Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
January 17, 2019

Valium Detox Guide


Valium, a popular brand name of the benzodiazepine (benzo) diazepam, is a Schedule IV prescription medication used primarily for the treatment of anxiety disorders. It is also used for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, seizures, muscle spasms, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, opiate addiction, and a variety of medical conditions. Although not as tightly regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as opiates or illicit drugs, Valium exhibits a high potential for addiction and abuse. In fact, Valium is a major contributing factor in polysubstance abuse and frequently mixed with alcohol and painkillers to maximize euphoria. It is also popularly used to counteract the effects of cocaine and other stimulants. 

Following a pattern similar to the opiate crisis, which reached its zenith within the past decade, Valium abuse has spiraled out of control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), benzo-related treatment center admissions tripled between 1998 and 2008. In 2011, American doctors prescribed approximately 15 million Valium prescriptions, and between 2011 and 2014, benzo overdose fatalities surged. Together, these facts and figures underscore the danger and inherent abuse potential of Valium and its entire class of benzodiazepine medications.    


Like many legal and illicit drugs, Valium creates physical and psychological dependence when used for an extended period of time. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that: “Dependence develops when the neurons adapt to the repeated drug exposure and only function normally in the presence of the drug. When the drug is withdrawn, several physiologic reactions occur.” To a large extent, the speed with which a user becomes Valium-dependent is based upon their overall physical and psychological health.

As the body and mind gradually adapt to the changes produced by Valium, greater quantities of the drug and higher doses are required to achieve the same euphoric “high.” In many cases, physical dependence sets in after as little as several consecutive weeks of use. Although physical dependence on Valium is a widely recognized symptom of a substance use disorder (SUD)— it does not necessarily indicate abuse. An official Valium addiction diagnosis must meet more stringent diagnostic criteria based upon non-medically necessary use which triggers adverse effects. Regardless of diagnostic criteria, once a user becomes physically dependent on Valium, withdrawal symptoms are inevitable whenever there is a lapse in between uses or total cessation.

The mildness or severity of Valium withdrawal symptoms depends upon multiple factors— but primarily the duration and intensity of use. In the majority of cases, early withdrawal symptoms begin within 24 hours following dosage and gradually subside over the following weeks and months. The physical, cardiovascular, neurological, and psychological symptoms associated with Valium withdrawal may include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • General gastrointestinal distress
  • Cramps
  • Tremors
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Mood swings
  • Intense cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks


Valium withdrawal is characterized by three distinct stages: the acute withdrawal phase, general withdrawal, and post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). In the acute withdrawal phase—which occurs between one and four days following dosage—the most serious and debilitating symptoms generally appear. In addition to various combinations of symptoms from the aforementioned list, a heavy surge of rebound anxiety often sets in. Many users also describe a feeling of desperation as the body begins acclimating to life without the drug. 

The general withdrawal phase occurs immediately following the acute withdrawal phase and usually lasts for up to two weeks. During this period, heightened cravings will emerge accompanied by lightheadedness, nausea, headaches, depression, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, and a general sense of dissatisfaction. Most symptoms are noticeably less intense than they were during acute withdrawal, but in certain users, the rebound anxiety proves overwhelming and may last for an additional two weeks, creating a higher likelihood of relapse.

PAWS is characterized by a protracted period of psychological symptoms that may linger for months, or even years, in certain users after gradually weaning off the drug. The most common cluster of symptoms associated with PAWS is mood-based and includes irritability, anhedonia (loss of pleasure), and lacking motivation. Some users describe PAWS as a perpetual emptiness created by the absence of the Valium’s calming, euphoric effects.   


After a user has successfully traversed the initial stages of Valium detox, inpatient treatment provides an excellent, evidence-based treatment protocol designed to help further stabilize and normalize physical and psychological processes. Inpatient treatment programs are located at live-in facilities geared specifically toward short-term treatment. Most clients recovering from Valium dependence will require at least 28 days of inpatient treatment, although in some cases, they may require up to three months. 

