Diazepam Withdrawal Medication and Treatment Programs
Diazepam, or Valium, is a benzodiazepine medication that can be prescribed for its anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, sedative, and muscle-relaxing effects.1 Diazepam has significant abuse potential, and users may develop a dependence on the drug, meaning they need to take it to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, detoxing from diazepam cold turkey has several risks. Inpatient and outpatient withdrawal treatment programs can help minimize the risks and discomfort through carefully dosed tapering schedules.
Withdrawal from Diazepam & Other Benzodiazepines
Some benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be serious and even life-threatening. There are no medications approved specifically for treating diazepam withdrawal or dependence. Programs may use anticonvulsants and sedating antidepressants such as trazodone to help control seizures and anxiety. Diazepam is no different.
Treatment Options for Diazepam Withdrawal
Diazepam withdrawal help can provide much-needed support during the difficult detox process. Professional programs know what to expect during diazepam withdrawal and how to treat any issues that may come up. Help for diazepam withdrawal can include:
- Detox centers, which are facilities dedicated specifically to detoxing from substances. They have medical professionals on staff that can prescribe medications and treat symptoms, and they can make referrals to recovery programs that offer addiction treatment.
- Inpatient programs, where the recovering individual stays at a treatment facility for the duration of detox. These programs provide around-the-clock medical and psychological care and can make the transition into a substance abuse treatment program smoother. In addition to detox, they offer different services to help people recover from drug abuse and stay sober.
- Intensive outpatient with detox, which is when the detoxing person lives at home throughout the process, but checks in regularly with the rehab program for monitoring. These programs also include several hours of group or individual therapy per day for at least 2 days per week.
- Partial hospitalization, a more involved outpatient program in which the person engages in detox treatment and therapy at a facility throughout the day, but sleeps at home.
Tapering Off Diazepam
Diazepam withdrawal treatment usually includes a gradual tapering of doses to lower the risk of withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and psychotic reactions.2 The dose is reduced over a period of time, which can also help prevent relapse.
The amount of time and the doses administered during a diazepam taper will vary by:
- Individual needs.
- The severity of physical dependence.
- The average dose of diazepam being abused prior to entering detox.
In high-dose cases, the person may start detox at 40% of their abuse level dose, followed by 10% reductions every day following.3
Experienced professionals can determine an appropriate taper and treat withdrawal symptoms. Tapering without medical assistance can increase the possibility of unpleasant symptoms and other potentially severe effects of withdrawal.
Detoxing Cold Turkey at Home
Detoxing cold turkey, meaning to abruptly stop using diazepam, can be very dangerous or even lethal for a person trying to stop use at home. Withdrawal symptoms can include seizures, panic attacks, and insomnia, and going through detox alone can result in harm to oneself or others.2 There is also a significant risk of relapse throughout detox because the symptoms of withdrawal can become very uncomfortable and taking the medication again can relieve them.
Working through detox in a formal program is the safest option for someone looking to escape the diazepam abuse cycle. These programs have trained staff on hand to treat any medical emergencies or mental health issues that may come up.
. DrugBank. (2016). Diazepam.
. Petursson, H. (1994). The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Addiction, 89(11). 1455-1459.
. Harrison, M., Busto, U., Naranjo, C. A., Kaplan, H. L., & Sellers, E. M. (1984). Diazepam tapering in detoxification for high-dose benzodiazepine abuse. Clinical Pharmacological Therapy, 36(4). 527-533.