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Side Effects of Diazepam (Valium)



Valium (Diazepam) Side Effects




Diazepam is an anti-anxiety medication sold under the brand names Valium and Diastat. Most commonly known as “Valium,” it is a member of the class of medicines called benzodiazepines, which are used in psychiatry to treat symptoms of anxiety, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, muscle spasms, and seizures.


Serious Side Effects of Valium


Serious side effects of diazepam include low blood pressure, and slowed breathing rate. These are usually not severe at normal doses, but in individuals who are genetically unable to metabolize diazepam normally, this reactions are possible and potentially fatal, according to the Valium drug label as reported by the FDA (Jan 2008).


Dangers of Addiction to Valium


While it is not specifically listed among other Valium side effects, people who chronically use Valium (or abuse the drug) may develop psychological and physical dependence as well as tolerance. Someone who is physically dependent on Valium will have symptoms of withdrawal if the stop the medicine or miss doses. Psychological dependence is the overwhelming desire or craving to use the medication. This may lead dependent users to go to extreme lengths to get the drug. Tolerance means that the person must take increasingly higher doses of diazpem to get an effect that was previously achievable at lower doses.


Common Side Effects of Valium


The most common Valium side effects are those that affect the nervous system. These include, according to the Valium drug label as reported by the FDA (Jan 2008):

  • Amnesia (particularly anterograde amnesia, the inability to form new memories)
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Vertigo
  • Drowsiness
  • Dysarthria (slurred speech)
  • Urinary incontinence or urinary retention, which is the inability to hold urine or to urinate, respectively

Less Common Side Effects of Valium


  • Ataxia (difficulty standing or walking, unsteadiness)
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Depression

Source: Valium drug label as reported by the FDA (Jan 2008).

Paradoxical Effects of Valium


While Valium/diazepam generally has a calming effect both physically and psychologically, the medication can sometimes cause the opposite effect. These are referred to as paradoxical diazepam adverse effects. The drug may cause aggressiveness, agitation, anxiety, delusions, hallucinations, inappropriate behavior, muscle spasms, irritability, rage, restlessness, sleep disturbances, and insomnia. According to the Valium drug label as reported by the FDA (Jan 2008), if such reactions occur it should be discontinued immediately.


Understand Your Risks with the Rxight® Genetic Test


Rxight® pharmacogenetic testing from MD Labs offers the utmost in safety and efficacy by testing how well an individual is able to metabolize medications as determined by their unique genetic makeup. Some side effects may be lessened by adjusting your dose when your physician has your genetic variability information from the Rxight® PGx test, which specifically takes a simple cheek swab of your DNA to measure your individual ability to absorb and process Valium, as well as hundreds of other OTC and prescription medications across 50 clinically significant medication classes.


How Does Pharmacogenetic Testing Work?


Pharmacogenetics is a burgeoning new field of study that looks at inherited genetic differences in drug metabolic pathways which can affect individual responses to drugs – meaning how well a person can absorb and assimilate a particular medication in order to derive a therapeutic effect as well as avoid adverse effects. So-called “slow metabolizers” produce enzymes in the liver which are not as effective at breaking down the medication, thus leading to toxicity or adverse reactions. In contrast, so-called “rapid metabolizers” produce enzymes which break down the substance quickly, so that a higher dose is needed to achieve therapeutic value. With pharmacogenetic testing, prescribers can adjust medication dosages or find a safer medication based on the patient’s individual genetic profile – preferably before treatment begins.


Contributors to this Article:
Michael Sapko, MD, PhD; Deborah Kallick, PhD, Medicinal Chemistry


Read more about Rxight® pharmacogenetic testing labs