Among the most frequently prescribed anxiety medications on the market today is a drug called diazepam. The vast majority of people know it by another name, though: Valium. Diazepam belongs to a family of similar drugs known collectively as benzodiazepines, or benzos. Each acts upon the central nervous system to produce a pure sedative effect. Beyond anxiety, Valium has a number of other intended uses, including treatment of alcohol withdrawal, sleep issues, muscle spasms and more.

Interestingly enough, Valium is often prescribed as a method to lessen withdrawals of other benzos. The reasoning for which is multidimensional. First, Valium is considered one of the least potent benzodiazepines available. For example, Ativan, the brand name for lorazepam, is exactly 10 times stronger. Valium also comes in the smallest dosage amounts of 2 mg tablets. Thus, even with the same milligram amount, a typical 2 mg dose of Ativan would have 20 times the potency of Valium. Finally, and most importantly, Valium takes a long time to leave the body. Experts point to anywhere between 20 and 200 hours. The longer the drug lasts, and the slower it fades from the system, the easier it is to gradually adapt to its absence. This is the cornerstone of overcoming withdrawal symptoms.

Valium is also used for recreational purposes. Only Xanax and Ativan are misused more often, as far as benzodiazepines are concerned. Between 1999 and 2010, abuse of benzodiazepines has increased fourfold in the United States. Such risky use behaviors make otherwise safe and effective medications a potential nightmare for users and their families alike.

Whether it is being used for medical or recreational purposes, Valium has the possibility of leading to dependence, substance use disorders and overdoses.

Valium is a potentially dangerous benzodiazepine. Like most drugs, misuse can lead to lifelong consequences. This being said, Valium is perhaps the safest of all benzodiazepines currently prescribed. Can someone overdose on Valium, though? The answer is, yes. But some caveats must be made.

By itself, Valium has a low threshold for overdoses. This is lowered even further for fatal overdoses. It would take a considerable amount of the drug to overdose on Valium alone, let alone succumb to the effects and pass away. So, in this way, any mention of lethal Valium overdoses has to come with an asterisk of sorts. Yes, such an overdose can occur — but it is extremely unlikely.

Understanding what constitutes a standard Valium dose regimen can better illustrate the points made in the previous section. Doctors contend that Valium should be used at dosages of 2–10 mg. This amount can be taken up to four times in a 24-hour time frame. All in all, the maximum daily total of Valium use in milligrams should not exceed 40 mg.

Anything above these levels could lead to an overdose. The further a patient or recreational user diverges from this number, the more serious the consequences get. While a fatal overdose requires much more than 40 mg in a single sitting, permanent side effects can emerge if such high doses become habitual.

Just how much Valium would it take to overdose? As alluded, any milligram amount above 40 mg a day is, technically speaking, an overdose.

However, even at 1,000 times the recommended dose — upwards of 2,000 mg — Valium is still not lethal. It’s safe to say experts just don’t have a definitive answer as how much Valium it would take to kill a person when taken by itself.

To put things into perspective, the estimated LD50 for Valium, the amount it would take to kill 50 percent of lab rats tested on the drug, is 1200–1240 mg/kg. At this rate, a 180-pound man would need to ingest nearly 100,000 mg of Valium to fatally overdose. Now, this isn’t to say that such insatiable use isn’t dangerous. Far from it. Any individual that attempted to consume this amount of Valium would certainly go comatose in the process. Especially if attempt involved crushing and snorting the prescription pill, which brings additional respiratory problems into the picture.

Plus, Valium’s perceived safety is swept away if it is used in conjunction with opioids or alcohol. The body simply cannot handle such immense suppression. Expect deadly results if such a combination occurs.

Mishandling Valium leads to a rather prescriptive set of consequences. Educating oneself on what conditions may arise is an effective pre-meditative exercise. Symptoms of Valium misuse and overdoses include:

  • Labored respiration and breathing rate
  • Fatigue or sleepiness
  • Uncoordinated behavior or inability to stay alert
  • Dark discoloration of the skin, lips, and nails
  • Shudders and convulsions
  • Double, blurred or erratic vision
  • Abdominal pain and weakness

Any symptoms linked to Valium use require an expert opinion and prognosis. Report any abnormalities to a physician, regardless if the drug was taken as directed or recreationally.

Only medical staff can properly assess the severity of a Valium overdose. Therefore, get yourself or the victim into their care and supervision before anything else.

Because Valium overdoses are commonly due to cross use with opioids, first responders may use the anti-opioid-overdose drug naloxone. To treat the benzodiazepine overdose specifically, physicians may also use an antidote compound called flumazenil. This drug can lead to seizures but, because Valium’s primary use is not for patients with seizure tendencies, a Valium user experiencing an overdose is generally safer in this regard.

There is a life outside of Valium addiction. Finding it begins with a call. The Recovery Village has helped countless clients come to terms with their substance use disorders and work toward a more rewarding, drug-free life. Reach out to an intake coordinator today for more information. 

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.