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The Impact of Valium Addiction On Teens

teenagerAcademic pressures to keep up good grades and do well in school can cause high levels of anxiety among teens. In order to cope, it is getting more common for teens to turn to the illicit use of anti-anxiety drugs like Valium. However, Valium comes with a high risk for dependence and can often cause more problems than it solves.

What is Valium?

Valium (also known as a diazepam) belong to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which  act on the neurotransmitter known as GABA to calm activity in the central nervous system (including the brain). It treats chronic anxiety, muscle spasms, the side effects of alcohol withdrawal and convulsive disorders.

What are the Side Effects of Valium?

Valium has a number of unwanted side effects. The most commonly reported of these are:
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Ataxia
However, other side effects may occur, including confusion, headaches, slurred speech and decreased coordination and vertigo,  digestive problems like constipation and nausea, visual disturbances and low blood pressure.

How and Why is Valium Abused?

Valium is only available by prescription and is classified as a Schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act because it has a high risk for dependence and addiction.  Continued Valium use can build a tolerance the user will need more of the drug to achieve the desired effect.   Using Valium without a prescription or at a larger dosage or more frequently than it is prescribed are common ways in which it is abused. Common warning signs of Valium abuse can include a decreased attention to hygiene, clumsiness and slurred speech, social withdrawal, problems at school or with family and friends, changes in sleeping or eating habits, mood swings and excessive sleepiness during the day.

How Common is Teen Abuse of Valium?

According to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future Survey (which looks at trends in teen drug use across the country), 4.7% of high school students report having used sedatives like Valium in the past year alone, while 7.6% had tried it at least once in their lifetime. Most report getting it, free of cost, from friends or family members with a prescription. One disturbing trend is the tendency to mix this drug with alcohol.  When taken together, extreme depression of the nervous system can result. This leads to a decrease in heart rate, breathing and blood pressure and can result in coma or death.

What is Valium Withdrawal Like?

Valium withdrawal is not easy. To begin with, researchers have noted that valium takes a long time to be eliminated: it has a half-life of up to 200 hours, which means that it will take roughly 8.3 days for half of the amount to be eliminated. Valium withdrawal is similar to withdrawal from alcohol or barbiturates. The most common side effects are muscle cramping and pain, headaches, excessive sweating, extreme anxiety and restlessness, irritability and confusion.  If extreme cases, however, side effects can be even more severe and include numbness or tingling in the limbs, extreme sensitivity to light, touch and noise, hallucinations and even seizures.

What is the Treatment for Valium Addiction?

Because going “cold turkey” from valium can have serious or fatal consequences, it is very important to seek professional treatment to help with the detoxification process, so the dose can be gradually decreased and withdrawal symptoms minimized. Following up with inpatient or outpatient rehab to improve mental and physical health and reduces the chances that someone will go back to Valium use. The decision to break a Valium addiction is a serious one, but with professional help, patient comfort and safety can be promoted and patients can learn new behaviors and ways of coping with stress that can help prevent the addiction from recurring.   References Ashton, Heather. “Benzodiazepines: How they Work and How to Withdraw”. Website. University of Newcastle. 2001. Web. March 1, 2016. Patterson, Eric. “Valium Abuse”. Website. Recovery Brands, Inc. 2015. Web. March 1, 2016. “Valium”. Food and Drug Administration. Roche Products, Inc. 2008. Web. March 1, 2016.

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