How Long Does Diazepam Last?
Diazepam is the generic equivalent of Valium and brings with it the dangers of any other benzodiazepine. Though an effective anti-anxiety agent for short periods of time, Valium can also be highly addictive.
Diazepam (Valium) is a highly addictive sedative that belongs to the benzodiazepine class of medications. It is used to treat anxiety, epilepsy, involuntary muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal. Diazepam works on the CNS by enhancing the effects of GABA, a naturally occurring compound that has a a calming effect.
Benzodiazepines (BZD) are one of the most widely prescribed pharmacologic agents in the United States (more than 112 million prescriptions in 2007). BZD’s are used for numerous indications, including anxiety, insomnia, muscle relaxation, relief from spasticity caused by central nervous system pathology, and epilepsy. BZD’s are also used intraoperatively because of their amnesic and anxiolytic properties. However, these properties become undesired side effects in nearly all other clinical instances. (NIH)
Needless to say, valium has great potential for abuse. That’s why physicians should only prescribe these drugs for a short period of time. The DEA lists benzodiazepines as a Class IV Controlled Substance. This means that they have a moderate abuse potential that can eventually result in physical dependence.
The Consequences of a Short Half-Life
Valium has a very short onset of action. The effects of taking an oral dose can be felt within 15 minutes. Then, it reaches peak concentration about one hour later. The physiological effects of diazepam only last about 5 hours. However, diazepam is a long acting benzo that stays in your system for several days.
The half-life of Valium is 20 hours. This means that it takes about 20 hours for half of the original dose to exit your system. Within another 20 or hours, the leftover amount is halved once again and so on. For someone that takes one dose of diazepam, it can take several days to leave their body. If someone takes large amounts of diazepam for an extended period of time, it can take several weeks before the drug has completely left your system.
Diazepam is a central nervous system depressant, so it slows down your brain and body. Some of the side effects of diazepam can include dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness, and unsteady balance. When taken in high doses, diazepam can cause drowsiness, euphoria, and relaxation.
Diazepam is a relatively safe medication when taken correctly and taken alone, but it is often mixed with alcohol or other drugs such as opiates. Mixing any benzodiazepine, such as diazepam, with alcohol or other opiates can cause severe CNS depression which slows breathing and your heart rate substantially.
It is also important to understand that prolonged use of diazepam can result in a phenomenon known as ‘rebound anxiety.’ Rebound anxiety typically happens when the diazepam dose is reduced too quickly or the patient begins to develop a tolerance to a certain dosage. The result is a worsening of the symptoms that the medication was prescribed to treat in the first place. In a sense, rebound anxiety can be viewed as a brief period of benzo withdrawal syndrome, which consists of a set of symptoms that range from mildly uncomfortably to terrifying.
Can Diazepam Withdrawal Kill You?
If this becomes common enough, an intervention of some sort is often needed. Otherwise, the diazepam user will seek to increase their dosage or supplement the medication with longer acting benzodiazepines or other dangerous drugs. This practice, while certainly understandable, only serves to increase the level of dependence and expose the user to the risk of seizures or even death.
This is true of benzo withdrawal in general. Depending on the half life of the benzo in question, the onset of unpleasant or dangerous side effects can begin anywhere from 24 hours to several days after the last dosage. The symptoms of diazepam withdrawal might be mild at first, but they can eventually include bizarre behavioral changes, high levels of agitation, insomnia, seizures, and death. Though death from diazepam withdrawal all by itself is extremely rare, anyone who is experiencing these type of symptoms should seek medical attention and benzo detox immediately.
Treatment for Diazepam Addiction
So how long does diazepam last? In some ways, the answer to this question is irrelevant. All you really need to know is that it certainly won’t last forever. If you or someone you love is struggling with a diazepam addiction, we’re here to help. Absolute Awakenings follows an evidence-based approach to treating substance abuse disorders. We are committed to providing long-term recovery for those struggling with addiction. Recovery is not a one size fits all approach. That’s why every person that walks through our doors experiences a different type of recovery. Our recovery specialists are waiting to assist you. Call us today!