Diazepam (Valium) Detox & Treatment

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What Is Diazepam?

Diazepam is the most commonly found diazepine – a family of medications typically used to manage anxiety symptoms.

Whilst diazepam is the most common medication of this type, withdrawal and treatment for drugs in the same family, such as Lorazepam, Nitrazepam, or Temazepam, usually progresses in a similar way.

Known more commonly by its brand name Valium, Diazepam can also be used to manage symptoms of muscle spasm, cerebral palsy, insomnia, and seizures.

Currently, Diazepam’s addictive qualities are widely recognised, and it’s no longer used as a first line treatment for anxiety, in most cases.

Diazepam is also used by some drug users to enable a softer withdrawal period, following cocaine or heroin use, or onset of withdrawal symptoms.

Diazepam is frequently mixed with other drugs, resulting in serious side-effects with wide-ranging symptoms, making it more difficult for professionals to ascertain the best course of treatment.

Mixing drugs in this way also dramatically increases the likelihood of overdose.

Street Diazepam/Valium

Diazepam bought from illegal street dealers is usually not Diazepam, but a mix of other street drugs, with some diazepam content.

Since these other drugs are essentially unknown, and will vary in potency, this again makes withdrawal symptoms more unpredictable, and more difficult to treat.

Valium withdrawal symptoms includes muscle pains, anxiety disorders, mental disorders, mood swings, abdominal cramps and panic attacks.

Any attempt at treatment should be done at an inpatient rehab center. This provides the best avenue to deal with more serious complications like when you develop seizures.

Diazepam or Valium Withdrawal

Due to the damage to the central nervous system, Diazepam or valium withdrawal symptoms can be pretty intense.

One is likely to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms due to the physical dependence. Valium detox alone will take some time, and one should research various treatment options that can help alleviate some of these symptoms.

Symptoms Of Diazepam Or Valium Withdrawal

Similar to misuse of any other substance, physical dependence to diazepam over the long term, causes the brain to “auto-regulate.” reducing the amount of neurotransmitters normally produced, that manage anxiety symptoms.

The body gradually becomes dependent on an external source, to provide these chemicals.

Users experience this, when moving into withdrawal faster, and requiring more of the drug to fend off withdrawal symptoms.

This process is what is known as developing tolerance to Diazepam (Valium).

 The duration of diazepam or valium withdrawal will vary from user-to-user. Most people experience emotional and physical symptoms of withdrawal as follows:

  • Muscle pain
  • Headache/migraine
  • Tremors, especially in hands or extremities
  • Muscle spasms
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental health issues.
  • Reduced appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Acute anxiety symptoms, such as panic attack
  • Insomnia and restlessness
  • Mild/temporary cognitive issues such as impaired memory or confusion
  • Heart issues such as arrhythmia or palpitations

You can develop more serious withdrawal symptoms during detox from valium, especially if the usage has been over an extended period of time, or there are other co-occurring mental health or addiction issues existing.

 The psychological symptoms can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Motor symptoms such as neuropathy or numbness/tingling

 These are harmful withdrawal symptoms that can also be fatal. The addiction treatment must be under the supervision of a medical professional.

Valium withdrawal can become challenging especially due to the fact that most Diazepam users are buying street Valium, which is in fact a mixture of other medications, containing little actual diazepam.

As a result, we strongly suggest that Diazepam or valium detox should be undertaken in a controlled and supervised setting such as a residential clinic where medical guidance is provided.

This allows optimal recovery and a more comfortable detox experience. The severity of the addiction will also determine how long the treatment will take.

Alprazolam (Xanax) & Xanax Withdrawal

Whilst Diazepam withdrawal can be uncomfortable, it is significantly more tolerable than those for more potent diazepines such as Alprazolam (Xanax).

As above, Diazepam is generally considered to be a long lasting anti-anxiety medication, based on its potency and the liver’s ability to process the drug, over time.

