Valium is also known as diazepam. It is used to treat conditions like insomnia, seizures, alcohol withdrawal, and anxiety. Valium can provide relief for individuals suffering from muscle spasms. It is also used to sedate individuals prior to medical procedures.
Valium is in the family of drugs known as benzodiazepines. The medication works because of its ability to calm the nerves and the brain. It plays an important role in providing medical care, but since it is a benzodiazepine, it can be addictive. It is common for benzodiazepines to be abused. This can lead to serious health issues, especially if the drug is taken for a long period of time.
Valium Abuse in the United States
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine-National Institutes of Health, Valium abuse in the United States has reached epidemic levels. Valium has led to an increasing number of emergency room visits and deaths. This medication is most commonly abused in combination with alcohol or opioids.
Between 2.3 and 18% of Americans have abused tranquilizers or sedatives for recreational use in their lifetime. Approximately 10% of individuals in one study who abused drugs like Valium met the criteria for substance use disorder or dependency.
Valium is rarely abused on its own. Approximately 20% of individuals who abuse alcohol also use benzodiazepines like Valium. This combination increases the euphoric effect and lowers the unwanted side effects of other drugs, such as withdrawal symptoms.
People who abuse Valium in conjunction with other drugs typically consume Valium at a higher rate than those who just abuse the medication. Multiple substance abuse involving Valium reached 34.2 per 100,000 people in 2011.
How Long Does It Stay in Your System?
Valium has a long elimination half-life. The elimination half-life is the amount it takes for 50% of the substance to leave your system. There are several factors that can affect the half-life. On average, this medication has a half-life of between 30 and 56 hours. It takes four to five half-lives for a drug to be completely removed from your system. Therefore, it can take up to 10 days for the drug to leave your system entirely.
When the liver metabolizes Valium, it creates different agents. The most prominent metabolism agent of the drug is nordiazepam. These agents have a half-life of between 40 hours to 100 hours. This means that it can take almost 22.9 days for these agents to completely be removed from your body.
What Determines How Long Valium Stays in the Body?
There are several variables that influence the time Valium remains in systemic circulation. These variables can be put in five categories, including:
- Hepatic function
- Term of administration
- The person taking the drug
- Co-ingestion of other drugs
This is the key variable in determining the time Valium will stay in your system. If your liver is functioning well, your body will break down the drug quicker. However, if your liver function is compromised, it can take a lot longer for your body to excrete the drug.
In fact, if you have cirrhosis of the liver, the half-life of Valium in your body increases five-fold. This means that Valium can have a half-life of up to 164 hours in people with cirrhosis of the liver. It can take over 37 days for the body to completely excrete Valium and up to 45 days for the secondary agents to be removed.
Term of Administration
The longer you consistently take Valium, the longer it will take your body to excrete it after the last dose. Long-term consumption of any drug is likely to lead to greater accumulation throughout the body. Short-term administration of Valium leads to less accumulation of the drug and its metabolites, which leads to a more effective excretion.
If you use Valium short-term, your body may never reach peak concentrations of the drug. However, if you use Valium long-term, your body will not only reach peak concentrations quickly, but it will hit that peak continuously. Both the higher dosage and the frequency with which your body hits peak concentration affect your body’s ability to eliminate the drug.
In the same way that taking Valium at higher frequencies influences how long it stays in your system, so does the dosage of Valium taken. For example, if a person takes one 10 mg dose of Valium, it is going to take their body longer to metabolize it and to excrete it as opposed to a person who takes 0.5 mg. Taking a drug in higher doses puts a heavier burden on the hepatic system, reducing the efficiency of Valium breakdown.
The Individual Taking the Drug
Two people who have healthy, functioning livers might take the same amount of Valium at the same time, but one person’s body will excrete the drug quicker than the other. This is because there are individual factors that influence how their body eliminates the drug. These include:
Age drastically affects substance elimination half-life. People who are over age 65 may show a twofold increase in elimination half-life when compared to their younger counterparts. There are several health issues that come with age, including reduced hepatic blood flow and reduced albumin levels. According to some sources, the estimated half-life of Valium for a 20-year-old individual is 20 hours, and it increases one hour for each year thereafter.
Body mass is another influencing factor. According to one study, the accumulation half-life of Valium is longer in obese individuals, which is approximately 7.8 days, than it is in non-obese individuals, which is 3.1 days. In one study, obese individuals had an elimination half-life of 82 hours versus 32 hours for non-obese individuals. If you have a high percentage of body fat or you are a large person, Valium distributes over a larger area and stays in your system for longer than it would in a smaller individual.
