Diazepam, also known as valium, is a prescription medicine that can treat various conditions. Mainly the drug is used as an anti-anxiety, but it can deal with several other diseases. It can be given orally, through injections, and rectal gels. Diazepam belongs to the class of drug benzodiazepine. The drug also has abuse potential, hence should be used with caution. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about diazepam.
What Is Diazepam Used for?
Diazepam is used to treat the following conditions:
- Muscle spasms
- Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
- Restless legs syndrome
- As a sedative before surgery
- Induces skeletal muscle relaxation
How Does Diazepam Work? Mechanism Of Action
Diazepam, a benzodiazepine, works by increasing the effectiveness of an inhibitory neurotransmitter in our brain called Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA).
GABA reduces neuronal excitability throughout our central nervous system by inhibiting nerve transmission. Hence, it produces a calming effect in the brain and controls stress, anxiety, and fear. By promoting the effect of GABA (inhibitory neurotransmitter), diazepam produces a calming effect, so it is beneficial for treating insomnia and seizures.
Impulses to muscles from our nervous system are transmitted through GABA. So, if there is a deficiency or absence of GABA in your brain, muscle contractions and spasms occur because the message or impulse from the nervous system isn’t being sent to the muscles for relaxation. Diazepam promotes the effect of GABA, so a message from your brain to the muscles is transmitted, leading to muscle relaxation.
How Effective Is Diazepam?
Diazepam is one of the most commonly used drugs for its effect as an anti-anxiety, muscle relaxant, and insomnia. It is a long-acting drug and has a relatively rapid onset of action.
How Should I Take Diazepam?
Take diazepam as prescribed by your doctor.
You can take diazepam with or without food. If you face nausea with the medication, prefer taking diazepam in the middle of your meals.
If you have been prescribed diazepam tablets, do not break, crush, chew, bite, or dissolve the tablets in any liquid. Swallow them whole with a full glass of water.
Never take more or less than the prescribed dose. Misusing this medicine can lead to abuse.
Do not give diazepam to pediatrics younger than 6 months of age.
If you have missed your diazepam dose, do not take the missed dose if it is near to your next dose time. Do not take two doses within a 3-hour interval. In case less time is remaining for your next dose, skip the missed dose and wait for your second dose.
Do not use diazepam if you previously had an allergic reaction to the drug.
Strength Of Diazepam
Diazepam is available as:
- Oral solution
- Oral tablets (2, 5, and 10 mg)
- IV injections
- Rectal gel
- Nasal spray
What Dose of Diazepam Should I take?
Diazepam dose can vary for each patient according to their disease history and medical condition. So, take the dose of diazepam exactly as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist. Your doctor or pharmacist will prescribe a dose based on several factors, which can include:
- Your disease
- The severity of your disease
- Your medical history
The usual doses of diazepam are given below:
The dose range of diazepam for anxiety is 2 to 10 mg orally, given two to four times per day.
For children above 6 months to 17 years, the dose is 1 mg to 2.5 mg orally three to four times per day.
Your dose may gradually increase based on your response and tolerability toward the medication.
For Acute Alcohol Withdrawal:
The usual dose for acute alcohol withdrawal is 10 mg orally three to four times in the first 24 hours. Then the dose may be reduced to 5 mg orally given three to four times per day, depending on the withdrawal symptoms and the patient’s condition.
The dose for children above 6 months to 17 years is 1 mg to 2.5 mg orally three to four times per day.
For Muscle Spasms:
The standard dose for muscle spasms is 2 mg to 10 mg orally three to four times per day.
The dose for children of age above 6 months to 17 years is 2 mg to 2.5 mg orally three to four times per day.
Why Is Diazepam Considered A Good Treatment For Anxiety?
Diazepam potentiates the effect of an inhibitory neurotransmitter in our brain and produces a calming effect. Moreover, it has a rapid onset of action (within 1 to 2 hours) and a long duration of action; hence, it is considered a good treatment option for relieving anxiety.
