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Valium Drug Information

Generic Diazepam - Anti-Anxiety Medication

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Updated June 18, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Valium is a drug used for managing anxiety disorders and short-term treatment of anxiety symptoms. It is also sold under the generic name diazepam, and was one of the first drugs popularly known as tranquilizers, approved in 1963.

Another important use for Valium is to treat skeletal muscle spasms from conditions like inflammation or trauma, along with spasticity from conditions like cerebral palsy and stiff person syndrome.

Diazepam may be used as adjunctive therapy to other drugs in patients with seizure disorders.

This drug may also be prescribed to treat the symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal, where it may help control tremors, agitation and delirium tremens.

Who Should Not Take Valium

Diazepam should not be given to children under the age of 6 months. Also, patients with sleep apnea, serious difficulty breathing, severe liver disease, or myasthenia gravis should use significant caution when taking this drug.

If you have glaucoma, it's possible that you should not take diazepam. Make sure you know whether you have open-angle glaucoma (where Valium use is okay) or acute narrow-angle glaucoma (where Valium should not be used). Contact your ophthalmologist if you are unsure.

Warnings

  • Do not drink alcohol or use other sedating drugs or substances while taking diazepam.

  • When used as part of treatment for seizure disorders, Valium should not be stopped suddenly. Increased seizure activity can result.

Drug Interactions

1. Because Valium is a central nervous system depressant, your doctor should be careful when prescribing other drugs that also affect the CNS, including: 2. The following drugs, when taken with Valium, could lead to increased effects or toxicity:
  • cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • oral ketoconazole
  • fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • fluoxetine (Prozac), and
  • omeprazole (Prilosec)
This is not intended to be a complete list of possible drug interactions. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure.

Side Effects

The most common side effects of Valium are:
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • unsteady gait
For a more comprehensive list, see: Valium / Diazepam Side Effects.

Drug Dependence and Withdrawal

As with all benzodiazepines, it is possible for Valium to be habit-forming, even if you are only taking the prescribed dose. The risk of dependence is higher with prolonged use or when the drug is abused.

Symptoms of withdrawal from Valium can be mild to severe. These can include:

  • insomnia
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • sweating
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • abdominal and muscle cramps
  • tremor
A temporary return of anxiety symptoms that are worse than before treatment was started can occur.

Withdrawal symptoms may be more severe if treatment is stopped abruptly. The recommendation is to taper the dose down gradually when discontinuing this drug.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

Valium increases the risk of birth defects if the mother takes it during pregnancy, and there a risk that a newborn may go through withdrawal if the mother takes diazepam during the 3rd trimester. Use by women who may or are planning to become pregnant, and continued use by women who discover they are pregnant, should be considered only when the clinical situation warrants the risk to the fetus.

Diazepam is excreted in breast milk, so use when breast-feeding is not recommended.

Source:
Roche Products, Inc. "FDA Approved Label for Valium." Revised Jan 2008.

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