 That being said however, heavy valium users will still suffer some extreme anxiety, during acute withdrawal. UK and American addiction centers make use of various addiction treatment programs to help on during the withdrawal process. Medical detox is one of the best treatment options.

Alprazolam (Xanax) is a particularly potent diazepine, often used by Diazepam addicts in withdrawal, and frequently leads to dependence on these higher doses of intake.

1Mg of standard Xanax dosage is equivalent to 20mg diazepam, and as such Xanax use is particularly dangerous.

 Xanax has a shorter time frame of action in the body, and thus can lead to rapidly escalating addiction, quickly.

This danger increases when Xanax is combined with other drugs. e.g. combining Xanax with opiate use and alcohol, can hasten respiratory arrest, and cause serious danger to life.

The extreme effects of Xanax must be accounted for, in recovery, by longer withdrawal and detox periods, starting from 8-12 weeks or longer.

One must however look out for signs and symptoms of severe symptoms such as extreme mood swings, rebound anxiety, and muscle pain.

Valium Withdrawal Duration

Drugs from the diazepine family tend to result in longer detox durations than other medication, due to the high tolerance level which rapidly develops with most users.

Long acting Benzodiazepine has a long “half-life”, of around 2-5 days – which means that it stays in the bloodstream longer than other illicit drugs.

According to UK and American addiction centers, and diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, the duration and timescales can vary widely, based on how long you abuse valium and the state of your mental health.

  • For those on the smallest, most occasional Diazepam usage, 14 days can help to alleviate initial withdrawal symptoms.
  • For those on anything greater than a very minimum dosage, 28-84 days (4-12 weeks) is commonplace to overcome the initial physical/chemical symptoms in a primary care setting.

 Secondary symptoms of withdrawal, such as post-acute psychiatric symptoms, can persist for up to 18 months, depending on severity, frequency, and recency of usage. This also includes post acute withdrawal syndrome.

Nice guidelines (1) currently indicate extended valium withdrawal timeline of 20-40 weeks withdrawal schedule from 20mg diazepam per day. However, this is not in a controlled setting such as inpatient programs.

In addition, the valium withdrawal duration can be influenced greatly by a number of personal factors, such as:

  • Pre-existing psycho-social issues
  • Primary or secondary psychiatric issues
  • Co-occurring valium addiction issues.
  • How long you have been abusing valium
  • Other substance use disorder
Indeed, many Diazepam users have been using the substance for so long, or have developed such dependence upon it, that it becomes very difficult to gauge what baseline levels of non-medicated anxiety, or mental health symptoms, actually are.

In most cases, a qualified medical professional will complete a mental health assessment in addition to normal assessments, prior to detox, to set appropriate expectations.

In the case of a residential rehab clinic, a consultant or nurse specialist will normally undertake a mental health and a valium addiction combined assessment, to ascertain appropriate needs, and care levels.

The severity of withdrawal will determine which substitute drug valium addicts can get to treat anxiety and other benzodiazepines, at any UK or American addiction centers.

UK and American Psychiatric association greatly advocates for a safe medical detox. Valium addiction treatment can be done together with alcohol withdrawal as well.

Valium Withdrawal Timeline

It is almost impossible to experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to overcome addiction.

Here’s a look at the common symptoms you are likely to experience during the addiction recovery.

Day One

This is a period of time, when you have just stopped misusing valium. It could be around 6 hours since you last took valium. Valium slowly starts leaving your body.

Most valium abuse users will experience the beginning of some withdrawal symptoms within 12-24 hrs. of withdrawing from diazepam use. At this early stage, of cold turkey withdrawal, the symptoms often begin very mildly, then progress in intensity as withdrawal continues.

Day 7 – 14

Most UK and American addiction centers will be keen on this stage and find solutions to ease symptoms. The drug use client will start to experience withdrawal symptoms in their full intensity.

The Diazepam or valium withdrawal syndrome at this stage your physical health will seriously be affected and symptoms include; Nausea, headache, anxiety, and motor symptoms usually occur during this period.

