Diazepam is a medication that belongs to a family of medications called benzodiazepines. Diazepam tablets are often used to treat anxiety disorders, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and insomnia. Diazepam used to commonly be known as Valium, although this brand of diazepam is no longer available in the UK. Long term use is often not recommended, as these type of prescription drugs can become addictive.
What is Diazepam?
- Diazepam is a drug used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms and seizures (fits)
- Some people are prescribed diazepam as a medicine to help them relax before medical procedures. It can be prescribed as a muscle relaxant
- Diazepam used to commonly be known as Valium, although this brand of diazepam is no longer available in the UK
- It is a controlled substance (also referred to as ‘Class C drugs’).
- Diazepam is commonly taken as a tablet, but can be prescribed in liquid form or as a rectal medication
- It is recommended that diazepam is not taken for more than four weeks at a time
- As diazepam can make you feel sleepy, you must not drive or use heavy machinery or tools whilst taking it
- It is important to read the patient leaflet for a full list of common side effects and cautions.
How does Diazepam work?
Benzodiazepines including diazepam work by increasing certain chemicals in the brain. These chemicals have a calming effect on the brain which can help to reduce anxiety, help your muscles to relax, or make you feel relaxed or drowsy. It can even stop seizure activity. Sometimes diazepam is prescribed as a sleeping aid.
Because a diazepam pill can have lots of different effects, it is prescribed for a range of different medical conditions. These might include anxiety, difficulty falling asleep or as an emergency medication to be given during seizures.
Can you drink alcohol when taking Diazepam?
Because diazepam can make you sleep heavily, it is advisable not to consume alcohol when taking diazepam. The combined effect of alcohol and diazepam may lead to changes in your breathing and make it more difficult to wake up.
How is Diazepam taken?
For anxiety, difficulty sleeping or muscle stiffness, diazepam is taken by mouth as a tablet. People who have difficulty swallowing might be prescribed an oral solution instead.
To stop seizures in children, rectal diazepam is often prescribed as it begins working quickly when administered in this manner.
How is Diazepam different to Lorazepam?
According to the British Journal of Anaesthesia, Diazepam and lorazepam have different potencies and different times for their course of their action – with the main difference between the two Benzodiazepines drugs being that diazepam stays in the body longer than lorazepam.
Drugs.com provide a helpful comparison of Diazepam (Valium) vs Lorazepam (Ativan).
How is Diazepam different to Clonazepam?
Diazepam and Clonazepam have different potencies and different times for their course of their action.
Drugs.com provide a helpful comparison of Diazepam (Valium) vs Clonazepam (KlonoPIN).
What is the dosage of Diazepam?
Diazepam 2mg / 5mg / 10mg
When treating anxiety with diazepam, the most common starting dose is 2mg three times a day. If this does not have the desired effect, your doctor, local pharmacist or healthcare provider may increase the dose of treatment to 5mg or 10mg three times daily. High doses use of Diazepam is rare.
Diazepam is also prescribed on a short term basis to help if feelings of anxiety are stopping you from falling asleep. In this case, the dose might vary from 5mg to 15mg taken before bed.
If you doctor wants to treat muscle spasms with diazepam, the dose can range from 2mg to 15mg. Your doctor will tell you how to divide this dose across each day. Higher doses of 20mg daily are sometimes prescribed to treat severe muscle spasms.
What are the side effects of Diazepam?
Like all medications, diazepam can have some side effects. The most common side effects include:
- Feeling drowsy or sleepy
- Feeling confused
- Reduced co-ordination
- Problems controlling the movement of your arms and legs
- Breathing problems
- Tremors (shaking that most commonly occurs in the hands).
- Withdrawal symptoms
If these occur, keep taking the medication but speak to your doctor for advice.
Rarely, more serious side effects can occur when taking diazepam. These include:
- Changes to your breathing, including slow or shallow breaths
- Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (this could be a sign of a problem with your liver)
- Memory problems
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- Delusions (thinking things that are not true)
- Falling over.
Very rarely, some people experience mood changes including agitation, restlessness, feeling irritable, aggressive behaviour, talking excessively or feeling over-excited. If this occurs, you should speak to your doctor straight away.