Valium (diazepam) is a medicine from the benzodiazepine family prescribed mainly to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and spasms. The drug induces a calming effect, which is the reason behind its frequent use. However, not only is Valium addictive, but its use can induce a wide range of adverse reactions. Is drowsiness one of them? Does Valium make you sleepy? In this post, we’re going to focus on Valium and its potential to make you sleepy.
Diazepam, or Valium, was first marketed in the United States back in 1963. Valium works by reducing hyperactive brain function to alleviate severe stress and anxiety. Available in pill form, Valium is usually taken one to four times a day, depending on the dosage. Compared to other benzodiazepines, Valium is a long-lasting drug.
Since it lasts longer in the body than short-lasting benzodiazepines, people can take fewer doses of Valium a day. The duration of action of Valium is 12 hours. However, it’s also a fast-acting drug that works within one to three minutes after ingestion.
A common misconception about Valium is that just because it’s legal, the medicine must be safe too. But the reality is entirely different. Similar to other benzodiazepines, Valium acts on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA receptors), just like alcohol. As a result, the drug can lead to similar intoxicating effects that alcohol produces. This is where the addictive potential of Valium lies, but fortunately, the problem can be successfully treated at a Valium medical detox center in Texas, like the one offered at Stonegate Center located just west of Fort Worth, Texas.
By binding to GABA receptors and allowing the brain to produce dopamine, Valium can stimulate your brain and thus make a person crave for more frequent use and larger doses. Eventually, compulsive behavior, i.e., addiction develops[i]. Remember, dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in motivation, reward, memory, attention, and even regulates body movements.
Valium and Drowsiness
Intake of Valium can make you sleep even during the day, i.e., the drug causes drowsiness. However, scientific research on this subject is scarce and warrants further studies to help us learn as much as possible about it.
Although scarce, the evidence on this subject isn’t nonexistent and also includes a study from the Drug Investigation journal. This double-blind, randomized, comparative study included 44 healthy volunteers, and it aimed to compare various drugs in their potential to induce daytime sleepiness.
Subjects received alprazolam (Xanax) 0.5mg, buspirone (Buspar) 5mg, and diazepam (Valium) 5mg orally three times each day for seven consecutive days. On the first and seventh days, scientists evaluated daytime sleepiness in participants. During the first day of the treatment, subjects who received alprazolam and diazepam were significantly sleepier than their counterparts who took buspirone.
While on the seventh day there wasn’t a huge difference in daytime sleepiness level among these drugs, subjects who took diazepam (and alprazolam) had lower performance scores[ii]. Although this study didn’t focus on diazepam alone, it’s still an important piece of evidence that confirms the drug’s potential in inducing sleepiness and drowsiness.
The Neuropsychopharmacology journal published a study that focused on the role of the thermoregulatory process in sleepiness and psychomotor performance induced by diazepam. The study included eight healthy young volunteers who were given a single oral dose of either five or 10mg of diazepam or placebo. They took the drug 12 hours after the average sleep onset time.
Results of the study showed diazepam induced a significant transient decrease in psychomotor performance. Moreover, sleepiness increased at the same time. Scientists concluded the sedative or hypnotic effects of the drug could be due to, or at least to some extent, changes in thermoregulation, particularly in the process of heat loss[iii].
In one study, insomniac participants received 10mg diazepam for 18 months, and while it improved their sleep, the drug also induced daytime sleepiness[iv].
How Does Valium Make You Sleepy?
As seen above, diazepam has the potential to induce daytime sleepiness. In fact, drowsiness is a common side effect of the drug, but their relationship requires more research. Mechanisms of action through which Valium induces drowsiness to have a lot to do with GABA receptors.
GABA is a naturally-occurring amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain. As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA blocks or inhibits certain brain signals and decreases the activity of the nervous system. Upon attaching to a protein in the brain known as the GABA receptor, this neurotransmitter induces a calming effect. This explains why GABA helps with seizures and problems, such as anxiety.
Keep in mind that diazepam works by facilitating the activity of GABA at various sites[v]. Evidence confirms that increased activity of GABA is observed in subjects with excessive daytime sleepiness. The elevated concentrations of GABA tend to take place in the medial prefrontal cortex[vi]. Although more research on this subject is necessary, it’s easy to establish a connection here. Valium exhibits its effects by elevating GABA concentration in the brain. Then, increased GABA induces daytime sleepiness.
