Valium is a benzodiazepine, prescribed for treating anxiety, panic attacks and sleeplessness, and managing alcohol withdrawal. Often used for its muscle relaxant, sedative and anti-convulsing properties, it is a depressant that lowers anxiety levels and relaxes the muscles by strengthening the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Given its sedative properties, it is one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs.
Classified as a Schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), Valium has a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Valium is the trade name for the drug diazepam. It first appeared in 1963 and soon became the world’s most widely prescribed drug – the first in history to reach $1 billion in sales. This was a result of aggressive marketing. The drug use reached its peak in 1978 when Americans consumed more than 2 billion pills. Although other benzodiazepines are now available, Valium is still widely used.
Nevertheless, the problem of Valium addiction has existed since it was first introduced. In the 1970s, it was discovered that Elvis Presley abused Valium. In 1978, First Lady Betty Ford revealed that she also struggled with Valium addiction. Although the number of prescriptions written for Valium has decreased over the years, Valium addiction remains a serious problem in the United States.
Valium is prescribed for a variety of reasons – for sedation, for getting relief from anxiety, and as an anticonvulsant for treating muscle spasms. It is usually consumed orally, though some Valium users prefer to crush the pills into powder and snort it for instant effects. Heavy use of the drug can have powerful effects on the body, some of which can even be permanent and life-threatening.
Following are some of the side effects of Valium abuse:
- Memory problems
- Drowsiness, feeling of exhaustion
- Dizziness, spinning sensation
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea, constipation
- Loss of interest in sex
- Dry mouth
- Drooling or dry mouth, slurred speech
- Blurred vision, double vision
- Mild skin rash, itching
- Heart attack
Valium abuse can have a number of negative effects. When used in combination with other addictive substances, such as opioids or alcohol, it can have fatal outcomes.