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Signs of Valium Abuse
This inability to feel good without Valium is one of the key signs that a person’s use of Valium has crossed the line. This state will persist even as the body and mind begin to suffer with the excess diazepam in the person’s system; mild symptoms of such suffering include a lack of coordination (difficulty walking, writing, thinking, driving, etc.), almost like being drunk. These may be easy to pass off, but as more Valium is taken off label and for longer periods of time, the symptoms become much more serious. They include:
- Mood swings
- Rapid heart rate
- Uncontrollable trembling, especially in the hands
- Difficulty breathing
At this stage of Valium abuse, the primary danger is that the patient will continue to take more Valium, partly because they have become physically dependent on the diazepam, but also under the impression that the calming, soothing effects of the Valium will make the discomfort of the symptoms go away. In reality, however, persistent use of Valium increases the body’s tolerance to the drug, meaning that standard amounts of diazepam are no longer sufficient in stimulating the brain to release GABA; more and more is required to feel the desired effect, which has the result of increasing dependence on the drug and the severity of the effects.
The inability to function without Valium is one of the key giveaways that a person’s use of Valium is full-fledged abuse of the drug. Someone who is hooked on Valium will be irritable, unable to concentrate or sleep, and fixated on trying to recapture the burst of relief that came with the initial exposure to the drug.
Drug withdrawal takes place when the user’s body is forced to function without the presence of a drug on which it has become dependent. There is general discomfort when a person stops using Valium after a period of abusing it, but withdrawal symptoms can be quite painful and dangerous. They include severe headaches, vomiting and nausea, muscle cramping, and abdominal pain. Users may also experience high blood pressure, an intense craving for more Valium, recurring panic and anxiety attacks, and unpredictable mood swings.
Other signs of Valium abuse include:
- Lying to doctors about medical conditions to get more Valium prescriptions
- An obsession with getting and using more Valium, even as health and lifestyle problems mount
- A loss of interest in hobbies and relationships
- Difficulty functioning without Valium
Sometimes, people try to stop using Valium on their own, but the onset of these withdrawal symptoms can be so overwhelming that they go back to the drug, thereby deepening the addiction. This is why even if a person has been abusing Valium, they should not try to quit the abuse alone. Withdrawal is an important part of treating Valium abuse, and it should be conducted in a clinical setting with medical supervision.
Getting Help for Valium Abuse
A client who checks into a treatment center to receive help for Valium abuse will be given a psychological evaluation, which will determine the severity of the addiction; this will, in turn, determine the format of treatment. For those who have a longstanding abuse problem or who have been taking copious amounts of diazepam, a doctor will likely recommend an inpatient program, where the client will be housed in a rehabilitation center and receive treatment. This form of therapy focuses on examining the psychological reasons that drove the Valium addiction and teaching the client how they can cope without diazepam once treatment has concluded.
If a doctor determines that the addiction is somewhat manageable, the person might be entrusted to an outpatient program, where they can continue living at home but are expected to regularly visit the treatment center for therapy. Programs can still be all-day formats, or the client might be required to spend weekends at the treatment center.
When getting treated for Valium abuse, withdrawal is the first step of the process. In this context, it is known as medical detoxification, where dependence on the drug is slowly and carefully reduced. This can still be an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous process, so doctors and medical staff should be on hand to administer medication that will ease the discomfort and not react with the diazepam being processed from the body. For example, doctors might put the patient on a regimen of a benzodiazepine with a slower onset of action (something that isn’t as rapid as Valium’s 20-40 minutes) or a benzodiazepine with less abuse potential. Drugs like chlordiazepoxide (sold commercially as Librium) are effective in reducing the risk of seizures during withdrawal and will not cause further adverse reactions with pre-existing diazepam.
The precise length of detoxification depends on a number of factors, such as the severity of the Valium abuse, the person’s physical and mental health, as well as the presence of any other drugs, including alcohol. Generally, detoxification lasts a week, but it is not unheard of for the process to last longer.
Therapy and Continued Support
Following detoxification, individuals will have to continue their treatment for Valium abuse through therapy and counseling. This is to help clients develop their psychological resistance to taking Valium as well as control their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to the substance abuse. Lastly, treatment for Valium abuse should involve the client’s family, as the home environment plays a big role in the development of both the conditions for substance abuse and the risk of relapse. Family therapy can improve communication and interpersonal relationships, both for the client individually and for the family unit as a whole.
Recovering from Valium abuse is a long-term process, which requires commitment to adhering to the strategies and philosophies laid out in treatment. To help clients receive the continual assistance they need to consistently apply what they learned during rehabilitation, aftercare support groups based on the 12-Step program are important. They can help individuals and their families navigate the challenging but rewarding world of recovery. Groups like Benzodiazepine Anonymous feature members who have had their own struggles with Valium abuse, who are in a position to share their experiences with those who are freshly putting their diazepam addiction behind them.
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