Tapering Valium is safer and often more effective than trying to quit cold turkey. Following a taper, a person can progress through treatment and toward full recovery.

When a person feels it’s time to quit Valium, a medical taper might be the solution they are looking for. A taper is a gradual weaning of the drug over weeks and months. Valium, also known by its generic name diazepam, is part of a class of sedative drugs called benzodiazepines. It is used to treat conditions like:

Valium is one of the most straightforward benzos to detox from. Even so, whenever benzos are concerned, there is always an element of ambiguity and risk involved.

What Is Valium Tapering or Weaning off Benzodiazepines?

Tapering is a gradual dose reduction that allows the body to acclimate to progressively smaller doses of the drug. Tapers are the opposite of withdrawals—meaning going through a taper regimen allows someone to experience little to no withdrawal symptoms as their body slowly recovers from Valium addiction. 

Additionally, going cold turkey leaves a user predisposed to benzo withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Trembling or spasms
  • Reduced motor functions
  • Chronic headaches
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Psychosis
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Seizures

Who Can Benefit From Tapering Their Valium Intake

Benzodiazepine tapers can lessen a person’s worries about detoxification. Withdrawal symptoms are often a main deterrent for stopping benzos. Tapering benzodiazepines can help with this hesitation. Tapering is about gradually letting the body acclimate to living without benzos while making withdrawal manageable.

Types of Valium Tapering Methods

Because benzo withdrawal symptoms can tend to wax and wane, Valium tapers are individualized. This means that if withdrawal symptoms occur while someone is on a taper, the taper can be paused or slowed. Experts recommend direct tapers and substitute tapers to help a person quit benzos. A third type of taper called a titration taper is not recommended.

Direct Tapering

Direct tapers are very straightforward. In a direct taper, your Valium dose is slowly decreased over time until it can be safely discontinued altogether. If you experience withdrawal symptoms during the taper, it can be stopped or slowed. Generally, your Valium dose is first reduced by 25–30% and then is further decreased by 5–10% in the forthcoming weeks and months.

Substitute Tapering

Substitute tapers are generally not used for Valium and instead are reserved for short-acting benzos. This is because, in a substitute taper, a short-acting benzo is converted to a long-acting one like Valium, which is then itself tapered. This is done because long-acting benzos last longer and wear off more smoothly than short-acting benzos. Because Valium itself is a long-acting benzo, there would be no reason to use a substitute taper.

Titration Tapering

Titration tapering is not recommended. In a titration taper, Valium is mixed with water and the mixture is consumed in steadily decreasing amounts day by day. Unfortunately, Valium is not completely soluble in water, meaning you would get unpredictable amounts of the drug in your system, which is both dangerous and can interfere with the taper.

Why Consider Tapering vs. Stopping Valium Cold Turkey?

A taper is much safer than stopping Valium cold turkey. When you taper Valium, the tapering process allows your body to be eased off the drug. In contrast, if you suddenly stop taking Valium, you can suffer uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including seizures.

Common Valium Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Depending on the benzo, severe withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or months, with residual effects for years after the fact. Symptoms of benzo withdrawal include:

  • Headaches: Patients experiencing withdrawal will exhibit confusion, lethargy and headaches in the complete absence of benzos.
  • Disrupted sleep patterns: Insomnia or excessive sleep habits may develop as withdrawal progresses.
  • Agitation: Irritable and uncouth behavior are common occurrences, especially when cravings hit their hardest.
  • Convulsions: Erratic actions and movements result from disrupted chemical signals to extremities.
  • Nausea and vomiting: People living with benzo withdrawal will be in a state of perpetual sickness throughout the process.
  • Psychosocial episodes: During withdrawal, the central nervous system attempts to self-correct after months or years of substance interference. Mild to severe neurological incidents may result, such as severe panic attacks, psychosis, hallucinations and seizures.

Side Effects of Valium Tapering

When a taper is appropriately conducted, it should be free of side effects. This is because side effects from a benzo taper mean that your taper may be proceeding too quickly and may need to be paused or slowed. 

Sometimes, you may notice symptoms of the underlying condition you were taking Valium to treat. For example, if you took Valium for anxiety, you may notice you feel more nervous during the taper as you are weaned off the drug. In these cases, your doctor may need to start you on a replacement medication to ensure your underlying medical condition remains under control.

Valium Withdrawal Timeline

Although everyone’s withdrawal experience will be slightly different, Valium withdrawal follows a general timeline. This timeline can be longer than that of short-acting benzos, as Valium itself is a long-acting drug.

