Valium 101: An Overview
Valium, falls within the medication classification referred to as benzodiazepines.The benzodiazepines including Valium are by far the drugs most often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. Also in addition to being good for anxiety, Valium is frequently used as a muscle relaxant and for sleeping difficulties. Sometimes the benzodiazepines are also used to treat seizures in some patients with epilepsy. It is considered a long-acting benzodiazepine, in that you may take one dosage to last all day. Valium is frequently prescribed for individuals with generalized anxiety disorder, problems with muscle relaxation (such as if you have back problems), and even for a condition called night terrors that occurs with children.
Do I take any tests before I take Valium, or when I am on it?
No tests are required prior to receiving a prescription or while you’re on Valium. No blood test or x-rays are required to monitor the effects. Valium can be given to patients with very serious medical problems, and has no ill effects on the heart, lungs, or kidneys. It is not recommended if you have a history of alcohol abuse or have misused other drugs, or if you have liver disease, are pregnant or are nursing.
Valium: Why is this anti-anxiety medicine prescribed??
Valium is an anti-anxiety medicine used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and for the short-term relief of general symptoms of anxiety. Valium is from the anti-anxiety medicine classification known as benzodiazepines. Valium is also used at times to treat the acute symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, to relieve uncontrolled muscular movements caused by cerebral palsy and paralysis of the lower body and limbs, to relax muscles, to control involuntary movement of the hands, to relax tight aching muscles, and it is sometimes used with other medications to treat epilepsy and other convulsive disorders.
Most important fact about this anti-anxiety medicine:
It is especially important to be cautious with this anti-anxiety medication as it can be habit-forming or addictive. You may experience withdrawal symptoms from Valium if you discontinue its use abruptly. You should only change the dosage or discontinue its use under the supervision of a medical doctor.
How should Valium be taken?
You should only take this anti-anxiety medicine as prescribed. If you’re taking Valium for epilepsy or convulsive disorders you should make sure to take it at the same time every day.
If you miss a dose of valium…
Take the missed dose as soon as you think about it if it is within an hour or two of the scheduled dosage time. If you do not remember until much later you should skip the missed dose and go back to your normal schedule. You should never take two doses of this medicine at once.
You should store Valium away from heat, light, and moisture.
When should Valium not be prescribed?
If you’re sensitive to or have ever had an allergic reaction to Valium you should probably not take it. Also, you should not take this medication if you’ve ever had an eye condition called narrow-angle glaucoma. Every day tension and stress does not usually require anti-anxiety medicines such as Valium. You should always discuss your anxiety symptoms thoroughly with your physician before taking any medicine for it. Finally, Valium should never be taken for mental disorders considered to be more serious than anxiety.
Valium Side Effects and Special Concerns
What are the main Valium side effects that may be expected?
In many cases side effects cannot really be anticipated, but if they do develop or increase in intensity you should contact your doctor immediately. Only your physician can determine if the specific side effects may make it difficult to continue or make it prohibitive.
The most common Valium side effects include the following:
Drowsiness, fatigue, light-headedness, loss of muscle coordination
Some of the less common side effects include:
Anxiety, blurred vision, changes in salivation, changes in sex drive, confusion, constipation, depression, difficulty urinating, dizziness, double vision, hallucinations, headache, inability to hold urine, low blood pressure, nausea, over-stimulation, rage, seizures (mild changes in brainwave patterns), skin rash, sleep disturbances, slow heartbeat, slurred speech and other speech problems, stimulation, tremors, vertigo, yellowing of eyes and skin
Some of the following side effects of Valium are strictly due to rapid decrease in dosage or abrupt withdrawal from this medication:
Abdominal muscle cramps, convulsions, sweating, tremors, vomiting
Are there any additional special concerns about this medication?
This medication is known to cause drowsiness or inhibit an individual’s ability to pay full attention to activities which require concentration. You should never drive or operate dangerous machinery until you’re sure of how you respond to this type of medication. Also, you should always take special precautions if you have ever had any kidney or liver problems.
In addition to the Valium side effects there are also possible food and drug interactions while taking this medication.
