Diazepam (Valium) & Alcohol

Anxiety can be an oppressive force in your life. It’s more than experiencing a little nausea before public speaking or nervousness before a test. Anxiety can manifest because of triggers or for no discernible reason at all. Imagine feeling fear or anxiety as if there were a snake in your room but, even when the threat is gone, the panic doesn’t go away. Understandably, those that suffer from extreme anxiety attacks turn to medication to lead normal lives. The problem comes when either the drug is taken in excess or it is mixed with a different substance.

It can be debilitating when anxiety stops you from doing the things you want to do in your life. For many, anti-anxiety drugs can be extremely helpful in curbing the effects of an anxiety disorder. Medications like valium and other benzodiazepines can become a regular part of life. When that happens, it may overlap with other normal parts of life like parties and events that involve drinking. However, Valium and alcohol may not interact well with one another.

What Is Valium?

Valium is the brand name for a drug called diazepam, which is a member of the benzodiazepine (benzos) family. Benzos like diazepam typically cause calming effects that doctors and psychologists use to treat anxiety, panic disorders, muscle spasms, seizures, and insomnia. It can also be used to treat withdrawal symptoms caused by dependence on alcohol and benzodiazepines.

Valium is a long-acting drug, when taken by mouth, and can take up to 40 minutes before taking effect. It’s quickly distributed throughout the body and passes the blood-brain barrier with relative ease.

Valium is safe for most adults and may have very minimal side effects for the most part. Some may experience drowsiness, confusion, or impaired motor functions. It can be more dangerous in older adults, potentially causing amnesia, ataxia, and increased risk of fall because of reduced balance. Benzos also have a slight chance of causing paradoxical reactions, which means they may cause depression, anxiety, or panic in a small percentage of users.

However, the threat of these adverse effects grows when users mix Valium with other depressants like alcohol and the interaction that follows. It can affect the personality and health of the user in an adverse way.

Why People Mix Diazepam and Alcohol

For the most part, you may not realize the danger of what you’re doing. If you get anxious at social functions, you may instinctively take a Valium to help you get through the party. However, social engagements are also a typical setting for alcohol, another social lubricant. Because it may take up to forty minutes for Valium to take effect, you may be able to get to a party and have a drink before you even begin to feel its effects. Many mixers may take Valium and alcohol accidentally, not knowing the risks.

However, some users mix the two substances to take advantage of specific effects. Valium can cause a feeling of deep relaxation or euphoria and users sometimes try to enhance those effects by adding alcohol to the mix. When mixed, diazepam and alcohol may cause an enhanced buzz. Users describe the experience as more relaxing than an alcohol or benzo buzz on their own. However, it also may strengthen other side effects.

Valium and Alcohol Effects

Because Valium works on the central nervous system to calm overactive electrical impulses in the brain, it reacts poorly with depressants like alcohol, which also suppress nervous system activity. When mixed, alcohol can amplify Valium’s effects. While that may mean a better buzz or a mild high, it can also mean more extreme tranquilizing effects.

One of the most common side effects of benzodiazepines is drowsiness. When users mix diazepam with alcohol, this effect can intensify to the point of falling asleep or poor coordination. With high amounts of one or both in the combination, users may experience a blackout, a drug-induced state in which short and long term memory creation is blocked. Other side effects include:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Overdose
  • Liver damage

Scientists have studied the loss of motor control and how it can affect your ability to drive. Even with small amounts of one or both substances, it made a difference. Separately, the small amounts of Valium and alcohol didn’t make a significant impact at all. However, when they were combined, driving performance suffered noticeably. Users who would usually feel comfortable driving after taking Valium would be more likely to get into a crash if introducing alcohol into their system.

Benzodiazepines have a mild cardiovascular effect that can lead to hypotension in some users. However, when alcohol is also present, it can lead to a “synergistic effect” on blood pressure, meaning that the drugs work together to intensify the effect. In some cases, diazepam can cause tachycardia or an abnormal heart rate.

