Diazepam

Generic Name: diazepam (dye AZ e pam)
Brand Names: Valium

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What is diazepam?

Diazepam is in a group of drugs called benzodiazepines (ben-zoe-dye-AZE-eh-peens). Diazepam affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause anxiety.

Diazepam is used to treat anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or muscle spasms. It is sometimes used with other medications to treat seizures.

Diazepam may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important information about diazepam

You should not use this medication if you are allergic to diazepam or similar medicines (Ativan, Klonopin, Restoril, Xanax, and others), or if you have myasthenia gravis, severe liver disease, narrow-angle glaucoma, a severe breathing problem, or sleep apnea. Do not use diazepam if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby.

Before you take diazepam, tell your doctor if you have glaucoma, asthma or other breathing problems, kidney or liver disease, seizures, or a history of drug or alcohol addiction, mental illness, depression, or suicidal thoughts.

Do not drink alcohol while taking diazepam. This medicine can increase the effects of alcohol.

Never take more of this medication than your doctor has prescribed. An overdose of diazepam can be fatal.

Diazepam may be habit-forming and should be used only by the person it was prescribed for. Keep the medication in a secure place where others cannot get to it.

Before taking diazepam

Diazepam may be habit forming and should be used only by the person it was prescribed for. Never share diazepam with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it. You should not use this medication if you are allergic to diazepam or similar drugs (Ativan, Klonopin, Restoril, Xanax, and others), or if you have:

  • myasthenia gravis (a muscle weakness disorder);

  • severe liver disease;

  • narrow-angle glaucoma;

  • a severe breathing problem; or

  • sleep apnea (breathing stops during sleep).

Do not give diazepam to a child younger than 6 months old.

To make sure you can safely take diazepam, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:

  • open-angle glaucoma;

  • asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), or other breathing problems;

  • kidney or liver disease;

  • epilepsy or other seizure disorder;

  • a history of mental illness, depression, or suicidal thoughts or behavior; or

  • a history of drug or alcohol addiction.

FDA pregnancy category D. Do not use diazepam if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment. Diazepam may cause low blood pressure, breathing problems, or addiction and withdrawal symptoms in a newborn if the mother takes the medication during pregnancy. Diazepam can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby. The sedative effects of diazepam may last longer in older adults. Accidental falls are common in elderly patients who take benzodiazepines. Use caution to avoid falling or accidental injury while you are taking this medicine.

See also: Diazepam pregnancy and breastfeeding warnings (in more detail)

How should I take diazepam?

Take diazepam exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not take in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Follow the directions on your prescription label.

Your doctor may occasionally change your dose to make sure you get the best results.

Measure liquid medicine with a special dose measuring spoon or medicine cup, not with a regular table spoon. If you do not have a dose measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

Diazepam should be used for only a short time. Do not take this medication for longer than 12 weeks (3 months) without your doctor's advice. Do not stop using diazepam suddenly without first talking to your doctor. You may have increased seizures or unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking diazepam. You may need to use less and less before you stop the medication completely. Call your doctor at once if you feel that this medicine is not working as well as usual, or if you think you need to use more than usual.

To be sure diazepam is not causing harmful effects, your blood may need to be tested often. Your liver function may also need to be tested. Visit your doctor regularly.

Store diazepam at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.

Keep track of the amount of medicine used from each new bottle. Diazepam is a drug of abuse and you should be aware if anyone is using your medicine improperly or without a prescription.

See also: Diazepam dosage (in more detail)

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. An overdose of diazepam can be fatal.

Overdose symptoms may include extreme drowsiness, loss of balance or coordination, confusion, limp or weak muscles, or fainting.

What should I avoid while taking diazepam?

This medicine may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert. Do not drink alcohol while taking diazepam. This medication can increase the effects of alcohol.

See also: Diazepam and alcohol (in more detail)

Diazepam side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to diazepam: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Stop using diazepam and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • confusion, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior;

  • unusual risk-taking behavior, decreased inhibitions, no fear of danger;

  • depressed mood, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself;

  • hyperactivity, agitation, aggression, hostility;

  • new or worsening seizures;

  • weak or shallow breathing;

  • feeling like you might pass out;

  • muscle twitching, tremor;

  • loss of bladder control; or

  • urinating less than usual or not at all.

Less serious diazepam side effects may include:

  • drowsiness, tired feeling;

  • memory problems;

  • dizziness, spinning sensation;

  • feeling restless or irritable;

  • muscle weakness;

  • nausea, constipation;

  • drooling or dry mouth, slurred speech;

  • blurred vision, double vision;

  • mild skin rash, itching; or

  • loss of interest in sex.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Diazepam side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect diazepam?

Before taking diazepam, tell your doctor if you regularly use other medicines that make you sleepy (such as cold or allergy medicine, other sedatives, narcotic pain medicine, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, and medicine for seizures, depression, or anxiety). They can add to sleepiness caused by diazepam.

Tell your doctor about all other medicines you use, especially:

  • cimetidine (Tagamet);

  • omeprazole (Prilosec);

  • phenytoin (Dilantin);

  • an antibiotic such as clarithromycin (Biaxin), dalfopristin/quinupristin (Synercid), erythromycin (E.E.S., EryPed, Ery-Tab, Erythrocin, Pediazole), or telithromycin (Ketek);

  • an antidepressant such as fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) or fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, Symbyax), and others;

  • antifungal medicine such as itraconazole (Sporanox), ketoconazole (Extina, Ketozole, Nizoral, Xolegal), miconazole (Oravig), or voriconazole (Vfend);

  • heart or blood pressure medication such as amlodipine (Norvasc, Caduet, Exforge, Lotrel, Tekamlo, Tribenzor, Twynsta), diltiazem (Cartia, Cardizem), nicardipine (Cardene), quinidine (Quin-G), verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan), and others; or

  • HIV/AIDS medicine such as atazanavir (Reyataz), delavirdine (Rescriptor), fosamprenavir (Lexiva), indinavir (Crixivan), nelfinavir (Viracept), saquinavir (Invirase), or ritonavir (Norvir, Kaletra).

This list is not complete and other drugs may interact with diazepam. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.