What is Valium?

Updated: Apr 21

Valium is a popular benzodiazepine drug. Benzodiazepines are a prescribed sedative drug used to treat anxiety and aid sleep.

Valium was first discovered in 1963 by Leo Sternbach, who worked for the pharmaceutical company Hoffman-La Roche. When Valium was first discovered, it was seen to be safer and more effective than the previous sedative drugs used.

Valium was a commonly prescribed drug right up until the 1980s, when the addictive nature and negative side effects began to get recognised. The drug was said to be “more addictive to withdraw people from than Heroin.”

Valium is safe when prescribed and used following the correct dosage but often only prescribed for short periods of time. The NHS is now prescribed to only prescribe Valium for up to 4 weeks max due to its addictive qualities.


Valium and The Law

If prescribed Valium by a doctor and you are found in possession, it is not an offence, and you are not breaking any laws. It is illegal for people to be in possession of Valium without having had them prescribed by a doctor. Valium is a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.


Is Street Valium the same as the Valium prescribed by doctors?

In recent years there has been an increase in Street Valium use and its availability. This is illegal and stronger than the drug prescribed by doctors as it’s man-made.

Scotland has seen a massive rise in drug deaths which are being linked to Street Valium. With Street Valium being made in someone’s garage, it’s hardly surprising the dosage can vary from pill to pill, and the pills are potentially lethal.

This blog will look at some facts on Valium but keep your eyes peeled for a later blog post on Street Valium.


Street names/Nicknames

Diazepam, Vallies, blues, yellows, whites, roofies, benzos, downers.


How is it used?

NHS guidance states, “Benzodiazepines (such as Valium) should be used at the lowest effective dose for as short a duration as possible”.

Valium comes in tablet form, and there are 3 different strengths which are indicated by the colour.

Blue valium is rarely prescribed, so many of the blue tablets we see are Street Valium which we know is much stronger than the 10mg Valium prescribed by your doctor.


Tablets are most commonly taken orally in their tablet form, but users have also been known to crush tablets to snort, inject or take rectally. Crushing tablets to inject them is extremely dangerous and could lead to infection and fatal overdose.


The Effects and Risks

Some people take Valium because of the calming effects they experience. As we already know, Valium can be used to relieve anxiety and help sleep.

So why do GP’s only prescribe for short periods of time? There is a risk of both psychological and physical dependence with repeated use.

Some side effects users of Valium can experience:

  • Drowsiness and lethargic

  • Forgetful

  • Poor concentration

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Insomnia

  • Irritability

Harm Reduction

So if prescribed Valium, how can you keep yourself safer?


• Don’t mix with alcohol. Mixing alcohol and Valium has been known to cause blackouts where users will not remember what they were doing whilst using. With alcohol and Valium both being depressants, it affects the brain's ability to make educated decisions.

• Follow the prescription given to you by doctors and don’t take anyone else’s prescription. Put the prescription away in a safe place if you have a large amount.

• Dependency can develop quickly and if you have recently started using it, follow your prescription and if unprescribed, try to take breaks and avoid taking it every day.

• Avoid mixing Valium with other drugs. This can increase the risk of overdose.


Overdose Signs and Symptoms

Overdose from Valium can look like:

  • Blue lips

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Noisy, slow breathing

  • Fitting or seizures

  • Confusion

  • Hallucinations


If you are worried about someone, you can:

  • Call an ambulance (you won’t get in trouble for doing this, even if drugs are involved)

  • Keep an eye on the persons breathing

  • If no response, move them into the recovery position.

  • Stay with the person until paramedics arrive

  • If you can, tell the paramedic as much information as possible (the drug taken, the dosage)


Useful links and further reading

Benzodiazepines (benzos, diazepam, valium) | NHS inform

Valium: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Warnings - Drugs.com

Overview - Generalised anxiety disorder in adults - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Dangerously potent benzos causing harm | FRANK (talktofrank.com)

Benzodiazepines – DrugWise

About benzodiazepines | Mind

Valium: What is it used for, and why are people buying it illegally? | Metro News



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