Before things subside, you may experience severe symptoms of valium abuse, and a senior medical editor must be on standby for support.

Symptoms are usually easier to manage after this period has completed.

Day 14-28

At this stage, the worst is over. Your treatment provider is able to relax a little as the withdrawal symptoms usually decrease from their peak intensity during weeks 3-4.

But, look out for some rebound symptoms of drug abuse.

Day 28+ – 

Those originally on higher doses of Diazepam will continue to feel some withdrawal syndrome symptoms after Week 4.

Your treatment provider should be very careful at this stage and ensure that you do not suffer any severe symptoms.

Diazepam Treatment: Detox > Rehab > Aftercare

What Is Diazepam Detox?

This is a process where valium users go through elimination of the substance in their bodies. It is a pretty complicated process as it involves serious symptoms such as extreme anxiety, as your body gets used to not having the drug.

There are various treatment options and a table of contents involved in the detox, but the best would be having an inpatient residential facility get you through it.

Completing a diazepam detox means getting rid of the drug completely.

We’ve spoken above, about the number of variables involved, that can determine length and severity of common symptoms of diazepam withdrawal.

Due to these unknowns, diazepam detox is usually undertaken with an experienced treatment provider such as a rehabilitation clinic, that allows full supervision.

In this setting, a professional can oversee every element of the detox process, and react to any withdrawal symptoms quickly, as and when they arise.

This is usually the only way to account properly for all of the variables involved, and have the greatest probability of a comfortable and safe detox.

Detox itself is usually achieved by a means of reducing the existing amount of diazepam intake, on a sliding scale downwards, gradually.

Secondary withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, acute depression, etc., can be managed, as appropriate, by temporary alternative medications, or other means, as decided by the supervising professional.

Most detox programs will also encourage the individual to be actively engaged in the therapeutic process, as soon as possible, which can also aid in reducing any residual anxiety symptoms etc. Read about diazepam rehab, below.

Rehab

Long before diazepam detox completes, you should have already begun a program of psycho-social and therapeutic work (drug treatment programme), to help overcome valium addiction for the long term.

 Since diazepam is often abused for initial symptoms of anxiety, or issues of self-esteem, these are the precise issues which tend to surface during treatment, and therefore, undertaking therapy work during diazepam rehab is especially important.

Even those who have completed 95% of the detox process, should never underestimate the importance of the therapeutic process, as the most difficult emotional issues often surface during the last vestiges of withdrawal and detox.

At Abbeycare, we provide small group therapeutic support, utilizing a combination of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and the 12 step process. We’ve found this combination especially effective, over time.

During therapeutic time, support is available to identify and assess how diazepam or valium addiction arose in your life.

Addiction specialists can help you recognize how diazepam became an issue, and who and what supported it into becoming a pattern in your life.

It’s usually difficult to associate the chaos of diazepam or valium addiction with anything positive.

But sometimes moving beyond addiction, means first understanding – “what is diazepam addiction doing *for* me?”, “what am I getting out of this?”

e.g. it could be helping me feel important/worthy/good enough/acceptable/like people listen/etc.

And, therefore, perhaps I need to address underlying emotional beliefs, such as “I’m not good enough/I’m not worthy/I’m not important/etc.”… in order to be truly free from diazepam.

Whilst this can sound a little daunting to some, our specialist therapists are masters trained in valium addiction treatment – and help surface issues quickly.

Many of our addiction specialist staff are in recovery personally, and know what recovery entails, first-hand.

Importantly, only a few small insights from this process, can result in much greater awareness of triggers, associations, and the conditioning which attaches us to diazepam usage, and therefore, it becomes much easier to avoid in future.

The most important of the personal insights you glean from therapy, can be taken forward into aftercare planning. This can help make long term diazepam recovery, a reality.

Aftercare

Aftercare is potentially the most important element of diazepam treatment, as it can have the greatest impact on long term recovery outcomes.