What Are The Side Effects Of Diazepam?
The common side effects of diazepam include:
- Muscle weakness
- Dry mouth
These side effects are usually mild and go away within a couple of days, but if they are severe or persistent, consult your doctor or pharmacist
The severe side effects of diazepam may include:
- Worsening of seizures
- Depression or confusion
- Memory loss
- Increased muscle spasms
How To Manage Diazepam Side Effects?
The common side effects of diazepam go away with time. So, you don’t need to worry about them as they usually occur. However, if they persist or become intolerable, consult your pharmacist to switch your medication. The side effects of diazepam vary from patient to patient. Here are some tips for managing the common side effects of diazepam:
- If you face GIT disturbance or nausea with diazepam, use the drug during your meal.
- Do not engage in any mentality exerting activity after taking diazepam. Take rest as the drug causes dizziness and drowsiness.
- Do not take diazepam with any sedative drug, antidepressants, or antipsychotics, as they may worsen the side effects of diazepam.
- Drink plenty of fluids for managing diarrhea and GIT disturbances.
Interactions Of Diazepam
Diazepam has some serious drug-drug interactions and should not be used with the following medications:
Alternative Treatment Options For Anxiety And Muscle Spasms
Some people face difficulty in tolerating diazepam and face persistent side effects. Several alternatives to diazepam are available, depending on the condition being treated.
For example, there are less addictive drug options if a patient is a drug addict or has a potential for abuse. Flexeril, cyclobenzaprine, is a muscle relaxant drug that is less addictive than diazepam. Hence, it can be given as an alternative to diazepam for treating muscle spasms.
For anxiety, buspirone, an anxiolytic, is available as an alternative to diazepam for patients who cannot tolerate valium (diazepam).
Other options to treat anxiety include SSRIs and SNRIs (antidepressants) that are less addictive compared to benzodiazepine. However, the disadvantage of antidepressants is that they take time (2-4 weeks) to show effect.
Can I buy Diazepam Online?
Yes. You can buy diazepam online with a prescription. As diazepam is a prescription-based drug, you cannot purchase it online or from the market without showing a prescription. The pharmacy will check the authenticity of your prescription, and on verification, they will deliver diazepam safely to your home.
When should I take diazepam?
Diazepam is usually taken four times a day after every 6 hours. If you are taking diazepam for insomnia, take the drug one hour before sleeping.
How long does it take for diazepam to work?
Diazepam starts to produce its effect after two hours of intake.
Can I take diazepam while pregnant?
You can take diazepam while pregnant if its benefit for your disease outweighs its risk. However, it is not recommended to take diazepam while lactating.
Can I drive after taking Diazepam?
No. You should not drive after taking diazepam. Diazepam causes drowsiness and dizziness, plus produces a sedative and calming effect on your brain, which can be harmful to alerting activity like driving.
How long can I take Diazepam?
Diazepam is commonly not prescribed for more than four weeks. But if your doctor or pharmacist recommends taking it for more duration, you can take it as per the recommended dose and time.
Does long-term use of diazepam have adverse effects on my health?
Yes. Long-term use of diazepam can cause chemical dependency and severe addiction. So, diazepam should be used strictly according to the doctor’s prescription. Other adverse effects of the long-term use of diazepam may include hallucinations, memory loss, slowed pulse, and difficulty breathing. Hence, diazepam should not be used longer than 3 months unless in severe cases.
Diazepam is a prescription-based anxiolytic drug that works by potentiating an inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in our brain. It is used as a sedative, anxiolytic, muscle relaxant, and for treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
The drug causes drowsiness and dizziness and has a potential for abuse. Hence, the dose should not be taken more than the prescribed amount and for the recommended time.
Diazepam is not recommended for use in pediatrics less than 6 months of age. The side effects of diazepam evaporate within a few days on their own but if they become persistent or unusual, for example, effects like memory loss, seizures, agitation, or depression, consult your doctor to prescribe an alternative drug for your disease.