzodiazepines class “can help reduce the intensity of panic attacks, nervousness, and anxiety.”
In general, benzodiazepines bind with the body’s gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and increase the body’s natural GABA levels to help users relax. Keeping GABA levels higher can help a person avoid having a panic attack or other distressing event.
Valium is just one of several anti-anxiety medications used for the short-term treatment of anxiety disorders. Others include Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam).
As the American Psychiatric Association (APA) highlights, anxiety is a stress response that alerts us to things that need our attention or helps us protect ourselves from danger.
However, when a person’s stress response is not in proportion to the situation they face, or if their stress response makes it difficult to move forward, they likely could be dealing with an anxiety disorder that requires medical treatment.
Medications like Valium can help with this problem.
Long-Term Valium Use for Anxiety is Not Recommended
Valium is a benzodiazepine, which is usually prescribed for the short-term treatment of anxiety. Benzodiazepines are potent medications with high addiction potential, which is why medical professionals discourage long-term use.
They are habit-forming, even for people who use them as prescribed, and abusing them can lead to a long-term, difficult-to-break addiction. Using the medication for prolonged periods can make people think they cannot function normally without it.
Also, if users crush up the pills to snort them or inject them to get high, or if they use Valium with other drugs and alcohol, this is also a path to addiction. Such abuse is also dangerous to one’s life. If you or someone you know practices these habits, get professional substance abuse and addiction treatment right away.
Long-term use also increases a person’s tolerance of the drug, so if they do not feel immediate relief with their usual dosage, they may take more, which can lead to a life-threatening overdose, especially as Valium takes a long time to clear a person’s system.
A person who is having a Valium overdose may have the following symptoms:
- Heavy or labored breathing
- Clammy or cold skin
- Nausea, vomiting, upset stomach
- Coordination and balance problems
- Mental confusion
- Muscle weakness
- Blurred vision
- Weak, slow pulse
- Bluish color to the lips, nails, skin
- Loss of consciousness
An overdose is a serious medical emergency that can lead to death. If you notice any of the symptoms above, get medical help right away by calling 911 or taking the affected person to a hospital.
Valium Anxiety Treatment Not Without Its Side Effects
While Valium helps users manage their anxiety disorder, it has side effects they should be aware of and discuss with their doctor. The medication can cause:
- Weak muscles
- Blurred vision
Verywell Mind advises staying away from anything that induces sleepiness if you are using Valium. This side effect can make it difficult to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, users may want to pair the drug with others, possibly not considering the effects that can result.
Do not use Valium with other benzodiazepines as doing so can compound the effects of these powerful medications and depress one’s breathing and heart rate. Valium also should not be used with alcohol or other drugs.
Taking the drug longer than recommended or using it in a way that is inconsistent with its purpose can lead to addiction.
Rebound Anxiety is Possible
A person taking Valium for anxiety long-term can encounter problems if they end their use. One of them is rebound anxiety, which is worse than the anxiety that led to Valium treatment in the first place.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s information sheet on the drug, rebound anxiety can bring in enhanced mood changes and restlessness.
If you want to end your Valium use for any reason after longtime use, you should do so gradually under the care of a medical professional who understands and can perform a gradual tapering process so the effects of coming off Valium won’t be so intense or uncomfortable.
Rebound symptoms can be difficult to deal with on one’s own. If you are experiencing rebound anxiety, reach out to a medical professional who can help you find a long-term solution for you.
Other Ways to Treat Anxiety Long-Term
Managing anxiety symptoms long-term can be challenging for those who have them. Each person must find their own way to make them manageable. According to the APA, anxiety disorders that affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives are treatable with various methods.
Psychotherapy is one option that can help people manage their stress response. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used psychotherapy that aims to help people identify and correct irrational or distorted thoughts that often lead to negative behaviors. The idea is to increase one’s awareness of their thoughts and emotions so they can improve them and, therefore, their behavior.
For people with anxiety disorders, these thoughts and behaviors include:
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Trouble concentrating
- Excessive worrying
- Insomnia or other sleep issues
There also are non-addictive medications that can help people manage their anxiety disorder, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications such as buspirone, which helps people manage the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Another way to manage long-term anxiety is to create a lifestyle filled with habits that support optimal health and awareness.
Make exercise and staying physically active a priority. Adopt a routine that gets you moving outdoors or indoors. Cardio workouts and strength training exercises can help you improve your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Make sure to get sufficient sleep. Seven to nine hours of sleep is recommended for adults, per Healthline, which reminds us that sleep helps us regulate our emotions. Getting rest can help you feel prepared to take on the challenges of the day.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, recreational drug use, and smoking. All can raise your anxiety, and if used in high amounts, they can be harmful to the body and mind.
Adopt healthy eating habits. Nutritious meals and snacks can give your body the nutrients and vitamins it needs for sound health. This means aiming to eat as many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, if possible. Also, do not forget to drink water. Doing so regularly helps us avoid dehydration.
Spend time reflecting and finding solitude. Spending time in quiet meditation can help people manage their stress better and lead to lower anxiety levels. Yoga, journaling, art journaling, and other activities that promote mindfulness and a look within can help you check in with yourself and manage your anxiety.
If you need more options to manage anxiety symptoms long-term, you can see a medical or mental health professional who can advise you on treatments that can address your needs and concerns. Valium and other potent drugs are only for short-term use. Any use that extends beyond a short-term window needs to be evaluated by the proper medical or mental health professional overseeing their patient’s care.
Get Help for Anxiety Today
Vista Pines Health, located in Pembroke Pines, Florida, can guide you to anxiety treatment that can help you manage your mental and emotional health.
We create individualized treatment plans to help people recover from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health disorders.
Call us or reach out to us today so that we can learn more about your needs and how we can help you.