Is Valium an Addictive Medication?

Valium is an incredibly useful medication for people who have anxiety disorders, and according to an article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, addiction rarely arises in people who are taking medications like this in order to help them deal with a mental illness. This fact shouldn’t give people a sense of complacency about the addictiveness of Valium, however, as this drug can bring about powerful changes in the brain when it’s abused, and addictions can quickly follow when people dabble in recreational use of this drug.

Chemical Reactions

valium pillsValium works by slowing down electrical activity inside the brain, reducing the speed at which cells are firing and amending the chemicals the brain uses to keep that fire alive. Additionally, however, Valium can tweak the production and uptake of chemicals the brain uses in order to register pleasure or happiness. It’s this modification of the pleasure pathway that can make Valium so addictive. People who take this drug feel a boost of sensations they may not feel via any other method, and in time, they may find that they crave that happiness.

Drugs that work on the brain’s pleasure pathways can cause permanent changes, and these amendments can also lead to addiction. For example, as the brain becomes accustomed to these high boosts of pleasure, it might begin to make smaller amounts of pleasure chemicals available. It might also make receptors for these chemicals a little less effective. Changes like this can mean that people can’t feel pleasure or happiness in the absence of drugs. They may feel jittery, sad, anxious or upset, until that little pill makes everything seem just fine again. This is how addiction develops.

People who abuse Valium tend to use the drug in combinations with other drugs, including:

Many of these drugs also work on the brain’s pleasure pathways, meaning that people might be doing even more extensive damage, and addictions might develop even more quickly as a result.

Measuring the Impact

Researchers have conducted multiple studies to measure just how addictive Valium is when compared to other benzodiazepine drugs that work in much the same way. The results are startling. For example, in a study in the Journal of Pharmacology comparing Valium to oxazepam, 91.7 percent of choice tests demonstrated a clear preference for Valium. Participants felt the drug came on quicker, was more powerful, and brought about better results. Studies like this seem to suggest that this drug can bring people intense pleasure, and they might prefer it to other types of drugs.

Addictiveness can also be measured by the physiological dependence people can form to the drug. While a biochemical dependence on a drug isn’t the same as a psychological need to use the drug again, a physical dependence can lead to symptoms of pain when people try to stop taking the drug, and this could keep them locked inside the arms of an addiction. On this scale, Valium merits a high score. Within weeks of taking the drug, the body becomes adapted to its presence, and when people try to stop, feelings of anxiety and nervousness can follow. Some people even develop seizures when they attempt to stop taking Valium, and they might need to spend months in intensive therapy, weaning away from the drug in slow and steady measures. If dependence is a part of the addiction process, Valium is certainly a drug to be avoided.

Getting Better

Just because a drug is addictive doesn’t mean that a person who abuses the drug is doomed to take it forever. In fact, there are many therapies that can be used to help people overcome an addiction to Valium. Tapering doses in detox is the first step in correcting the chemical imbalance that sits beneath the addiction, but therapy can help people to develop new habits and new preferences, so they won’t be tempted to return to drugs down the line. Each day, people choose to fight back against addictions like this, and each day, they get better.

At Axis, we’ve seen recovery happen on a firsthand basis. In our residential treatment center, we provide therapies that can help people to deal with prior trauma, set goals and move forward with life. If you have an addiction, we’d like to help you too. Please call us to get started.