Genetics come into play because they determine how well your body creates the enzymes needed to break down Valium. If your body has a poor expression of the enzymes CYP2C19 and CYP3A4, you will experience a longer elimination half-life. However, if you have an optimal level of CYP2C19 and CYP3A4, the drug will be cleared from your system quicker than average.
Metabolic rate may not directly influence Valium’s elimination half-life, but it does impact body fat percentage. The elimination of Valium is longer in obese individuals, so a person with a lower basal metabolic rate will likely take longer to eliminate Valium from their body than those who have a higher metabolic rate.
Co-Ingestion of Drugs
If you take other drugs with Valium, it may determine how long the Valium stays in your system. As mentioned above, in order to metabolize Valium, your body needs to produce the enzymes CYP2C19 and CYP3A4. Some drugs can enhance or inhibit the function of these enzymes. For example, Prozac and Moclobemide inhibit CYP2C19, whereas aspirin and Prednisone induce this enzyme.
Tests Used to Detect Valium
There are several tests used to detect Valium in a person’s system. The more common tests are:
- Blood test
- Urine test
- Saliva test
- Hair test
Blood tests do a better job at accurately detecting Valium levels in a person if they take Valium regularly. Diazepam builds up in the bloodstream over a long period of time, making it easier to detect its presence in long-term users.
Urine tests are not the best tests for Valium. This is because a relatively small percentage of the drug leaves through the urine. However, urine tests may be effective when detecting the metabolites of Valium. For some individuals, these metabolites linger for just a few days after ingestion. For others, they are detectable for weeks after administration.
Hair tests are effective in determining if a person has ingested Valium. They can also show if an individual has abused the drug. Valium and its metabolites are present in hair samples as quickly as one week after administration. It may continue to be detectable for three months after the drug’s ingestion.
Saliva tests are a noninvasive way for detecting Valium in a person’s system. However, there is evidence that suggests that saliva tests are not the best option for assessing Valium ingestion because the drug is highly protein-bound and weakly acidic. You will only find it at low levels in the saliva.
Signs and Symptoms of Valium Addiction
The longer a person abuses Valium, the more likely it is that addiction symptoms will emerge. These symptoms are behavioral, physical, and psychological. They may include:
- Dry mouth
- Suicidal thoughts
- Seizures and coma
- Doctor shopping behavior
- Legal troubles connected to a Valium use
- Problems at work or at school
There are two primary pathways that lead a person to develop an addiction to Valium. Pathway number one involves a person getting a legitimate prescription for Valium after an accident or an injury. The person eventually takes more Valium than prescribed, and then addiction sets in.
The second pathway is a person who has no need for Valium but can acquire it and abuse the drug. Valium abuse may be part of multiple substance use disorders. It is important to note that on its own, Valium abuse rarely leads to a fatal overdose. However, when Valium is taken with other drugs, especially alcohol, it can be a fatal combination.
Valium Withdrawal Symptoms
The length and severity of withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on how long a person was using and how high of a dose they were using. Valium has a longer withdrawal time frame compared to other medications.
When a person who is abusing Valium stops taking the drug or if they significantly reduce the amount of the drug they take, their body will probably go into withdrawal. Some common Valium withdrawal symptoms include:
- Abdominal muscle cramps
- Extreme anxiety
- Muscle pain
More extreme Valium withdrawal symptoms could include:
- Epileptic seizures
- Light sensitivity
- Numbness in the extremities
- Sensitivity to personal contact
- Sound sensitivity
Severe symptoms can last for between three to six days after the last dose, and the symptoms may follow a fluctuating schedule. After the first three to six days, there will be a drop-off in symptoms. However, many will experience a resurgence of symptoms on par with what they felt when the effects first began. This can last for weeks or even months.
At Granite Recovery Centers, we can help you navigate the difficult detox phase of your recovery. Our comfortable and modern facilities give you a place where you can go through the detox process in a safe, clean and dignified space. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
Breaking Free from Substance Use Disorder
For more than a decade, Granite Recovery Centers has been improving the lives of adults who are dependent on alcohol and drugs. Our clients are from New England and other parts of the United States.
We take a unique approach to drug rehab and recovery, combining evidence-based psychotherapies and a comprehensive 12-step curriculum. We can offer a full gamut of care. This includes medication-assisted treatment, medical detox, extended care, primary residential treatment, intensive outpatient counseling and sober living.
Our results speak for themselves. We are proud of our ever-growing alumni community. When you speak to them, you can see that many of them have experienced challenges similar to yours. However, after treatment at our recovery center, they developed the skills needed to live their lives free of substance use.
Granite Recovery Centers looks forward to helping you or your loved one take the first steps on a journey to recovery. Sobriety is possible, and we can help.