Diazepam is used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms and seizures, and is sometimes given to patients to help them relax before an operation or other medical or dental treatment.

Diazepam belongs to a group of medicines called benzodiazepines and is available on prescription only. It used to be sold under the brand name ‘Valium’.

Diazepam comes in the following forms:

  • As tablets.
  • As a liquid that you swallow.
  • In a rectal tube (for those suffering seizures).
  • As an injection given in hospital.

Due to the potentially addictive nature of diazepam, it is usually used as a one-off treatment rather than for continuous use, but can be used to treat people suffering from acute alcohol withdrawal as it affects the same neurotransmitters as alcohol without causing inebriation.

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The body builds up a tolerance of diazepam very quickly, which is one of the main reasons it is so addictive. Once a tolerance has built up, users require a higher dosage to achieve the same sedative effect.

Diazepam addiction can very quickly develop in people who are prescribed the drug by their doctor, so it is unusual to have a prescription for more than four weeks. Longer-term use of diazepam causes dependence as the person’s body relies on the chemical effects it has on the brain and its neurotransmitters.

As mentioned above, use of diazepam very quickly leads to tolerance, which makes it more likely that an individual will develop an addiction as they need to take more diazepam to achieve the same results.

A history of substance abuse is also more likely to lead someone to become addicted. As diazepam is used by people with anxiety, depression or stress, suffering from those disorders is more likely to lead to an addiction. Rather than producing a ‘high’, people taking diazepam for stress or anxiety rely on the drug just to make them feel normal or to help them sleep.

Other factors include:

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Diazepam abuse – and indeed drug abuse of any kind – is different to diazepam addiction. Addiction means the user has a strong urge to take diazepam, regardless of the consequences. However, drug abuse of often the first step on the road to addiction.

Many people abuse diazepam without realising it. Even though it is prescribed by a doctor, taking a larger dose of a prescription medication than is advised by a doctor is abuse. Many people do this automatically if they notice they are not getting the same level of relief from diazepam that they did at first. Increasing your dose of diazepam can lead to tolerance and dependence, and diazepam abuse can lead to addiction.

If diazepam is starting to interfere with daily life and is making it difficult to handle usual responsibilities at work and at home, you may have a problem. Continuing to use diazepam despite being aware of the harm it is causing signifies an addiction.