Librium vs. Valium for Acute Anxiety

What is Acute Anxiety?

Many people suffer from anxiety in their day-to-day lives. This type of regular anxiety is a mood disorder known as General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Some other people, however, suffer from a more acute form of anxiety. Acute anxiety strikes at different times and comes on quickly, manifesting itself in an event commonly known as a “panic attack.” Panic attacks can cause rapid changes in the heart rate, lightheadedness, dizziness and shortness of breath. Panic attacks may bring about chest pain, which is why they are often confused with heart attacks. People suffering from panic attacks often describe a feeling of impending danger or imminent death. For patients who occasionally experience acute anxiety, doctors often prescribe benzodiazepine drugs, such as Valium or Librium.

Librium vs. Valium for Acute Anxiety
Librium and Valium are both sedative drugs that belong to the class of benzodiazepine drugs. Benzodiazepines were first synthesized in 1959 and soon became the most commonly prescribed type of drug in the country, treating symptoms such as anxiety, muscle spasms, seizures and insomnia. For patients with anxiety, the decision to prescribe Librium vs. Valium depends on a few factors.

Librium was the first benzodiazepine ever created and marketed. It has a longer half-life than Valium, which allows for less frequent dosages and more long-lasting anti-anxiety effects. Its long half-life makes it risky for elderly patients. Patients over the age of 65 are generally not prescribed Librium.

Valium is stronger than Librium. It is more effective in treating extreme bouts of anxiety and panic attacks. It has a shorter half-life than Librium. The stronger effects of the drug also mean that Valium may be more addictive than Librium. All benzodiazepines have the risk of addiction and dependence for patients, due to the way that the body quickly forms a tolerance to the drugs.

Both Librium and Valium have the potential to cause unwanted side effects in patients. Some common side effects are:

  • Constipation
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Sudden loss of consciousness
  • Changes in libido
  • Changes in appetite
  • Liver complications
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Menstrual complications
  • Skin rash or discoloration
The human body has a tendency to form a tolerance very quickly to benzodiazepine drugs, like Librium or Valium. After repeated doses, people taking Librium or Valium will need to take higher and higher doses to get the same effects. This increase in tolerance to the drug often leads to a dependence in which the body and mind cannot function properly without the drug being present in the system.

Once researchers and medical professionals realized the risks inherent in drugs like Librium and Valium, they began to restrict their use to treating short-term conditions. Conditions like chronic anxiety or insomnia should be treated with other medications, instead of benzodiazepines, in order to prevent patients from becoming dependent.

If a patient does become dependent on Librium or Valium, they may experience painful withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms often resemble the same symptoms that the drugs were initially prescribed to treat in the first place. In the past, patients who stopped taking benzodiazepines would start to experience their initial symptoms again and doctors would simply give them a new prescription. What patients were actually experiencing were withdrawal symptoms and then receiving the same drug over again only reinforced their tolerance and dependence.

Withdrawal symptoms from Librium and Valium can be severe. The reemergence of symptoms that the drugs were initially prescribed to treat are called “rebound symptoms.” In some cases, patients may develop secondary psychological conditions such as mania, schizophrenia or depression. Patients who may have become dependent upon benzodiazepines are given gradually smaller doses so that they can slowly stop taking the drugs.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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