What is Valium?
Valium is Hoffman-La Roche’s trade name for the benzodiazepine derivative diazepam. It is useful in the treatment of anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms, restless legs syndrome, alcohol and other drug withdrawals, Meniere’s disease and insomnia. It is frequently used as an anxiolytic before medical procedures and as an amnesiac in certain surgical procedures.
How does Valium work?
Like all benzodiazepines, Valium works on the central nervous system by enhancing the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA which has a natural calming effect. It is believed that Valium’s anxiolytic effect derives from its action on the limbic system, the thalamus and hypothalamus. Like all benzodiazepines, Valium increases inhibitory processes in the cerebral cortex.
What does Valium look like?
Valium is sold in round tablets with a central “V” shaped perforation. They are available in strengths of 2 mg, 5 mg and 10 mg, which are white, yellow and blue tablets respectively.
Valium dosing and administration
The standard dose when using Valium to treat anxiety is between 2 and 10 mg, two to four times. For muscle spasms the dose is 2 to 10 mg taken three or four times daily. The recommended dose for seizures is between 2 and 10 mg, two to four times daily. Valium is usually administered with other seizure medications. The standard dose for alcohol withdrawal is 10 mg three or four times during the first 24 hours and subsequently 5 mg three or four times daily. Valium is usually given only during the first, acute phase of alcohol withdrawal and is not used long term for this purpose. Because elderly people tend to have higher sensitivity to benzodiazepines, the recommended starting dose for elderly patients is between 2 and 2.5 mg once or twice per day. Your doctor may gradually increase this dosage if necessary. Valium may be taken with or without food.
Common adverse effects from Valium
The most common side effects of Valium are drowsiness, fatigue, confusion, double vision, headache, bowel or urinary incontinence, changes in libido, nausea, excessive salivation, slurred speech, tremors, urinary retention, vertigo and blurred vision. More serious side effects may include depression, hypotension, jaundice, suicidal ideation, respiratory distress, anxiety or agitation, aggressive behavior or rage, insomnia, hallucination and allergic reactions. If any of these symptoms occur you should contact your doctor immediately.
Interactions with Valium
Combining valium with alcohol may increase the risk of serious side effects. Anesthetics, antipsychotics or antidepressants taken with Valium may increase the risk of respiratory distress or memory loss. Taking barbiturates, narcotics, opiates or other benzodiazepines with Valium may increase the risk of respiratory problems and other serious side effects, as can sleep medications and anti-seizure drugs. Probenecid may potentiate Valium and the Valium dosage should be halved if taken with probenecid. Grapefruit juice may potentiate Valium.
Valium warnings and precautions
You should inform your doctor before taking Valium if you suffer from glaucoma, depression, liver or kidney disease, any allergies or have a history of substance abuse, including alcohol. You should also inform your doctor if you are or may become pregnant or are breastfeeding.