What Is Valium & Why Is Drinking on Valium Dangerous?

Valium, also known by the name of diazepam, is an addictive benzodiazepine used to treat seizures, muscle spasms, and anxiety. It is also used for pre-procedural sedation, as well as for reducing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.1 Valium increases the activity of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, to calm the patient’s nervous system and reduce brain overactivity.2

Valium is primarily intended for short-term use.1 With long-term use, addiction can develop and progress quickly if Valium is used in a way not prescribed by a doctor. Tolerance and physical dependence can also develop over time, causing you to take larger doses of the drug and experience withdrawal symptoms if you abruptly stop using it.1

mixing valium and alcohol: side effects, detox & treatment

Side Effects of Mixing Valium and Alcohol

In addition to using Valium by taking larger doses than recommended or taking it without prescription, the drug is also often abused in combination with alcohol.2 Mixing these two substances can have dangerous and potentially life-threatening side effects, including:3

  • Drowsiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Sedation.
  • Stumbling.
  • Dizziness.
  • Accidents.
  • Nausea.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Aggression and hostility.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

Despite these serious effects, about 1 in 5 individuals who abuse alcohol also misuse benzodiazepines.3

What Happens When You Mix Valium with Alcohol?

Aside from taking Valium in doses that are larger than recommended, individuals tend to mix this drug with alcohol. Combining the two can lead to dangerous and often life-threatening side effects and consequences, such as:13, 14 

  • Anxiety and panic.
  • Sweats and chills.
  • Pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Headaches.
  • Combativeness.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Restlessness and agitation.
  • Tremors and seizures.
  • Sleeping difficulties.

How Does Valium Work?

Valium increases the activity of GABA or gamma-Aminobutyric acid at different receptor areas in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that affects different brain regions by reducing their activity. These regions include those that control emotion, thought, memory, and some automatic functions such as breathing. Valium facilitates GABA activity, alleviating anxiety symptoms, helping manage alcohol withdrawal, and controlling seizures and muscle spasms.15

Valium can be administered through oral intake, injection or rectal gel. The onset of its effects varies depending on the method used. Injection takes approximately 1-5 minutes to take effect, while oral intake takes 15-60 minutes for a patient to feel the effects. Rectal gel is typically used for patients experiencing seizures and it starts working quickly after administration.15

Overdose on Alcohol and Valium

By itself, Valium has a low overdose threshold – you would need to take a really large amount of the drug in order to overdose. In fact, taking even 1,000 times the recommended dose of Valium, typically more than 2,000 mg, is usually not lethal for adults.4

Although a fatal overdose requires a large amount of Valium, using higher doses than prescribed on a regular basis can result in permanent side effects.5 Moreover, drinking while on Valium can amplify the effects of both alcohol and diazepam. A lethal dose of valium and alcohol can result in substantial depression of the central nervous system (CNS) and overdose.6

In fact, an MMWR report indicates that more than 27% of benzodiazepine-related emergency department visits involved alcohol. In addition, more than 26% of persons who died as a result of benzodiazepine misuse were also misusing alcohol.5

Valium Overdose Symptoms

An overdose on Valium may cause a range of severe effects, including:3

  • Excessive drowsiness.
  • Disorientation and confusion.
  • Slowed heartbeat.
  • Loss of memory.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Slow and shallow breathing (respiratory depression).
  • Death.

Quitting Alcohol and Valium Cold Turkey

Quitting Valium and alcohol abruptly may result in unpleasant and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, especially after chronic abuse.7 If you quit using these two substances cold turkey, you may experience a range of effects on your body and brain, from seizures and coma to death. Physical dependence on Valium and alcohol can increase the risk and severity of withdrawal symptoms.7

As a result, it is not advisable to stop using alcohol and Valium cold turkey, particularly if you have been using consistently for a long time and/or have developed dependence and tolerance.7 Instead, quitting Valium and alcohol typically requires safe medical detox, medication management and supervision to allow the brain and body to recalibrate and be able to work properly without the substances.7

Withdrawal Symptoms of Alcohol and Valium

Some common alcohol and valium withdrawal symptoms may include:7

  • Insomnia.
  • Headaches.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Sweating.
  • Light-headedness and dizziness.
  • Muscle pains, aches, or tremors.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Confusion.
  • Agitation.
  • Delusions.
  • Delirium.
  • Visual disturbances and hallucinations.
  • Grand mal seizures.

Why Mixing Alcohol and Valium Is Dangerous

Valium is a medicine that is also known as diazepam. It is an addictive benzodiazepine that is used in the treatment of muscle spasms, anxiety, and seizures. It is also used for reducing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and for pre-procedural sedation. Valium reduces the patient’s brain overactivity and calms the nervous system by increasing the activity of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter.12, 13

The use of Valium should be short-term. Long-term use can lead to addiction that quickly advances if a patient uses Valium in a way that is not prescribed by a physician. Physical dependence and tolerance can develop over time, causing the patient to start taking larger doses of Valium and suffer withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it.12

Get Treatment for Alcohol and Valium

If you or your loved one need Valium and alcohol treatment, do not hesitate to contact American Addiction Centers (AAC). We are a parent company to Treatment Solutions that offers a wide network of substance abuse treatment facilities across the nation. It is our goal to provide research and compassion-based treatment to those in need and increase their chances of recovery.Use the form below to enter your information and check your insurance coverage immediately. You can also call our hotline for alcohol addiction 24/7 to speak with an admission navigator and check your benefits while you are on the phone.