My experience of Valium – ‘mother’s little helper’
A young person shares their personal experience of Valium dependency and how they found support for this.
TW: This article includes references to substance use and addiction.
What is Valium & what does Valium do?
Ever heard of V’s, yellow V’s, blue V’s, vallies, benzos, tranqs or downers? These are some of the numerous different nicknames that the drug Valium goes by. Valium is no longer medically sold by its branded name in the UK, its generic form, diazepam, is the only type now prescribed by UK doctors.
Diazepam (Valium) belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines and is prescribed by doctors to treat conditions like anxiety and insomnia, due to its fast-acting calming effects. Because of this, benzos (also known as tranquillisers) are also sometimes used as party drugs as the feelings of relaxation and sedation can provide an easy escape from our fast-paced lives. Valium is most commonly taken by mouth but can also be snorted or injected (which is more dangerous).
Addiction to Valium
Usually, diazepam is medically prescribed for no more than four weeks, due to its highly addictive nature. I struggle with anxiety and so was prescribed diazepam for short-term use, although I soon began to use it more often, and in higher doses, than was recommended. I ended up taking the drug for three months, during which time I developed a tolerance.
This often happens with frequent use because the full impact of Valium only lasts a few weeks – the effects diminish over time as your body becomes used to the drug. Tolerance can lead to dependence, where you need to take more and more to get the same effect. The trouble is that by increasing the dosage, you also increase your body’s reliance on the drug – which in some cases can lead to addiction.
Perceptions about Valium can be skewed by false information gathered from friends or portrayals in popular culture. One famous depiction of Valium usage is that of Lisa’s in the film Girl, Interrupted. Pop singers like Drake, Future and Eminem have also mentioned the drug in their song lyrics, as have rock band The Rolling Stones in their song ‘Mother’s Little Helper’.
Combining Valium with other drugs
Mixing benzos like Valium with other depressant/downer drugs such as alcohol and opioids (like heroin and methadone) is very dangerous – sometimes deadly – as they can slow breathing and heart rate. I personally didn’t recognise these risks, and on one occasion I completely blacked out after mixing diazepam with alcohol, ending up in A&E.
This shocked me into realising how unsafely I was using the drug and so, I tried to stop. However, withdrawal symptoms (including extreme anxiety or seizures) can occur when you stop taking benzos, especially with long-term use. The uncomfortable withdrawal effects led me to think about obtaining diazepam illegally, because although my doctor wanted me to come off it, I felt unable to. I couldn’t see a way of functioning without it. The problem is, it’s only legal to possess and take when prescribed by a doctor. Diazepam obtained in any other way is a Class C illegal drug.
‘Street benzos’ are sometimes sold to look like genuine drugs in branded fake packaging, but are mostly found as loose pressed pills in bags. Dealers may not differentiate between Valium and other benzos such as Xanax or Klonopin, simply advertising them by nicknames (vallies, blues, benzos). Because of this, you don’t know what you’re taking, and the risk of something dangerous happening is increased.
For me, taking Valium acted as a pathway to trying other drugs. Prior to taking it, I had never experimented with any other drugs. Yet taking Valium changed my behaviour, leading me to try cannabis, and wanting to try stronger depressant drugs like heroin. This was a very slippery slope, not least due to the legal side of things, but also because of the negative health risks.
How to reduce the risks of addiction to Valium
Addiction to Valium can occur far too easily – often because the dangers of using it outside of the recommendation of your doctor are not recognised. With no expectation or previous experience of addiction, it can be difficult to realise you are using Valium in a harmful way if addiction does occur.
It makes sense that lots of people experiment with Valium, whether it’s to dull any emotional pain, or because it’s a (generally) cheap street drug. Although it’s best not to take it at all unless under the recommendation of a doctor, if you currently use Valium or other benzos as party drugs (or start using them recreationally in the future) you can make the experience safer by:
- being aware of the potential consequences;
- not combining them with alcohol or opioids;
- starting at a low dosage;
- spacing out doses;
- using them in the presence of friends who can look out for signs of overdose or adverse effects.
However, if you are experiencing (or think you may be experiencing) problems with benzodiazepine use and want support in stopping, it’s important to seek help from a medical professional in order to do it safely and comfortably. There is no shame in asking for help. I once thought that I’d never be able to live a life without Valium, but now I have managed to reduce the dose to almost nothing and believe that one day I’ll be free from it completely.
Here are some resources I found helpful:
If you need support with addiction to Valium
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By Holly Turner
Updated on 07-Oct-2022
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