Valium and Wine

Despite wine having a much lower alcohol content than spirits like vodka, tequila, or whisky, it’s still a depressant that can lead to devastating effects when mixed. If you’re prescribed Valium and want to come home to a glass of wine, you should speak with your doctor first about your options. They’ll likely tell you to skip the wine and look for alternatives that don’t contain alcohol. As was mentioned above, consuming alcohol with a benzodiazepine like Valium can lead to respiratory depression or death. 

Can You Drink While Using Valium?

Millions of people drink each day as a way to enjoy the moment or unwind from a long day. Of those, only a small portion will develop a substance use disorder (SUD), and in most cases, the occasional alcoholic beverage isn’t anything to worry about. However, for someone who is prescribed a depressant drug like Valium, the act of drinking can be so much more. As was mentioned above, even a glass of wine can cause problems. It leads us to wonder, can you drink at all while using Valium?

Both Valium and alcohol reduce activity in our central nervous system, leading to the individual feeling sleepy, drowsy, or lightheaded. The effects of each drug individually can cause you to feel this way, and adding one to the mix will compound these symptoms. No matter how much alcohol you drink or what dosage of Valium you consume, each drug intensifies one another. 

Not everyone who mixes alcohol and Valium does it to intensify the effects of each drug. In most cases, this can be an accident. When you’re prescribed medication, it becomes second nature, meaning you might have forgotten you took it that day. With that said, if it’s on purpose, it’s easier to understand why a person did it, especially if you know about their background. Addiction is genetic, and physiological, psychological, and social factors contribute to each person’s symptoms and illness. 

It’s easy to tell if a friend or loved one is abusing alcohol or Valium. When confronted about it, they will get defensive, change the subject, or become distant. Below we’ll list some other factors that determine if a person is abusing Valium or alcohol.

  • The person is tired, sad, or both.
  • The individual spends a lot of time alone.
  • Losing interest in their favorite things
  • The person is messier than before, such as not bathing, changing clothes, or brushing their teeth.
  • They could be energetic, speak fast, or say things that don’t make sense.
  • Sleep at strange hours
  • Miss important obligations.
  • Be cranky or nervous and be in a permanently bad mood.
  • Eat more or less than usual.
  • Have issues at work
  • Quickly change between feeling good and bad.

Risk of Dependence

Valium and other benzos carry some risk of dependence and addiction. The risk is higher with heavier doses and extended use. However, it may also be increased when mixed with other substances. With the drugs working together, users can experience palpable effects, which play on the reward center more intensely.

Plus, if an addiction already exists, a person may be more likely to abuse benzos as well. If a person has tendencies toward alcoholism, they should avoid using Valium or other benzos. Studies show that people with other addictions are significantly more likely to abuse benzos than the general population.

Valium and Alcohol: How Long to Wait?

Benzos like Valium and alcohol don’t mix. If you’re prescribed Valium or use it illicitly, you should never take it with alcohol. The one issue is that missing a dose of Valium can leave you open to enduring severe withdrawal symptoms, which without proper care, can be deadly. Valium has a half-life of 48 hours, meaning it takes two days before the drug is eliminated from your body. If you’ve taken Valium once before a medical procedure or to combat some anxiety, it means you should wait at least two days before consuming alcohol.

Both Valium and alcohol are dangerous without the presence of one another. Consuming too much alcohol can lead to an alcohol overdose, and taking too much Valium can also lead to an overdose. With the risks of Valium and alcohol, you might be wondering, can it cause death?

Risk of Valium and Alcohol – Can it Cause Death?

In some circumstances, benzos like Valium can lead to serious medical emergencies like coma, hypotension, and overdose. Benzodiazepines can cause overdoses on their own. However, with medical attention, they typically aren’t fatal. However, benzos accounted for around 9,000 overdose deaths in 2015. Many of these are instances of benzos being mixed with other depressants like alcohol. This can be attributed to the fact that alcohol abuse can be deadly on its own, making the withdrawal from Valium and alcohol equally dangerous without medical supervision. The following symptoms can be signs of a diazepam overdose with alcohol:

  • Slow breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Hypotension (low heart rate)
  • Nausea
  • Loss of coordination
  • Coma
  • Loss of consciousness
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