Inpatient facilities provide 24/7, medically managed services and are generally considered the premium treatment option in the industry for those suffering from Valium dependence. Beyond the top-notch clinical care and latest evidence-based treatment modalities, many inpatient facilities offer ancillary benefits and services that prove invaluable to clients. These include:

  • Aftercare planning
  • Alumni networking
  • State-of-the-art technology
  • Creative and expressive therapies
  • On-site recreational amenities
  • Close proximity to major attractions

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Clients suffering from Valium dependence or addiction are frequently prescribed Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved medications in addition to receiving ongoing psychotherapy. This multifaceted clinical process—known as MAT—is considered extremely effective and may include the following medications:

  • Selective serotonin uptake inhibitors – popularly referred to as SSRIs, these antidepressants help reduce the severity of rebound anxiety and depression triggered by Valium withdrawal.
  • Anticonvulsant medications – Valium withdrawal can be a somewhat unpredictable process that may result in seizures. In such cases, anticonvulsants are prescribed, and many clinicians believe that their benefits extend to all aspects of withdrawal.
  • Muscle relaxant baclofen – this craving-reduction medication is marketed under brand names such as Lioresal and Gablofen, and is particularly effective during the general withdrawal phase when psychological symptoms peak.
  • Melatonin – this naturally occurring hormone helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and induce peaceful sleep. It is also known for being beneficial to all aspects of the Valium withdrawal process when taken in proper doses.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Valium dependence and addiction are often linked to co-occurring anxiety and depression-related disorders. Undiagnosed, or merely untreated, clinical disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may also represent precipitating or aggravating factors. In Valium-dependent clients for whom dual-diagnosis is relevant, proper behavioral and pharmaceutical treatment are necessary aspects of effective therapy in addition to the primary MAT routine.  


Outpatient treatment is a less intensive, but excellent option for clients with demanding personal and/or professional schedules, as well as those who have successfully graduated from inpatient treatment. Although effective when used as a transitional level of care, or longer-term relapse prevention tool, it may not be rigorous enough for those undergoing Valium detox and requiring premium clinical care.


Although Valium detox can be performed at home in defiance of traditional medical wisdom, the practice is universally discouraged. Only trained, highly qualified medical and mental health professionals have the education and experience necessary to safely and successfully facilitate such a complex, highly involved process. Even in the best of cases, self-guided, at-home detox leads to suboptimal treatment outcomes.


Tapering involves a physician administering Valium on a schedule of gradually diminishing doses. The measured approach gives the body adequate time to adjust to life without Valium and reduces the chance of precipitated withdrawal— the rapid acceleration and intensification of symptoms triggered by quitting cold turkey.  


For most clients, facility reputation, location, and affordability are the most critical aspects of making an informed treatment decision. Fortunately, most insurance plans provide partial, if not total, coverage for select detox and rehabilitation services, and many alternate arrangements can be made to reach an accommodation in the unlikely event that insurance is denied or not covered under a certain plan for whatever reason. At reputable facilities, experienced admissions staff will gladly help explain insurance coverage and benefits, and alleviate related concerns.  


Successfully completing Valium detox and undergoing inpatient treatment are merely two components of a comprehensive relapse prevention plan. Clients who are serious about long-term recovery will need to follow a multi-tiered strategy designed to help minimize environmental triggers while maximizing the will to remain sober. 12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous, community involvement or volunteer opportunities, healthy dietary and lifestyle decisions, active sponsorship, personal spirituality, and continuing one-on-one (or group) therapy are all part of a proven equation that leads to optimal long-term recovery outcomes.    


Like other mind and mood-altering drugs, Valium is an overprescribed medication that can easily lead to addiction. Its addictive spell is not exclusively reserved for those with a family history of substance abuse, or those who abused it outside the scope of legitimate medical practices. Anyone, at any time, can find themselves addicted to Valium and in need of professional help.   

For more about valium addiction and recovery, check out these related articles:


  1. ACS Chemical Neuroscience. Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Diazepam (Valium). April, 2014.
  2. The Ochsner Journal. Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System—Mediated Effects. Oct, 2013.
  3. Journal of Advanced Research. Enhanced efficacy and reduced side effects of diazepam by kava combination. August, 2013.
  4. The Pharmaceutical Journal. Landmark drugs: The discovery of benzodiazepines and the adverse publicity that followed. September, 2009.