Otherwise known as Diazepam, this drug is one of the oldest antidepressants on the market. Manufactured by Hoffman-La Roche pharmaceuticals it has been around since the early 1960’s. Its quick acting results and minimal side effects gave it great popularity and can be partially credited for the term “Popping pills” coined in that era. People could pop a Valium any where, before any big event and guaranteed to have the relaxing, mood elevating and anxiety lifting feeling they needed for that moment in time.
Uses of Diazepam
Valium is one of the most frequently prescribed drugs by physicians. Its chemical composition benzodiazepine allows it to be used in the treatment of various medical conditions apart from anxiety, It is classified as anti- anxiety, anti- convulsant, muscle relaxant, sedative, hypnotic and amnesic.
Some of its uses include:
- Anxiety relief
- Relieve depression
- As a muscle relaxant as in cases of tetanus,
- Restless legs syndrome,
- Epilepsy particularly in the treatment of Status Epilepticus (frequent repetitive seizure episodes occurring at the same time).
- Drug or alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Meniere’s Disease
- Often used as a preoperative sedative and in cases where amnesia is desired for certain surgical procedures.
Route of Administration
Valium can be taken orally intravenously, intramuscularly and by rectal suppositories. When given by IV it must be well diluted to prevent pain, irritation and damage to the skin. Intramuscular injection is slow to absorb and the effects are unpredictable. The oral route is the safest and offers the best results. Relief of symptoms are immediate and the drug is absorbed rapidly by the body.
Due to its amnesic quality, the greatest side effect is its potential to cause anterograde amnesia. This is the impairment of memory to grasp new information and details. When taken in high doses over a long period of time this becomes particularly noticeable.
Other side effects include a worsening of the condition termed “paradoxical effect.” which may include intense anger disorder, increased in epileptic seizures and intense drowsiness. When taken over a long period of time, tolerance for the drug may develop, with withdrawal symptoms occurring when the medicine is stopped suddenly. If taken with alcohol or habit forming substances it can lead to overdose and may be fatal.
It is stored in fatty tissues and is present in breast milk. Care should be taken in prescribing it for nursing mothers.
Valium continues to be among the top drugs prescribed by doctors in the US today and continues to produce the desired effect in patients. To prevent adverse effects and overdose, the drug should be taken as prescribed, for short periods and weaning off by gradual reduction of the dose. This will provide for safety in administration and an effective course of medication therapy.