Valium to Manage Anxiety Disorders and Symptoms

Anxious woman

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Valium is a drug used for managing anxiety disorders and short-term treatment of anxiety symptoms. The drug, which is also sold under the generic name diazepam, works by actually slowing down activity in your brain.

Overview

In bipolar disorder, Valium and other anti-anxiety medications in the same family can quickly help halt certain manic symptoms, such as agitation. This can give mood stabilizers enough time to kick in.

Your physician may prescribe Valium just for a short period—generally just a few weeks or less—to treat manic symptoms in bipolar disorder.

Valium also can be used to treat skeletal muscle spasms from conditions like inflammation or trauma, along with spasticity, a condition where your muscles contract involuntarily. Spasticity can be caused by conditions like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and even exercise and dehydration.

In another use, Valium may be used as an add-on medication to help people who have seizure disorders. Finally, the drug may be prescribed to treat the symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal, where it may help control tremors, agitation and even the DTs (known in scientific terms as delirium tremens).

Valium, which is potentially addictive, was one of the first drugs that are popularly known as the Benzodiazepine tranquilizers. It was approved in 1963.

Contraindications

According to the manufacturer, Valium should not be given to children under the age of six months. Also, there are other possible contraindications in patients with sleep apnea, serious difficulty breathing, severe liver disease, or myasthenia gravis (a condition that causes weakness in your muscles).

If you have glaucoma, it's possible that you should not take diazepam.

Make sure you know whether you have open-angle glaucoma (where Valium use is okay as long as you are receiving appropriate treatment) or acute narrow-angle glaucoma (where Valium should not be used). You should contact your ophthalmologist if you are prescribed Valium.

Side Effects

The most common side effects of Valium include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unsteady gait
  • Cognitive issues

You shouldn't use alcohol or take anything else that makes you sleepy while taking Valium.

In addition, if you're taking Valium to help treat a seizure disorder, you shouldn't stop taking it suddenly, because doing so may increase your risk for seizures.

Possible Drug Interactions

Because Valium slows the activity of your central nervous system, your doctor should be careful when prescribing other drugs that can affect your central nervous system. These include:

  • Phenothiazine antipsychotics (including Compazine and Thorazine)
  • Antipsychotics (including Zyprexa, Haldol, and Risperdal)
  • Anti-anxiety medications (such as Xanax)
  • Sedatives and hypnotics (including Ambien and Lunesta)
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Narcotic painkillers (such as Percodan)
  • Anesthetics
  • Sedative antihistamines (such as Benadryl)
  • Barbiturates
  • Certain antidepressants

There also are several drugs that can potentially lead to increased Valium levels or even toxicity when taken with Valium. These include:

  • Tagamet (cimetidine), prescribed for ulcers and excess stomach acid
  • Prilosec (omeprazole), another drug for excess stomach acid
  • Oral ketoconazole, which treats fungal infections
  • Luvox (fluvoxamine), used for obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression
  • Prozac (fluoxetine), used for depression and anxiety

You should always make certain both your physician and your pharmacist know what other drugs you're taking if you're starting a Valium prescription since it interacts with so many drugs.

Dependence and Withdrawal

Valium is a member of the benzodiazepine family. These drugs can lead to dependence even if you're only taking the prescribed dose. Valium can also be abused. You run a higher risk of this if you misuse the medication or have an underlying substance use disorder.

Symptoms of withdrawal from Valium can be mild to severe and include:

  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Abdominal and muscle cramps
  • Tremor
  • Seizures

A temporary return of anxiety symptoms that are worse than before treatment was started also can occur.

If you stop taking the drug suddenly, your withdrawal symptoms may be more severe.

Your doctor can help you by designing a plan to taper down your dose gradually when discontinuing Valium.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Valium can potentially increase the risk of birth defects if you take it during pregnancy, and there is some risk that your baby will go through withdrawal if you take the medication during your third trimester. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.

You also shouldn't use Valium if you're breastfeeding, since the drug will pass through to your baby in your breast milk.

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Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Valium. Genetech, Inc. Updated 2016.

Additional Reading
  • Roche Products, Inc. "FDA Approved Label for Valium." Revised Jan 2008.
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