It’s also useful to mention that Valium may induce a wide range of side effects, including fatigue, ataxia (loss of balance, muscle weakness, and spinning sensation[vii] , all of which can amplify the effects of drowsiness. These problems only aggravate when you use Valium with other drugs or mix it with alcohol.
Not only does Valium have the addictive potential and side effects of drowsiness, but it can also lead to overdose. Valium overdose occurs when a person takes an excessive dosage of Valium. The most common symptom of Valium overdose is extreme drowsiness. A person may fall into a deep sleep or coma. Other symptoms of Valium overdose include:
- Blue-ish lips and fingernails
- Double or blurred vision
- Lack of alertness
- The rapid movement of the eyes side-to-side
- Slow breathing
- Upset stomach
- Weakness and uncoordinated movement
Overdose is a dangerous condition that requires urgent treatment.
Treatment of Valium Addiction
Valium addiction is a serious problem and requires proper treatment. The patient gets proper care and guidance at a Valium addiction rehab facility for men in DFW, like the one offered at Stonegate Center. The main goal of the treatment is to safely guide a patient through the Valium withdrawal process and helps them adopt new mechanisms to avoid craving for the drug. With a successful recovery process, a patient can start a healthier life without relying on Valium to experience the feelings of calmness and sedation.
Withdrawal from Valium is similar to the process involving other benzodiazepines. Discontinuation of the use of these drugs is followed by improved psychomotor and cognitive functioning. But no clear evidence suggests the optimum rate of tapering the drug (the practice where a patient gradually decreases dosages). One study recommends aiming for withdrawal in <6 months; otherwise, the withdrawal process can become the morbid focus of the patient’s existence.
The Valium withdrawal process generally includes two basic stages. First is the acute stage, which occurs one to four days following the patient’s last use of Valium. This is when the first effects of withdrawal take place. The exact timing of the acute withdrawal symptoms depends on how much and how often a patient takes Valium. Whether or not a patient takes Valium in combination with other substances plays a big role in withdrawal symptoms too.
The symptoms of acute withdrawal include headache, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, cramps, and even tremors. A patient may also experience cardiovascular symptoms such as accelerated heart rate and high blood pressure. Neurological symptoms such as confusion may also occur as well as psychological symptoms like mood swings, cravings, depression, and panic attacks.
After the acute stage, the general withdrawal phase ensues. This is a more length withdrawal stage, and it may take place over 10 to 14 days. During this period, a patient tends to go through symptoms such as amplified cravings, headache, fever, lightheadedness, nausea, chills, depression. Due to the wide range of symptoms that occur during the detox process, residential treatment yields the safest and most effective results.
Valium is a commonly taken benzodiazepine with addictive potential. The drug also causes drowsiness due to its ability to activate GABA receptors in your brain. A lot more research on this subject is necessary. But since many alcohol treatment programs use Valium to aid the withdrawal process, it’s useful to emphasize the risk of addiction to the drug and its danger, especially since it causes daytime sleepiness.
[i] a Well-known mechanism underlies benzodiazepines’ addictive properties. (2012) National Institute on Drug Abuse https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2012/04/well-known-mechanism-underlies-benzodiazepines-addictive-properties
[ii] Dement WC, Seidel WF, Cohen SA, et al. (2012) Effects of alprazolam, buspirone, and diazepam on daytime sedation and performance. Drug Investigation 3, 148-156. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03259556
[iii] Echizenya M, Mishima K, Satoh K et al. (2003). Heat loss, sleepiness, and impaired performance after diazepam administration in humans. Neuropsychopharmacology 28, 1198-1206. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.npp.1300160
[iv] Kales, A., Soldatos, C. R., Bixler, E. O., Kales, J. D., & Vela-Bueno, A. (1988). Diazepam: effects on sleep and withdrawal phenomena. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology, 8(5), 340–346.
[vi] Kim, S. J., Lyoo, I. K., Lee, Y. S., Sung, Y. H., Kim, H. J., Kim, J. H., Kim, K. H., & Jeong, D. U. (2008). Increased GABA levels in medial prefrontal cortex of young adults with narcolepsy. Sleep, 31(3), 342–347. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/31.3.342
[vii] Valium. Rxlist.com https://www.rxlist.com/valium-side-effects-drug-center.htm
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction & pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center to the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.