Anti-anxiety medications are one of the most common treatment options for panic disorder. Valium (diazepam) is one type of anti-anxiety medication that is used to treat the symptoms of panic disorder and other conditions.
What is Valium?Valium is the trademark name for the anti-anxiety drug diazepam, a type of benzodiazepine. Anti-anxiety medications that are classified as benzodiazepines, such as Valium, are also known as sedatives due to their tranquilizing and calming effects. Other types of frequently prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam). Valium and these other common benzodiazepines can help reduce the intensity of panic attacks, nervousness, and anxiety.
Valium is often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia). Valium acts as an anticonvulsant and can be used to treat certain medical conditions, such as seizures and muscle spasms. Valium is also approved to treat anxiety associated with certain illnesses, including bipolar disorder, alcohol withdrawal, and other conditions.
How Does Valium Treat Panic Disorder?Valium impacts the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is connected to the regulation of sleep, relaxation, and anxiety. When influencing the GABA receptors, Valium then slows down the central nervous system (CNS). This action decreases a person’s feelings of nervousness and agitation and produces a sense of calm and relaxation. In this way, Valium also helps lessen the intensity of panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms.
Valium is a fast-acting medication that quickly helps lower anxiety and other symptoms of panic disorder. Valium gets into your system rapidly, but can also build up over time. This can sometimes make it challenging to most effectively and safely dose Valium.
What Are the Side Effects of Valium?Due to their effectiveness and relative safety, benzodiazepines are often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and other conditions. However, all medications have side effects that you may or may not experience. Some of the most common side effects of Valium include:
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Lack of coordination and unsteadiness
Most side effects should go away or lessen over time. Consult your doctor if side effects worsen or become unmanageable.
Is Valium Addictive?Valium, along with all other benzodiazepines, is classified as a controlled substance. It is possible to abuse Valium and to develop both a physical and emotional dependence to this medication. If a person becomes dependent on Valium, it can be difficult to discontinue use of the medication due to the potential for withdrawal symptoms. Some of the most typical withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, seizures, tremors, vomiting, and excessive sweating.
Your doctor will likely discuss strategies to lower the risk of possible abuse and dependence, and then review your progress on Valium over time. Do not attempt to ever reduce or stop your dosage on your own. To keep you from experiencing withdrawal symptoms, your doctor will help you gradually lower your dosage of Valium.
What Other Precautions Are There to Taking Valium?There are several precautions to consider when taking Valium:
Medical History: Caution should be taken if you have a history of certain medical conditions. Talk to your doctor before taking Valium if you have been diagnosed with these or any other medical condition:
- Narrow angle glaucoma
- Lung disease
- Sleep apnea
- Liver disease
- Myasthenia gravis
- Kidney disease
- Drug or alcohol addiction
Allergic Reaction: As with any medication, you can potentially have an allergic reaction to Valium. This medication should not be taken if you have a history of being sensitive or allergic to benzodiazepines. Seek immediate medical care if you show signs of an allergic reaction, including:
- Skin rash
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Swelling of the face, tongue, mouth, or throat
Drug Interactions: Valium depresses the central nervous system. Alcohol and medications that similarly slow down the central nervous system should be avoided. To prevent unwanted drug interactions, let your doctor know what prescription and over-the-counter medications you are taking.
Drowsiness: Dizziness, lightheadedness, and drowsiness are common side effects of Valium. Be cautious when driving or performing other tasks that require awareness and concentration until you have become more familiar with how Valium affects you.
Pregnancy and Nursing: Valium can be passed on to a child during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Discuss the potential risks of taking Valium while pregnant or nursing with your doctor.
Older Adults: The side effects of Valium are typically more noticeable for older adults. To limit these effects, a change in dosage may be necessary.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended to provide an overview of the use of Valium for panic disorder. This summary does not outline every possible situation, such as potential side effects, outcomes, complications, or precautions and contraindications associated with Valium. Any questions or concerns you may have about your prescription should be addressed with your doctor or pharmacist.
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Silverman, Harold M. (2010). The Pill Book. 14th ed. New York, NY: Bantam Books.