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Valium is a prescription medication used primarily to treat anxiety, but it may treat other conditions. It is a benzodiazepine and is also known by its generic name, diazepam.
You may wonder how long Valium stays in your system — a relevant question for a few different reasons. First, there is the potential to overdose if you take too much Valium or combine it with other central nervous system depressants that also slow brain activity. You also may want to know how long Valium stays in your system if you undergo a drug screening. If you’re dependent on Valium, you may wonder when Valium withdrawal symptoms could begin.
Valium works by binding to GABA receptors throughout the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. This reduces overactivity in the brain and produces feelings of calm and relaxation. Other than treating anxiety, Valium may also treat seizures, insomnia and muscle spasms.
Because of its high risk for abuse and side effects associated with long-term use, Valium is not recommended as a long-term option for anxiety, sleep problems, and muscle relaxation.
Knowing a drug’s half-life is useful to determine the length of time it will take for that substance to be completely removed from the body. The half-life of a substance is the time it takes for half of the initial drug amount to be eliminated from the body. Generally, it takes five half-lives for a drug to leave the system fully.
The elimination half-life for Valium is long compared to other benzodiazepines. Valium’s half-life ranges from 24–48 hours, meaning it can take approximately ten days for a dose to leave the system fully. It is also important to note that after Valium is ingested, it is broken down into other substances or metabolites that can stay in the system longer and can be detected in drug screenings. For example, nordiazepam — a metabolite of diazepam — has a half-life of 50–120 hours, meaning it could be detected in the body for up to 25 days.
One of the most common types of drug tests is a urine test. Many factors can influence how long Valium is detectable in the urine, including age, body fat, hydration, that person’s metabolization rate, the Valium dose size and the length of time a person has been taking it.
A study conducted on diazepam and its detection in urine found that the average detection time in urine for this drug is 10.5 days. Keep in mind that this detection time is an average time, so the study also found longer results. These results were taken only after one dose of Valium, and reports estimate that Valium may be detected in the urine for up to six weeks after ingestion.
Although urine is the most common method to test for Valium and other benzodiazepines, there are other ways to detect these types of drugs, including blood, hair and saliva. Blood and saliva have a shorter detection window. Valium may be detected in:
The onset of action for Valium, when taken by mouth, ranges from 15–60 minutes. If the medication cannot be administered by mouth or if it is needed in a surgical setting, Valium can be administered intravenously. If given through IV, the onset of action occurs within 1–3 minutes.
Valium is also available in a rectal formulation that can treat seizures, particularly in children. When given rectally, Valium can stop seizures within 15 minutes of administration.
Valium can treat anxiety symptoms within 15–60 minutes after taking a dose by mouth. This is important for cases of panic attacks or extremely stressful situations. However, to improve overall daily symptoms experienced as a result of an anxiety disorder, Valium needs to be taken on a regular basis. Studies show that overall anxiety symptoms begin to improve after two weeks of taking Valium.
When compared to other benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety, like Xanax, Valium tends to work more quickly and has been shown to be slightly more effective. One study confirmed that Valium controlled anxiety-related symptoms better than Xanax after four weeks of use.
Valium begins to work within 15–60 minutes when taken orally. This drug has been proven to help treat insomnia; therefore, an individual can expect to start to feel sleepy within this timeframe. Valium decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and extends the total time of sleep per night. Valium is not recommended for long-term therapy as a sleep aid. Treatment with Valium to help with sleep should not exceed four weeks.
The peak concentration of a drug is the time it takes for that drug to reach its highest amount in the blood. The time it takes for Valium to peak in the bloodstream is approximately 1–1.5 hours. If this medication is taken with food, the onset of action and time to peak increase. Taking Valium with food can increase the onset of action by an additional 45 minutes, and peak concentrations may be increased to 2.5 hours.
Unlike other benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, Valium is a long-lasting medication. The effects of Valium can range from four hours to beyond 12 hours. Certain groups of people may experience longer-lasting effects from Valium compared to others. For example, elderly patients have a lessened ability to clear drugs from their system, so Valium may last longer for them. On the other hand, the half-life of Valium in children is approximately 18 hours, which is less than a healthy adult, so the effects may not last as long in children.
Because Valium can cause drowsiness and sleepiness, a person should not drive or operate machinery while taking this medication. Valium can affect your judgment, reaction time and ability to focus, so it is necessary to wait a certain amount of time from the last dose of Valium before it would be considered safe to operate a vehicle.
The amount of time a person should wait will depend on how they react to the drug. If someone experiences the effects of Valium for only four hours, it would be considered safe to drive several hours after this time period. If a person is taking Valium for the first time, then the longest possible duration of action, which is approximately 12 hours, should be observed before driving.
If someone drinks alcohol or uses any other narcotics with Valium, impaired judgment is higher and the ability to react is significantly lower. Drowsiness is also increased when combining Valium with these types of substances, so driving should not occur until at least 24 hours, including 7–8 hours of sleep, after the last use of any of these substances.
Withdrawal from Valium will depend on how long an individual has been taking it, the dose, and if the person is taking additional controlled substances or alcohol with this medication. Withdrawal symptoms from Valium generally begin 1–4 days after stopping the medicine. Symptoms of withdrawal from Valium include:
There are significant risks when withdrawing from Valium, especially seizures. In order to prevent the potential harms and painful effects of withdrawal, Valium detoxification is necessary. This process allows the safe removal of the substance from the body under the direct supervision of a licensed medical professional. Other medications may or may not be used to help ease discomfort during detox.
Valium is a controlled substance benzodiazepine and has a high risk for abuse and misuse. The use of benzodiazepines is so widespread that 30.6 million adults reported taking these drugs in 2018, with 5.3 million of those people admitting misuse. Valium is among the 100 most commonly prescribed medications, making it widely available to people who could potentially develop a Valium use disorder.
Tolerance, meaning a higher dose of a drug is required to produce the same effect, can develop quickly with Valium. An individual is more likely to develop an addiction to Valium if they are taking high doses, if they have been on the medicine for a long time, or if they combine this medication with other central nervous system depressants, like alcohol. Some people with a substance use disorder combine Valium with opioids to heighten the effects of the opioid. Signs and symptoms of Valium abuse include:
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to Valium or other benzodiazepines, help is available. The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is dedicated to helping those who live with substance use disorders. Our skilled team of medical and wellness professionals is there to guide you through every step of the recovery process, beginning with detox.
Depending on the severity of addiction, and in direct consultation with our medical professionals, an individual will proceed to either an inpatient setting, partial hospitalization program or intensive outpatient program. Regardless of which level of care is appropriate, clients will receive individual and group therapy, and may have access to recreational therapies like yoga.
Our facility is conveniently located just outside of Colorado Springs. The serenity of this area is the perfect setting to begin the road to recovery and maintain a healthy quality of life. The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake gives clients breathtaking views and landscapes for a sense of calm, and amenities like volleyball and basketball courts, an exercise gym and heated swimming pool.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, reach out today. A knowledgeable representative can help you learn more about Valium addiction treatment programs and the options available to you.
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The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.
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