Commonly known as diazepam in the UK, Valium is a benzodiazepine often prescribed to treat the symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. It has the ability to increase the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) within the brain, a natural chemical that can produce a calming and relaxing sensation. 
Due to the pleasurable effects of Valium, many people ingest this medication as a recreational drug. However, Valium has the potential to be extremely addictive, particularly when taken without medical supervision.
An addiction can affect every aspect of our lives including our health, relationships and employment opportunities. It is important to be aware of the often damaging effects of Valium and understand the potential warning signs of addiction.
What are the signs and symptoms of a Valium addiction?
When a medication has been prescribed by a medical professional, it can be difficult to recognise and acknowledge the signs of addiction. Even when an individual is abusing a certain substance recreationally, they may still struggle to realise that they have developed a physical or psychological dependency.
In many cases, concerned friends and family will pick up on the warning signs and communicate their worries to the individual. If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, there number of physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms to look out for that may indicate a Valium addiction.
Physical symptoms of a Valium addiction include:
- Extreme drowsiness and fatigue
- Lack of coordination
- Slurring words
- Irregular breathing
- Skin irritation including rashes
- Blurred vision
- Feeling dizzy and off-balance
Psychological symptoms of a Valium addiction include:
- Feeling irritable and restless
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Agitation and aggressiveness
- Frequent mood swings
- Intense cravings for Valium
Behavioural symptoms of a Valium addiction include:
- Being dishonest and deceitful about the behaviour
- Becoming withdrawn and isolated
- Denying the extent of the problem when confronted
- ‘Doctor-shopping’ in order to acquire multiple prescriptions
- Stealing or borrowing money in order to fund the addiction
There is no shame in recognising that you have developed an addiction to Valium. In fact, acknowledging that you have a problem and seeking help is one of the strongest and most commendable actions that you can take.
Valium use – what are the laws?
Many people are surprised to learn that Valium is classified as a Class C drug in the UK and is illegal to possess without a prescription.
There are strict laws around possessing, supplying and manufacturing illegal Valium tablets. If you are found guilty of the possession of Valium without a prescription you could be sentenced to up to two years in prison, potentially including an unlimited fine.
Anyone found guilty of the supply or manufacturing of this medication could receive a prison sentence of up to 14 years as well as the possibility of an unlimited fine. 
The sentencing will depend on a number of factors including your criminal history, the amount of Valium found and whether your intent was to use, supply or manufacture this substance..
There has been a significant increase in the rate of illegal Valium tablets entering the UK, with the Border Force seizing 1.3 million tablets in 2017. 
These tablets are potentially dangerous as they have not been manufactured under professional conditions and may contain additional substances or even be completely fake. It is important that you protect yourself by only taking Valium for a legitimate medical requirement under careful monitoring by your doctor.
Who is most at risk of developing a Valium addiction?
As with all other addictive substances, anyone can become addicted to Valium. However, there are a number of risk factors that may predispose certain people to develop a dependency on this medication.
In a medical setting, people struggling with anxiety or insomnia are more likely to be prescribed Valium and therefore risk developing a dependency. The elderly population are also increasingly likely to be prescribed this medication on a long-term basis, and as a result, are at a greater risk of becoming addicted to Valium.
Regarding the recreational use of Valium, addiction can happen to anyone but certain people are more likely to develop a dependency on this medication than others.
Common risk factors for developing a Valium addiction include:
- A co-occurring mental health disorder
- A family history of addiction
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Growing up in an environment where drug and alcohol use was normalised
- Experimenting with addictive substances from a young age
It is important to note that you are not guaranteed to develop an addiction to Valium, even if you relate to all of the above risk factors. Addiction does not discriminate, but under careful medical supervision, it is possible to use Valium for its intended medical purpose without developing a dependency on this substance.
Can I overdose on Valium?
Although Valium is a relatively safe form of benzodiazepine, it is possible to overdose on this medication if it is misused for recreational or medical purposes.
When a substance is referred to as being abused, this means that it is being taken in a way that is not intended. This could include taking a higher or more frequent dosage than prescribed, ingesting a specific medication without a prescription or crushing, snorting or injecting a substance that should not be taken in this form.
When taken as directed, Valium has an extremely low risk of overdose. It would take a very large amount of this medication to cause an overdose and the individual would likely lose consciousness before being able to consume a lethal dosage, however, this also comes with its own risks.
When Valium is combined with alcohol or other opioid-based substances, the risk of overdose is increased. Many people are unaware of the potentially lethal combination of Valium and other opioids, and care should be taken when prescribing this medication.
The body can also quickly build up a tolerance to Valium, requiring a higher dosage in order to achieve the same effects. This tolerance can be quickly lost if the individual attempts to stop using the substance, leading to an increased chance of overdose if a relapse occurs.
Common symptoms of a Valium overdose include:
- Slow and shallow breathing
- Extreme drowsiness and tiredness
- Blue-tinged skin, lips and nails
- Seeing double
- Lack of balance and coordination
- Pain in the abdomen
If you or someone you know is showing signs of a Valium overdose, call 999 and seek immediate medical assistance. If they appear to be having trouble breathing, the 999 operator will be able to guide you through the steps of CPR.
A Valium overdose can be fatal, and it is crucial that the affected person receives the appropriate care as soon as possible.
Valium addiction in the elderly
Although older people are more susceptible to the effects of benzodiazepines such as Valium, they are increasingly being prescribed this medication to treat symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. This has lead to an increase in elderly patients struggling with a Valium addiction and in severe cases, a higher rate of overdose.
Potentially addictive medications such as Valium should only be prescribed on a short-term basis, but studies have shown that many older people end up taking them for a number of years.
The risks that come with an increased rate of Valium addiction within the elderly population include a higher chance of overdosing when this medication is combined with specific painkillers, many of which are frequently prescribed to older people. It can also cause a higher rate of falls and fractures as well as car accidents due to the side effects causing dizzy spells and drowsiness. 
Many older people believe that as Valium is medically approved and prescribed by a doctor, it is, therefore, safe to use. However, the fact that this medication can only be obtained with a prescription should be evidence enough to prove its potentially addictive nature and co-occurring risks.
What should I do if I think I have a Valium addiction?
It is important to seek help with your addiction once you have acknowledged that there is a problem. It can be difficult and in some cases even dangerous to attempt to withdraw from a substance like Valium without professional help, and the chances of a future relapse are higher in those that attempt to recover alone.
The most effective treatment for a Valium addiction involves entering a rehabilitation centre, either as an inpatient or an outpatient depending on the severity of your addiction.
Here you will receive 24/7 monitoring as you detox from Valium on a personalised plan, before undergoing a range of therapy treatments to examine the psychological reasons behind the addiction and develop coping skills to prevent relapse in the future. It is important to treat both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction, and this is most effectively managed within a rehabilitation centre.
We can help you to seek treatment for a Valium addiction and use our experience and resources to find a local rehabilitation centre that works for your budget, lifestyle and individual needs. Give our supportive and non-judgemental team at OK Rehab a call today and take the first step towards a life free from addiction.