  • Within one day to one week of stopping Valium, withdrawal symptoms begin
  • Around the second week after stopping Valium, withdrawal symptoms peak
  • During the third or fourth week after stopping Valium, withdrawal symptoms ease
  • During the next few months after stopping Valium, some symptoms, like anxiety, may linger

Medications Used When Tapering Off Valium Benzodiazepines

Generally, Valium tapers are conducted by slowly reducing the dose over time in a direct taper. Generally, this strategy successfully manages symptoms. However, sometimes, adjunctive medications may be prescribed to help ease any breakthrough symptoms during the taper.


Anti-seizure medications like carbamazepine (Tegretol) and pregabalin (Lyrica) have data supporting their use for symptom control during benzo withdrawal.


Antidepressant use can be controversial during a benzo taper. Most antidepressants have not shown a benefit in controlling symptoms; however, some antidepressants like mirtazapine and trazodone may nonetheless be prescribed for depression and insomnia. Duloxetine and amitriptyline may be prescribed for pain.


Buspirone is an anti-anxiety medication that is not recommended during a benzo taper due to a  lack of evidence showing any benefit.


Flumazenil is a GABA blocker that is not frequently recommended for Valium withdrawal because the drug can increase the risk of withdrawal symptoms like seizures.

Why Valium Benzodiazepines Withdrawal Symptoms Occur

Benzodiazepines enhance the effects of the brain chemical gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA). GABA dampens certain signals sent by the central nervous system (CNS).

Benzos enhance the effects of GABA. To cope, the body develops a tolerance to the excess GABA. But when benzos are no longer in the system, it leads to higher-than-normal GABA levels. An overexcitement of the CNS follows. Symptoms of nervousness, anxiety and seizures can occur.

Can Tapering Your Benzodiazepines Intake Reduce Withdrawal Symptoms?

A benzo taper can help reduce withdrawal symptoms or eliminate them altogether. Tapering allows the central nervous system to adjust to the drug’s absence. It doesn’t get the opportunity to enter withdrawal.

Quitting cold turkey provides no such safeguard. These sudden withdrawals can be at their worst, even deadly. Physicians don’t recommend at-home detoxes or stopping cold turkey. These outdated approaches lack support, safety measures and guidance.

How Long Does It Take to Taper off Valium Benzodiazepines?

Valium Tapering Schedule

Valium can be used to lessen the effects of some withdrawals. It is used as a substitute drug for someone looking to overcome use disorders or addictions to other benzos. Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine. Drugs like Xanax and Ativan, on the other hand, are short-acting. 

The difference here is the amount of time the drug spends in the system. Xanax and Ativan are purged quickly, meaning a person may need another dose within hours after the last one or withdrawal symptoms could onset. 

This isn’t as often the case for Valium. This benzo can be in the body for dozens of hours after being ingested—allowing doses to come less frequently and withdrawals to be suppressed because of it. Thus, Valium is the go-to taper benzo. Physicians will quite often transition their patients to it for the remainder of their detox.

A Valium taper by itself requires dose reductions of 5%, 10% or 25% every week of a patient’s scheduled rehabilitation. A 25% taper example can look like this:

  • Week one: The patient enters clinical care and prepares for their treatment. They are provided with their typical daily dose of Valium. No reductions take place at this time.
  • Week two: Valium dose is reduced by 25%.
  • Week three: Valium dose reduced by another 25%.
  • Week four: 50% is sustained.
  • Weeks five through eight: 50% is sustained for four weeks.
  • Week nine and beyond: The dose is taken down by subsequent 25% intervals until withdrawal symptoms no longer arise in the absence of the drug.

Following their taper, a person can progress through the rest of their inpatient and outpatient treatment programs on their path toward full recovery.

Challenges of Cutting Down Your Valium Intake

It can be difficult and complex to wean yourself off a benzodiazepine without medical supervision. If you taper too quickly, your doctor can adjust the schedule to ease withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, make sure your doctor knows all the medications you take so they can create the best plan for you.

Relapse Prevention Strategies

You can reduce your risk of relapse by avoiding benzo withdrawal. A medically managed taper can limit withdrawal symptoms, increasing your chances of successfully stopping benzo use for good. However, it is also important to seek treatment. Receiving therapy and psychological care while tapering or detoxing has been shown to be more successful than only tapering.

Medically assisted detox and addiction treatment can give you the best chances for tapering your drug or alcohol use. The Recovery Village provides around-the-clock detox care and addiction treatment at facilities nationwide. Experts customize each care plan to your specific needs.

How The Recovery Village Uses Valium Tapering

Talking to your doctor about weaning of benzos can be a great start. They can create a taper schedule to decrease your benzo dose over time. They may prescribe lower doses of the medication(s), so you don’t need to cut up higher-dose pills. An addiction treatment facility or specialist can also help with this process. Contact The Recovery Village for assistance with beginning your recovery journey.

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Editor – Abby Doty
Abby Doty graduated from Hamline University in 2021 with a Bachelor's in English and Psychology. She has written and edited creative and literary work as well as academic pieces focused primarily on psychology and mental health. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

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.