Valium is a popular benzodiazepine medication that’s used to treat insomnia and anxiety disorders. It’s one of the most widely used prescription anxiety medications in the United States, and it was the second benzodiazepine ever synthesized. Valium is a central nervous system depressant that works by interacting with a chemical messenger in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The brain chemical is designed to manage excitability in your nervous system. When it’s time to rest and relax, GABA can help calm down the activity in your nervous system.
Valium can help people with anxiety and insomnia by making GABA more effective, causing sedation, relaxation, and anti-anxiety. However, your brain can also adapt to the presence of Valium after high doses or long periods of regular use. Chemical dependency on Valium can cause uncomfortable and dangerous withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.
Valium Withdrawal Symptoms
Valium causes withdrawal symptoms that are related to an overactive nervous system, which is a result of removing a depressant that your body was used to. Valium withdrawal can also cause rebound symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. Rebound withdrawal refers to the return of symptoms that a drug was intended to treat. Quitting cold turkey can also cause severe symptoms like delirium tremens, seizures, extreme confusion, heart palpitations, coma, and death. These symptoms can usually be avoided or managed with medical treatment. Other symptoms of Valium withdrawal may include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
- Chest pains
- Panic attacks
What Are the Stages of the Valium Withdrawal Timeline?
- 72 hours: Valium has a longer half-life than other benzodiazepines, which means it takes longer to reduce it to half of its original concentration in the blood. It can remain active in your system for up to 50 hours before its effects start to dwindle. You will likely begin to feel your first withdrawal symptoms within 72 hours, which can include anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness.
- One week: Once symptoms begin, they will get worse and worse over the course of the first week until they reach their peak. Peak symptoms are when withdrawal is at its most intense. If you quit cold turkey, severe symptoms may start around this time, including seizures, tremors, panic attacks, and heart palpitations. Delirium, headaches, and nausea are also possible.
- Two weeks: After your symptoms reach their peak, they will begin to go away. Severe symptoms may subside, and physical issues like headaches and nausea may go away as well. Insomnia and anxiety tend to linger along with cravings.
- One Month: After the initial acute withdrawal phases, Valium may cause Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), which refers to random symptoms that can occur for months after you stop using. In some cases, seizures can occur during PAWS. Drug cravings can also threaten your sobriety by encouraging you to use again. If you’ve developed an addiction, you may need to address lingering symptoms in addiction treatment.
Do I Need Detox?
Detox is the highest of the four main levels of care in addiction treatment, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Medical detox involves 24-hour care from medical professionals that are experienced in addiction treatment. It’s usually reserved for people with high-level medical needs, especially when those needs are related to potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Detox may also be appropriate for people that have severe medical conditions that need to be addressed during the withdrawal phase. Though medical detox isn’t always necessary, depressants like Valium often require it. Since depressants can cause potentially deadly symptoms like seizures and heart problems, it’s essential to consult a doctor before you try to quit cold turkey.