Valium Anxiety Medication Dosage and Risks

Valium is a type of anxiety medication.
Valium is used in the treatment of social anxiety disorder. Johanna Parkin / Getty Images

Valium (diazepam) is a benzodiazepine used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and short-term anxiety relief. In conjunction with other medications, it may also be prescribed to control muscle spasms and spasticity caused by certain neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy, paraplegia (inability to move parts of the body), and athetosis (abnormal muscle contractions). Valium is also used along with other medications to control seizures. 

How to Take Valium

Valium is available as a tablet, a solution, and as a concentrate (liquid) to take by mouth. Typically, it's taken one to four times a day, and it may be taken with or without food. Daily doses of Valium can vary. If you are taking Valium for social anxiety disorder (SAD), for instance, your doctor should initially prescribe a low dose for a limited period of time (such as one week) and then follow up with an evaluation of its effectiveness, side effects, and dosage adjustment.

Who Shouldn’t Take Valium

You should not take Valium if you have a known hypersensitivity to diazepam, myasthenia gravis, severe respiratory insufficiency, severe hepatic insufficiency, sleep apnea syndrome, or acute narrow-angle glaucoma. Valium may be used in patients with open-angle glaucoma who are receiving appropriate therapy. Use of Valium while pregnant or breastfeeding is not advised, and it should not be given to infants under six months.

Medication Interactions

Valium should be used with caution in combination with other medications including: phenothiazines, antipsychotics, anxiolytics/sedatives, hypnotics, anticonvulsants, narcotic analgesics, anesthetics, sedative antihistamines, narcotics, barbiturates, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and other antidepressants. In addition, the effects of Valium may be intensified if combined with alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking Valium since this can increase your chances of having serious side effects.

Using Valium along with opioids, which include drugs such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone), is risky and may result in profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and even death.

Be sure your doctor knows all the medications you are currently taking before you get a prescription for Valium.

Side Effects of Valium

The most common side effects of Valium are drowsiness, fatigue, muscle weakness, and ataxia. Confusion, depression, dysarthria, headache, slurred speech, vertigo, blurred vision, dizziness, and constipation also have been reported.

Driving, operating dangerous machinery, and participating in hazardous activities should not be undertaken until you know how you will react to Valium.

Risk of Dependence and Withdrawal

In general, there is some risk of physical and psychological dependence when taking Valium. If you stop taking Valium suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as trouble sleeping and a depressed mood. Since some withdrawal symptoms can be serious and include seizures, it's important to speak with your healthcare provider about slowly stopping Valium in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

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