There are several drugs that are classified as benzodiazepines, and one of the best known of them is Valium, the generic name of which is diazepam. The FDA has approved Valium for use as a prescription only drug. The approval was granted in 1963, so Valium has been on the market for a long time. The drug is also licensed for use throughout the world by various other regulatory bodies.
Valium is an anti-anxiety drug that works by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. Like all anti-anxiety drugs, it depresses brain activity, which makes it a depressant drug.
The drug was developed by Hoffman – La Roche, and was the second ever benzodiazepine produced. It became popular immediately, due in no small part to the company’s aggressive marketing of the drug. It reached the peak of its popularity in 1978. In that year, more than two billion Valium tablets were sold in the US.
In 1975, the US Justice Department classified Valium as a Schedule IV drug. These are considered to be low risk drugs in terms of addiction or abuse, but their classification as Schedule IV drugs means they are only available on prescription. Following the Schedule IV classification, and many negative media reports about the drug (Elvis Presley’s autopsy report showed a high level of Valium, plus many other drugs, in his system,) its popularity began to wane. By 1980, the number of prescriptions issued was half that of five years previously.
The primary method of taking Valium is in tablet form. The drug is also available in liquid form. It may be used in some medical procedures as a relaxant, when it is injected.
Valium has been replaced in popularity as an anti-anxiety medication by other benzodiazepines, especially Xanax. However, it remains in the top 15 drugs prescribed by American doctors. In 2013, almost 15 million prescriptions for Valium were issued in the USA, making it the 11th most prescribed drug that year, according to IMS Health.
It may still be prescribed to treat anxiety, and it also has other uses. Because benzodiazepines work on the central nervous system, they can be effective treatments to prevent muscle spasms. Valium is often used to do this. It can also help prevent seizures. Valium may be used in the treatment of acute reactions to withdrawal from alcohol. It is additionally used to help stop nightmares.
The dosage prescribed will depend on the condition for which it is being prescribed, the patient’s age and general health, and the patient’s response to the therapy. Precise dosages are automatically administered when the drug is taken in tablet form. When taken in liquid form, the patient must measure out the precise dosage prescribed. It is important to use the correct measuring equipment.
Valium can be prescribed in a concentrated solution that is first mixed with water or other liquid, or with food, before being taken. When prescribed in this form, the drug comes with a graduated dropper to let the patient measure the dosage accurately.
Abuse and addiction
Despite its Schedule IV classification, Valium, along with other benzodiazepines, is widely abused, and has many addicts. The apparent contradiction is that its Schedule IV classification is based on prescribed use. When the drug is used in accordance with recommendations, it has a low abuse and addiction rate. Once people start exceeding the recommended dosage, dependency can develop quite quickly.
Valium is both a primary and secondary drug of addiction. Many people who start abusing Valium proceed to abuse other drugs or alcohol. Conversely, people who abuse alcohol and other drugs may also start abusing Valium.
Because Valium has been available for more than 50 years, there have been numerous street names coined for the drug. Among them are:
- Blue V’s
- Yellow V’s (the “V” derives from the letter V that is stamped on all Valium tablets)
- Benzos (also used for other benzodiazepines)
- Downers (also used for other benzodiazepines)
- Sleep away
- Dead flower powers
- Old Joes
- Drunk pills (also used for other benzodiazepines)
Effects of abusing Valium
Because Valium is a depressant, taking too much of the drug can trigger several different problems related to reduced brain activity. The symptoms are very similar to those of alcohol intoxication. The symptoms of taking too much Valium include:
- Poor judgment and decision making
- Slurred or incoherent speech
- Lack of concentration
- Problems focusing vision
- Problems with coordination, making it difficult to walk
Many high profile figures have been addicted to Valium, including former First Lady, Betty Ford, who went on to establish her clinic to treat people with addictions. Patients can suffer severe withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, shivering and muscular spasms. The chances of staying off Valium increase with long-term professional intervention.