  • What will life in diazepam recovery look like?
  • What will you be seeing, hearing, and feeling?
  • How will life change, to support your recovery?

The supports you have, and your ability to follow through on them, are crucial elements in maintaining abstinence from diazepam, over time.

An aftercare plan, is a detailed, written plan, of what you’ll do in recovery, and how life in recovery will be.

 Valium Addiction is usually characteristic of a chaotic lifestyle, with little structure, few supports, and no planning.

Aftercare planning helps you solidify a foundation for your recovery, and will tackle all of these elements, as well as those aspects personal to you, such as:

  • Trigger situations where you’d previously have turned to Diazepam use
  • Associations built up over time, attached to diazepam use
  • Places and people you’ll need extra support with, and can plan for, in advance.

 An aftercare plan can be designed to combat the precise issues, personal to you, that have arisen during the rehab program, and will help prepare you for both the practical and emotional elements of daily life in recovery.

 At Abbeycare, an individually assigned case manager helps connect you with supports such as:

  • A personal sponsor, who will work with you, for the ongoing future
  • Local mutual aid supports such as Narcotics Anonymous
  • Local specialist recovery groups
  • Additional counselling or mental health supports (if desired)
  • Other more specialist forms of support, unique to your situation, and needs.

FAQs

What does Diazepam or valium withdrawal feel like?

Your body has become used to an artificial, external source contributing toward important brain chemicals.

As a result, when this is removed, typical symptoms include vomiting, muscular and skeletal pains, attention and concentration issues, headache, depression, motor disturbances, and others, while the body and brain find equilibrium once more.

See our complete coverage of diazepam withdrawal symptoms, here.

How long does Diazepam stay in your system?

Diazepam’s intended use, is as an effective anxiety relief medication, with an above average timescale of effectiveness. From a chemical perspective, the half-life of Diazepam is 2-5 days.

This is what makes Diazepam a particularly effective medication for anxiety when prescribed appropriately; but also a more complex one to detox from.

How long does Diazepam withdrawal last?

Timescales vary. Factors such as usage levels, recency, frequency, duration of usage, and potency of diazepam, will determine how long withdrawal symptoms last.

Typical onset of symptoms is within 24 hours and can last up to several months depending on these factors.

Can I detox from Diazepam myself?

We specifically advise against attempting Diazepam detox without professional medical assistance.

How long will Diazepam detox take?

Whilst a number of personal factors, and the existence of co-occurring issues must be taken into account for each individual, the greatest determinant of detox duration is the frequency, dosage, and duration the dosage has been taken over time, i.e. the extent of the addiction.

In the primary care setting of residential valium addiction rehabilitation, a period of anything from 2-12 weeks or longer, is typical to detox from diazepam use.

After treatment can I return to low-dose diazepam use?

No. As an abstinence-based centre, we believe in discontinuing diazepam use permanently, as the primary means to achieve long term recovery.

Adopting this mindset from the beginning of your recovery journey will help maximise the likelihood of long term success.

How much does detox from valium?

Abbeybot below can provide instant pricing guidelines.

These are subject to agreement from Abbeycare’s admissions and clinical teams, following our initial conversation with you.

Contact us direct for advice for your personal situation.

How quickly can I arrange to start Diazepam or Valium detox?

We can arrange admission for most within 24 hours, subject to availability within our clinics. Please ring direct to check.

Where do you offer diazepam detox?

We have two UK centres offering diazepam detox currently: our Scottish clinic, here, & Abbeycare Gloucester (links open in a new tab)

What happens when I call?

We’ll have an initial chat about your needs, and history of diazepam use.

We’ll give you information about our program, what being in the clinic is like, and what life in recovery from diazepam addiction might look like.

If you wish to proceed, we can complete a few questions and have you admitted to treatment quickly, usually within 48hrs.

How To Book

To book into Abbeycare for Diazepam help, call us direct on 01603 513 091.

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Last Updated: January 18, 2023

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.