Everything about Valium (Diazepam)

Everything about Valium (Diazepam) - Diazepam

Valium (diazepam) is a fast-acting and long-lasting benzodiazepine that is often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. Since being approved by the FDA in 1963, Valium has been prescribed for a range of medical conditions including muscle spasms, seizure disorders, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Benzodiazepines such as Valium were originally developed to replace more dangerous and addictive barbiturates. Despite the improved safety profile of Valium and other benzodiazepines, these substances can still lead to physical dependence and addiction even when taken exactly as prescribed. Benzodiazepines like Valium are classified as Schedule IV controlled substances.

Valium can also have potentially dangerous interactions with other medications and substances,1 so knowing how long its effects last and how long it stays in your body can help minimize the risk of interaction side effects and accidental overdose.

How Long Does Valium Stay static in Your System?

Urine: Up to six weeks
Blood: Up to 48 hours
Saliva: Up to 10 days
Hair: Up to 90 days

How Long Does It Take to Feel Effects?

Valium works by facilitating the activity of the chemical GABA at various receptor sites in the brain. GABA reduces activity in different areas of the brain, including regions that help control emotion, thought, memory, and automatic functions such as breathing. By increasing the effects of this brain chemical, Valium helps reduce anxiety, relax muscles, and increase drowsiness.

Valium can be taken by mouth, injection, or rectal gel.1 When administered via injection, valium takes just one to five minutes to take effect. When taken orally, people usually begin to feel the effects 15 to 60 minutes after ingestion. The rectal gel may be used for those who are experiencing seizures and begins working quickly after administration.

What are the risks of Valium?

If you take Valium, it’s important to know how long the drug stays active in your system to avoid associated risks.

Having too much Valium in your body at one time can cause serious side effects. These include drowsiness, confusion, impaired movements and balance, shortness of breath, and potentially unresponsiveness.

Valium can easily become habit-forming. After a period of time, you can develop a tolerance for the drug. As a result, you may have to take larger dosages. Notably, overuse of Valium can have some alarming consequences. Studies have found, for instance, that long-term use of Valium and similar drugs used to treat anxiety are associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.2

Valium can have serious or even life-threatening side effects if you take certain other medications before it’s totally cleared from your body. It’s especially dangerous to take sedatives, sleeping pills, or tranquillizers if you have Valium in your system. The same is true of drinking alcohol.

How Long Does Valium Last?

Valium has a half-life of approximately 48 hours.3 The half-life of a drug is just how long it takes for half of a dose to be eliminated from the body.

As Valium is processed by the body, it is broken down into other substances known as metabolites. In many cases, these metabolites are detectable in the body for much longer than the drug itself. The most common metabolites of Valium are nordiazepam, temazepam, and oxazepam.

The metabolites of the drug may have much longer half-lives as well. Nordiazepam, for example, has a half-life of up to 100 hours. Valium also accumulates when people take multiple doses over a period of time, which can slightly prolong the total half-life of the substance.

Valium-or rather, metabolites associated with the medication-can be detected in the body in different ways.

Urine

Valium can be detected in urine for one to six weeks after becoming taken.

Blood

Valium is detectable in blood for six to 48 hours. Blood tests tend to be used less frequently than other test methods due to the shorter detection window and the more invasive nature of the test. However, a blood test may be used in some forensic settings or to confirm an unexpected positive urine test result.

Saliva

A saliva test can detect Valium for one to 10 days after it’s taken. Research suggests that saliva testing may be a viable alternative to urine testing for the detection of Valium along with other benzodiazepines. 4

While saliva tests have a fairly long detection window, this type of testing can present some challenges. Valium side effects can include dry mouth or hypersalivation, which may affect the ability to collect an adequate sample or may dilute the amount of detectable substance in the oral fluid.

Hair

Like many other drugs, Valium can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days. The long detection window of this testing method means that it can be used to look for past drug use. If you have been prescribed Valium to treat anxiety or another condition, be sure to inform the testing lab, even if you are no longer taking your medication.

False Positive Testing

There are some medications that may cross-react with drug screens. There are reports of the antidepressant medication Zoloft (sertraline) and prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Daypro (oxaprozin) causing false-positive urine screens for benzodiazepines like Valium.5

Always disclose any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking to the lab so clinicians can accurately interpret your drug screen results.

Factors That Affect Detection Time

There are many variables that affect how long Valium remains in the body.3 The rate at which medications and other substances break down depends on things like metabolism, age, weight, percentage of body fat, activity level, and hydration. Some health conditions, including liver impairments, can play a role in the rate of which drugs are metabolized by your body.

Other factors that can affect how long Valium stays in your body have to do with the specific prescription. The larger the dose and more frequently you take it, for example, likely means it will be detectable for longer.

How to Get Valium Out of Your System

The first step to getting Valium out of your system is to stop taking the drug, though you should never stop taking your prescribed medication without talking to your doctor first.1 Because your body can develop a tolerance and dependence on the substance, suddenly stopping your medication can decrease your body’s tolerance for the drug.

If you start taking it again at the same dose, it can result in an accidental overdose. Discuss your options for safely stopping your medication, which may involve a gradual reduction in your dose in order to avoid withdrawal effects, a process known as tapering.

Once you have safely stopped taking Valium, make sure that you stay well hydrated, eat a healthy diet, and get regular physical exercise. Such habits may help to slightly increase how quickly your body metabolizes and excretes the drug and its metabolites.

Symptoms of Overdose

Benzodiazepines such as Valium are usually considered safe when they are taken because prescribed. However, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of overdose.1

These factors include taking Valium in combination with other central nervous system depressants or alcohol, taking more than your prescribed dose, or taking the drug more frequently than prescribed. Being aware of the signs of a Valium overdose is important so that you and your loved ones can get help as quickly as possible. Some signs of a potential Valium overdose include:

Very deep sleep
Blue lips
Mental confusion
Dizziness
Lack of coordination
Blurry vision
Weakness
Difficulty breathing
Unresponsiveness

If someone is experiencing these symptoms, contact emergency services right away.

Getting Help

Valium carries a risk of dependence. If you suddenly stop using Valium, you may experience symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, which can include anxiety, nausea, seizures, insomnia, tremors, and mental changes including confusion and even psychosis. With longer-acting drugs like Valium, withdrawal symptoms may not appear for a few days after your last dose.

If you believe that you might have a physical dependence or addiction to Valium, talk to your doctor right away. Your doctor can offer advice and assistance. In some cases, you might want to seek help from a medical detox centre, since benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms could be severe. 

Treatment options for Valium use disorders may take place in inpatient or outpatient treatment centres and involve individual psychotherapy or support groups to aid in your long-term recovery. Effective treatments may involve tapering your dosage to manage withdrawal symptoms as well as psychotherapeutic approaches including cognitive-behavioural therapy and contingency management.

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