Diazepam, the generic name of Valium, is a core medicine in the Essential Drug’s List released by the World Health Organization. This drug is classified as a benzodiazepine. It is primarily prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and symptoms of acute alcohol or opiate withdrawal. Valium is also administered as a premedication to induce sedation, anxiolysis and amnesia before endoscopy and other medical procedures.
The intravenous form of Valium (diazepam) is also used as first line treatment for severe epileptic attack called status epilepticus. However, it is seldom used for the long-term treatment of epilepsy because a person usually develops tolerance to the anticonvulsant effects of diazepam within a period of 6 to 12 months of treatment. This characteristic of valium makes it useless for long-term treatment of epilepsy.
Valium (diazepam) may also be used to alleviate pain caused by muscle spasms associated with movement disorders (dystonias). The drug may be given too to counteract the effects of over-dosage with hallucinogens or CNS stimulants. For complete information on valium’s indications, please refer to its drug insert or talk with your doctor.
But like most medicines, Valium (diazepam) may cause side effects especially to susceptible individuals. Although Valium may not cause serious or even minor side effects in many people, you must be alert for any adverse reaction to the drug; and to seek immediate medical intervention as needed.
The side effects of Valium (diazepam) may be categorized into two according to their gravity, namely:
1) Less serious side effects
Treatment with Valium may be associated with less serious side effects, such as:
•Drowsiness and feelings of fatigue
•Muscle weakness, lack of balance and coordination
•Nightmares and sleep problems
•Gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting and constipation
•Headache, memory problems
•Drooling or dry mouth
•Decreased interest in sex
Although these side effects are generally considered common and may not be serious, you should consult your doctor if any of these symptoms persist or worsen.
2) Serious side effects
However, if any of the following side effects occur, you need to consult your doctor right away as these are considered serious, and may even be life-threatening:
•Severe allergic reactions (presence of hives, rash, itching, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, swelling of the face, mouth, lips or tongue)
•Confusion, hallucinations, problems with memory
•Fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, body aches
•Persistent sore throat
•New or worsening mood changes (agitation, aggressiveness, changes in behavior, depression, irritability, hyperactivity, rage, having suicidal thoughts)
•Severe or persistent dizziness or lightheadedness
•Feeling like you might pass out
•Yellowing of eyes and skin (jaundice)
•Urinary problems (poor bladder control, difficulty urinating, absence of or low urine output)
•Tremor, muscle twitching
To help prevent the occurrence or minimize the impact of any side effects associated with the use of Valium (diazepam), it is vital that you inform your doctor beforehand if you have any of the following:
•Allergy to diazepam
•Myasthenia gravis (a muscle weakness disorder)
•Narrow-angle glaucoma a severe respiratory disorder (asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or COPD, etc.)
•Sleep apnea (absence of breathing during sleep)
•Kidney or liver disease
•Epilepsy or other seizure disorders
•A history of mental illness, depression, and behavioral disorder
•A history of drug addiction or alcohol dependence (diazepam may be habit forming)
Moreover, Valium (diazepam) can cause birth defects in an unborn baby; therefore you must not use this drug while you are pregnant. Use an effective birth control method while taking the drug; and if you get pregnant during the course of Valium therapy, inform your doctor about it immediately. If you are breast-feeding, you should not take this drug too, as it can be passed into breast milk and may cause harm to your nursing baby.
Although not quite common, the following side effects of Valium have also been reported in one or more cases:
•Decreased number of white blood cells known as neutrophils (neutropenia)
•Phlebitis, irritation and swelling at the injection site
If you are taking Valium (diazepam.) you need to be alert for any of these side effects and to watch out if these symptoms persist or become worse. Be sure to have a regular checkup with your doctor too so he can monitor any changes in your blood count, levels of certain substances in your body, as well as vital signs. And remember that Valium may be habit-forming and may cause withdrawal symptoms so ensure that you get proper medical evaluation to determine your need to either stop or continue taking Valium (diazepam).