Valium belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. This particular benzo is prescribed to people who suffer from seizures, muscle spasms, restless leg syndrome, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The benzodiazepine drug class includes other popular sedatives like alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin). Due to their potential for abuse, benzos like Valium are controlled substances. Today, we’re looking into the effects of mixing Valium and alcohol, as it’s one of several ways people misuse this drug.
What Is Valium?
Valium is the brand name for the benzodiazepine diazepam. It’s used as a sedative/anxiolytic for its ability to reduce nerve cell activity in the central nervous system (CNS). Benzos, like Valium, work by reacting with the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This is an inhibitory chemical messenger that slows neural communication to reduce certain functions ranging from muscle spasms to heart rate and breathing.
Valium acts as a tranquilizer to prevent seizures and abnormal or uncontrollable body movements. It can also impact a person’s mood and emotions, making them feel drowsy and sedated. For these reasons, Valium may also be prescribed to people with anxiety or insomnia to help them relax or to promote sleep.
When taken as prescribed and directed by a doctor, Valium is a relatively safe drug with a low risk of harmful effects. However, the drug is often abused for its sedative and relaxing side effects. To accomplish a high, users will purposely take higher doses of Valium than is safe. Other methods of abuse also include mixing alcohol and Valium.
What Happens When You Mix Valium and Alcohol?
Many people combine depressants or sedatives with alcohol (another depressant) for a more intense side effect or high. In most cases, the results are highly distressing and potentially fatal. Because alcohol also acts as a depressant on the CNS, also by reacting with GABA, mixing Valium and alcohol can produce extreme sedation and drowsiness as well as impairment of certain functions.
Common Valium and alcohol effects include:
Not only can both substances produce intense side effects if abused individually, but together they create a more intensified version of their effects. In addition to the symptoms listed above, combining Valium and alcohol also comes with a risk of overdose.
Valium and Alcohol Overdose
A drug overdose occurs when more drugs are ingested or used than a person’s system can safely process. Overdose can occur as a result of taking one drug in high quantities or taking multiple drugs all at once, otherwise referred to as polysubstance abuse. Because both Valium and alcohol affect the CNS in the same ways, taking them together can lead to an overdose, which is marked by symptoms like:
Struggles with breathing are the most prominent of these symptoms, as well as the deadliest. Prolonged periods of reduced oxygen to the brain can result in brain damage, coma, and even death. For these reasons, it’s crucial to avoid mixing alcohol and Valium at all costs. Additionally, if you notice any symptoms of overdose in a loved one, call 9-1-1 or seek medical attention immediately.
Valium and Alcohol: How Long to Wait to Drink Safely
While mixing alcohol with benzos like Valium is a common form of drug abuse, a Valium-alcohol interaction isn’t always intentional. Sometimes, a person who’s using the drug with a prescription may drink alcohol a few hours after their last pill because they think it’s safe or because they forgot.
For this reason, it’s important to know how long Valium stays in your system and whether you need to avoid drinking while taking it. Additionally, if you want to go out for a few drinks with friends, you should wait at least three days to drink after taking Valium. However, if you’re taking this drug long-term or regularly, avoid alcohol completely.
If you ever have any questions about drug interactions with medications you’re taking, speak to your doctor. They know your medical history and symptoms best, so they can give you the soundest advice.
Help for Valium and Alcohol Addiction
Not only can their combined immediate side effects be dangerous and potentially fatal, but chronically taking a Valium and alcohol mix can lead to addiction. If you or a loved one has misused either of these or both substances, our Banyan rehab locations offer detox services and treatment programs that can help.
We usually start clients off with a medically monitored detox so they can receive medication and 24-hour care for their withdrawals. Substances like benzos and alcohol can be particularly difficult to detox from without help, so it’s important to provide clients with a safe, clean, and medically monitored system for this portion of the recovery.
Following detox, patients can then move on to the therapeutic portion of their alcohol or prescription drug treatment. Our addiction treatment facilities utilize various behavioral health modalities - such as cognitive behavioral therapy and 12-step programming - to promote mental as well as physical healing.