While they might not make the headlines as opioids and stimulants do, benzodiazepines play a substantial role in the substance abuse crisis that has befallen the U.S. in recent years. To appreciate the extent to which that is the case, we need only look at a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In that study, researchers revealed that an estimated 5.3 million people misuse Valium, with the average user being 18 to 25 years old. Of those who currently misuse this particular benzodiazepine, most started out taking it for legitimate reasons. Somewhere along the way, however, they began taking it in a way that contradicted their physician’s orders and eventually developed an addiction. The same NIH study revealed roughly 17% of people taking benzodiazepines, especially Valium, misuse them.

Additional Facts Everyone Should Know About Valium

One of the most troubling aspects of substance abuse in America is some issues never get the attention they deserve. Some even get intentionally or unintentionally swept under the proverbial rug. Both are the case when it comes to drug statistics. For example, along with 18- to 25-year-olds, 0.6% of individuals aged 65 and older also misuse Valium and other benzodiazepines. Of course, the troubling data related to the misuse of Valium and similar drugs do not end there. Available data show adults aged 50 and older are far more likely than younger adults to misuse medications in this class. Further, they are more likely than younger adults to use them to help with sleep. Among all ages, misuse of benzodiazepines often leads to abuse or dependence on opioids or stimulants.

Why Makes Valium So Addictive?

To better understand what makes Valium so addictive, it helps to know a little more about the drug and what it does to people on it. When someone takes Valium, it triggers an uptick in the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. For context, GABA is an amino acid that doubles as the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter for the central nervous system (CNS). Its role is to reduce neuronal excitability by inhibiting nerve transmission. When someone takes benzodiazepines, such as Valium, as directed, the uptick in GABA production in the brain promotes a sense of calm. And this is precisely why many physicians consider it a go-to drug for treating anxiety and sleeplessness. However, if someone abuses the drug or remains on it for too long, the above-average levels of GABA in the brain can make it highly addictive. Most people become addicted to Valium after taking it for just 4 to 6 weeks. Some of the most common signs of Valium or benzodiazepine addiction, in general, include the following:

  • Intense cravings
  • An unyielding desire to constantly isolate from family and friends
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Ignoring work or family obligations

How Long Does It Take for Valium to Start Working?

Along with anxiety and sleeplessness, many physicians prescribe valium to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, muscle spasms, athetosis, seizures, and stiff person syndrome (SPS). Valium generally kicks in within an hour of someone taking it to treat these conditions, but for some, it can happen much faster, typically 15 to 30 minutes. Those who take it to combat anxiety, seizures, or muscle spasms will usually start with a 2 mg dose taken orally up to 4 times daily. Of course, this applies to individuals taking the drug as prescribed by their physician. Things are markedly different for someone who misuses the drug; many take so much of the drug that it kicks in faster and causes them to build up a tolerance. Eventually, that tolerance turns into a full-on addiction.

Method of AdministrationOnset of ActionNote
Oral15-60 minutesCommon for anxiety and sedation
Intravenous (IV)1-5 minutesUsed in emergency settings
Intramuscular (IM)15-30 minutesAlternative when IV is not feasible

How Long Do the Effects of Valium Last?

When individuals take valium, the drug reaches its peak concentration within about an hour. The psychological and physiological effects of the drug can last 4 to 6 hours, but the drug can remain in one’s system for much longer. Depending on the dose someone has been taking, how long they have been using, and whether or not they combine it with other drugs, Valium can take several days or even weeks to leave the body entirely. For reference, the half-life of Valium is 20 hours.

What Happens When You Suddenly Stop Taking Valium?

When someone suddenly stops taking Valium, they experience a wide range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, many addiction experts encourage these individuals to seek treatment in an inpatient program, which can last anywhere from 30 to 120 days. Some of these withdrawal symptoms individuals often face while detoxing from Valium include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Cramps
  • Tremors
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Intense cravings
  • Mood swings

The withdrawal symptoms brought on by detoxing from Valium can last 7 to 10 days. One benefit of going to an inpatient program is access to medication-assisted detox. This aspect of addiction recovery involves round-the-clock monitoring by a licensed physician or nurse and FDA-approved drugs to make it slightly easier to cope with severe withdrawal symptoms. Some of the FDA-approved drugs commonly prescribed in rehab facilities across the country include the following:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate
  • Disulfiram
  • Lofexidine

In addition to medication-assisted detox, many rehab facilities offer counseling sessions with a licensed therapist. These sessions help individuals overcome the psychological aspects of quitting Valium while teaching them how to cope with cravings, temptation, and other triggers that could potentially lead to relapse. As their time in rehab draws to a close, many rehab facilities will provide referrals to support groups or sober living homes if they believe an individual is a good candidate for such programs.

While it is legal and offers real therapeutic value, Valium is still a powerful and very addictive drug. Moreover, it is a drug that has upended the lives of countless people. Fortunately, there is a plurality of rehab facilities and addiction recovery programs that individuals can turn to for help if they have a problem with Valium. To learn more about these facilities and their respective addiction recovery programs or to get help finding one in your area, consider speaking with a Recreate Life Counseling associate today.


  • What does Valium do to you?
  • Can Valium make you sleepy?
  • How long does it take Valium to kick in?
  • Is Valium good for anxiety?

Published on: 2022-10-29
Updated on: 2024-02-01