Anxiety and the Risk for Valium Misuse

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Contributor: Staff at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but for some, the symptoms of anxiety are difficult to control and can prevent them from leading a fulfilling life. In addition to talk therapy, these individuals might be prescribed medication to help manage their anxiety symptoms.

Valium is one of the most widely used anxiety medications. However, like with many other prescription medications, taking Valium comes with the risk of misuse and addiction.

Understanding Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a fairly common mental health condition, affecting nearly 20% of American adults each year [1]. Those who have an anxiety disorder experience excessive worry, fear, and dread in their daily life or when certain triggers are present.

This can affect virtually every area of a person’s life, including school, work, socialization, and relationships. Anxiety affects not only one’s mental health but their physical health as well.

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Untreated anxiety can lead to nausea, headaches, and muscle tension. When someone struggles with anxiety, they are also more at risk for other mental health conditions like depression.

How Valium Can Help Anxiety

Mental health professionals can help someone manage anxiety through a combination of methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and experiential therapies in individual or group sessions. However, for some, talk therapy is not enough to control the symptoms of severe anxiety, and a doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medication.

Popular medications used to manage anxiety symptoms include Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Librium, and Valium. These are known as benzodiazepines or “benzos” and can help treat anxiety, panic disorders, seizures, and social phobias.

Lady sitting and struggling with AnxietyBenzodiazepines like Valium work by interacting with the chemical receptors in the brain that control emotions, thoughts, and memories [2]. The result is a calming sensation with slowed breathing and relaxed muscles. This can help those who have anxiety begin to gain more control of their symptoms. However, medications like Valium are highly addictive, especially when taken for long periods.

The Link Between Anxiety and Addiction

While prescription medications like Valium can be beneficial for those who have anxiety, when taken long-term or not as directed, they can have serious consequences. The use of benzos like Valium can result in sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder.

When someone takes Valium for an extended time, the body can develop a dependency, resulting in the need for more and more of the drug to achieve the desired effects. This can result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that make stopping the use of Valium difficult and even dangerous.

While Valium itself is addictive, those who have mental health disorders like anxiety are at an increased risk for developing a substance use disorder [3]. Those who have anxiety may have easier access to Valium once prescribed, or they may try to self-medicate without a proper prescription or after their prescription expires.

Without the presence of a doctor to closely monitor the use of Valium, or when someone uses Valium without a prescription, the risk for developing an addiction can be much higher.

The Warning Signs of a Valium Addiction

Woman sitting on beach struggling with anxietyA Valium addiction can be difficult to detect, but one of the main warning signs is Valium use outside of what’s prescribed. This can mean using Valium without a prescription, using more than what a doctor prescribes, or using Valium for longer than a doctor prescribes.

Other signs of an addiction to Valium may include:

  • Seeking out new doctors for prescriptions
  • Financial problems from buying Valium
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Poor school or work performance
  • Excessive drowsiness, dizziness, and slurred speech
  • Psychological responses like hallucinations, confusion, and memory problems

Someone who is struggling with a Valium addiction might also display signs of withdrawal when they stop or attempt to stop taking the drug. These symptoms can include nausea, tremors, cramping, sweating, seizures, and irritability.

Ending Valium misuse can be difficult when attempted alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety and addiction, help is available.


[1] National Alliance on Mental Health. (2021, March). Mental health by the numbers. NAMI.
[2] Gans, S. (2020, March 24). How long does Valium stay in your system? Verywell Mind.
[3] Block, D. (2021, January 22). Generalized anxiety disorder and substance use. Verywell Mind.

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Timberline Knolls BannerAt Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, located outside of Chicago, Illinois, we provide specialized care for women and girls who are living with mental health conditions such as substance use disorders and eating disorders. Our private facility offers female-only treatment programs for eating disorders, addiction, and a range of mental health conditions. We work closely with each person to develop treatment goals to maximize strengths while focusing on individual needs. Our treatment team understands that each woman has unique needs and that she must play a role in her journey to wellness.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on June 14, 2021
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 14, 2021
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.