Valium: Drug to Manage Anxiety Disorders and Symptoms

valium
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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.

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 unwillingly. Spasticity can be caused by conditions like cerebral palsy and stiff person syndrome.

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 extremely addictive, was one of the first drugs that are popularly known as tranquilizers. It was approved in 1963.

Who Should Not Take Valium

Valium should not be given to children under the age of six months.

Also, patients with sleep apnea, serious difficulty breathing, severe liver disease, or myasthenia gravis (a condition that causes weakness in your muscles) should use significant caution when taking this drug.

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) or acute narrow-angle glaucoma (where Valium should not be used).

Contact your ophthalmologist if you are not sure which type of glaucoma you have.

Side Effects of Valium

The most common side effects of Valium include:

  • drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • unsteady gait

For a more comprehensive list, see: Valium / Diazepam Side Effects.

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 seizures.

Possible Drug Interactions with Valium

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:

  • sedative antihistamines (such as Benadryl)
  • illegal narcotics
  • barbiturates
  • MAO inhibitors (an older form of antidepressants that includes Nardil and Marplan), and
  • newer antidepressants.

There also are several drugs that can lead to increased effects 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 to treat obsessive compulsive disorder, and
  • Prozac (fluoxetine), used for depression

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 with Valium

Valium is a member of the benzodiazepine family. These drugs can be addictive, even if you're only taking the prescribed dose. You run a higher risk of becoming addicted if you take the drug long-term, or if you abuse the drug.

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

  • insomnia
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • sweating
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • abdominal and muscle cramps
  • tremor

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 Breast-Feeding on Valium

Valium increases the risk of birth defects if you take it during pregnancy, and there a 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.

Source:
Roche Products, Inc. "FDA Approved Label for Valium." Revised Jan 2008.

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