In addition to the side effects associated with this medication, there are also interactions with foods and various other medications. This medication has a slowing effect on the central nervous system and also may magnify the effects of alcohol. You should obviously not drink when taking this medication. If Valium is taken with other medications, the effects of these medicines may be increased, decreased or may be altered in some other way. You should always talk with your doctor prior to taking Valium with any of the following medications:
• Anti-seizure drugs such as Dilantin
• Antidepressant drugs such as Elavil and Prozac
• Barbiturates such as Phenobarbital
• Cimetidine (Tagamet)
• Digoxin (Lanoxin)
• Disulfiram (Antabuse)
• Fluoxetine (Prozac)
• Isoniazide (Rifamate)
• Levodopa (Larodopa, Sinemet)
• Major tranquilizers such as Mellaril and Thorazine
• MAO Inhibitors (antidepressant drugs such as Nardil)
• Narcotics such as Percocet
• Omeprazole (Prilosec)
• Oral contraceptives
• Propoxyphene (Darvon)
• Ranitidine (Zantac)
• Rifampin (Rifadin)
Should you be concerned about the Valium side effects if you are pregnant or breast-feeding?
You should never take Valium or any similar medications if you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant sometime in the near future as there could be an increased risk of birth defects. If your doctor decides that it is actually necessary to continue taking this medication in spite of the side effects, you should probably discontinue breast-feeding until your medication treatment is finished.
Final comments on Valium side effects:
Valium is an effective short-term medication for anxiety disorders and overall is one of the more popular prescribed medications. However, there are significant side effects that need to be considered with this medication as with all medicines. You should always be in consultation with your physician when taking this antianxiety medication.
Valium dosage: How much should I really take?
Valium dosage and overall effects:
Valium is referred to as a long acting benzodiazepine because one 5 mg dose may possibly last the entire day. The most common Valium dosages are between 5 mg and 20 mg per day, with the doses usually evenly divided and taken in the morning and evening, rather than being taken all at once. Because this medication works more quickly than most other benzodiazepines, relief can often occur within 30 minutes to an hour after taking the first dose. Many patients with generalized anxiety disorder who take Valium regularly feel substantial improvement within one week of their first dosage. Once you get to the right dosage that seems to control your anxiety, you may remain at that dose indefinitely often without experiencing new anxiety symptoms. If the medicine doesn’t seem to work, that may indicate that the diagnosis may be inaccurate. Also, other psychological symptoms such as depression may be present. This medicine will not help with depression. Also, there are often times in which the difficulties in an individual’s life may be more effectively handled without medication through the use of other treatments such as psychotherapy. Changing to other benzodiazepines usually does not help. Most doctors attempt to use the smallest dosage possible before increasing to a higher amount for the elimination of anxiety symptoms. It does not appear that there are any known medical risks associated with remaining on this medication for your entire life, although the longer you take it the harder it may be to stop or reduce its usage.
Valium dosage: What is the recommended amount for the treatment of anxiety disorders or short-term relief of anxiety symptoms?
The usual dosage of Valium is dependent upon the severity of symptoms but is usually between 2 mg and 10 mg taking 2 to 4 times per day.
Dosage associated with alcohol withdrawal:
The usual dosage of this medication when utilized for alcohol withdrawal is 10 mg, three or four times during the first 24 hours, and then 5 mg three or four times per day as needed.
For relief of muscle spasms:
The usual amount of Valium for the relief of muscle spasms is 2 mg. to 10 mg, three or four times per day.
The usual dosage utilized for treatment of compulsive disorders is 2 mg. to 10 mg,, 2 to 4 times daily.
This medication should not be given to children under the age of six months of age. The most often used dosage to start children over six months old is 1 mg. to 2.5 mg three or four times per day. Only your doctor should increase this medication as necessary.
The usual starting dosage of Valium is 2 mg. to 2.5 mg once or twice per day. Your doctor will usually limit the dosage to the smallest effective amount possible, as older individuals are more apt to become over sedated and may be at a much higher risk of falling, and have other difficulties associated with the lack of coordination.
All medicines including anxiety medications, if taken in excess of the prescribed amount can be very dangerous and have serious consequences. If you have any reason to suspect an overdose, you should seek medical attention immediately. The symptoms of a Valium overdosage may include, confusion, diminished reflexes and/or sleepiness.
If you miss your Valium dosage,,,,
If you miss your usual dosage you should take it as soon as possible it if it is within an hour or two of the schedule dosage. If you don’t remember until much later you should skip the missed dose and go back to your normal dosage schedule. You should never take two doses of this medication at once.
By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist