Although it’s FDA-approved for opioid withdrawal in newborns, experts have stopped recommending Valium during withdrawal due to its risks and addictive potential.
Valium, a brand-name version of diazepam, is a benzodiazepine prescribed to treat opiate withdrawal symptoms, among other conditions. Valium is FDA-approved to treat neonatal abstinence syndrome in babies born addicted to opioids.
Despite the benefits, there are significant risks associated with using Valium during opioid withdrawal. These drawbacks limit its use:
- Valium is a Schedule IV controlled substance, putting people at risk for abuse, addiction and dependence.
- The FDA has a Boxed Warning against combining benzodiazepines like Valium with opioids due to the risk of overdose, making the possibility of opioid relapse even more dangerous if a person takes Valium.
- Sedatives do not work particularly well in opioid withdrawal, and studies have shown that Valium is not as effective as other treatments.
- People who become dependent on benzodiazepines often require more intensive care during opioid withdrawal than those who do not.
For these reasons, experts recommend using extreme caution when taking benzodiazepines like Valium during opioid withdrawal.
How to Detox from Opiates
Opiates are a class of drugs that includes heroin, one of the most addictive drugs in the U.S. Opiates and opioids put people at risk of substance use disorders, and it’s difficult to recover once a disorder develops.
Because using opioids and opiates can lead to physical dependence, quitting these drugs can cause withdrawal symptoms. When a person is in withdrawal, their body is trying to cope with the sudden absence of opioids it has come to expect. The process of going through withdrawal once the drugs leave the system is called detox. This is the first step in opioid addiction treatment.
Some people attempt to detox on their own by quitting opioids “cold turkey”. However, this presents the risk of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tear production
- Runny nose
- Dilated pupils
- Abdominal cramping
These withdrawal symptoms may be so intense that a person relapses back into opioid use. Unfortunately, overdose and death are common in cases of relapse because the body cannot tolerate the same opioid dose as it did before the detox.
Fortunately, there are treatments, therapies and medications that can improve the chances of a successful detox. For this reason, undergoing medically supervised detox followed by rehab is the best option for getting off opioids and staying off.
Other Medications for Opiate Withdrawal
Anyone who undergoes a medically supervised opiate detox has access to a medical team that understands how to make withdrawal more manageable. FDA-approved medications for opiate withdrawal include methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.
- Methadone and buprenorphine, whether administered alone or combined with naloxone, are the standard of care for treating opioid withdrawal symptoms.
- Other medications like clonidine and lofexidine can also help prevent withdrawal symptoms, although they are less effective than methadone and buprenorphine.
- Naltrexone can be prescribed to help prevent relapse after detox is complete.
Rather than self-medicating with Valium for opiate withdrawal, the safest thing to do is contact a professional detox facility. Completing opioid withdrawal alone can be dangerous or fatal, and successful long-term recovery is less likely. If you or a loved one are considering opioid detox, contact our intake experts at The Recovery Village to learn how we can help.
Drugs.com. “Diazepam.” November 9, 2020. Accessed December 14, 2021.
Zankl, A., Martin, J., Davey, JG., Osborn, DA. “Sedatives for opioid withdrawal in newborn infants.” The Cochrane Library, May 18, 2021. Accessed December 14, 2021.
Strang, J., McCambridge, J., Best, D., et al. “Loss of tolerance and overdose mortality[…]ion: follow up study.” BMJ. May 3, 2003. Accessed December 14, 2021.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).” January 2018. Accessed December 14, 2021.
American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National Practice Guideline for the Trea[…]2020 Focused Update.” December 18, 2019. Accessed December 14, 2021.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.