Drugs and Performance – Valium

By Clinton Marquardt - Sleep & Fatigue Specialist

August 17, 2013

Fatigue can be caused by medications such as Valium. What is Valium (Diazepam)?

pills0050-150x150Diazepam (generic name) (1), better known as Valium (brand name) is a sedative-hypnotic, anxiolytic medication in the benzodiazepine family.  Valium depresses the central nervous system and is often prescribed to help people through stressful times.  Depending upon the dose, Valium can have the following effects:

  • disinhibition
  • sedation
  • stop convulsions
  • muscle relaxation
  • soporific effects (i.e., increasing sleepiness)
  • reductions in locomotor activity (at higher doses)

Why is Valium used?

When the effects are required rapidly, like when a doctor needs to sedate a patient before a procedure, the medication can be administered by injection. The highest blood concentration (i.e. peak plasma level) of the medication is achieved within 15 minutes when it is injected. It then takes 2 – 3 hours for half the medication to be removed from the body through natural biological activity (i.e. acute half-life = 2 – 3 hours). When the medication is taken orally in pill form, peak blood plasma levels are achieved within 1 – 2 hours and the acute half-life is 6 – 8 hours.

Valium is normally used to reduce mild to moderate anxiety that is occurring at the same time as tension, excitation, agitation, fear or aggressiveness. It can also be used to manage anxiety due to stress and anxious states where the anxiety is causing physical symptoms.

Skeletal muscle spasms are another condition that be relieved with Valium. The spastic conditions it can help include reflex spasticity caused by inflammation of the muscle and joints and reflex spasticity caused by trauma to a muscle. It can also be used to relieve spasticity caused by upper motor neuron disorders such as cerebral palsy and paraplegia. Athetosis (involuntary movements of the hands, fingers, feet and toes) and stiff-man syndrome can also be helped by Valium.

Interestingly, doctors will often use Valium to help alcoholics through the withdrawal.  The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal it can help with include acute agitation, tremor and impending delirium tremens.

What are the risks associated with Valium?

The Canadian product monograph states that the following adverse effects can occur following administration of normal dosages of Valium.

Most common:

  • drowsiness
  • ataxia (inability to coordinate muscle movement)

Less frequent:

  • fatigue (non-sleep related fatigue)
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • blurred vision
  • diplopia
  • vertigo
  • headache
  • slurred speech
  • tremors
  • hypoactivity
  • dysarthria
  • euphoria
  • impairment of memory
  • confusion
  • depression
  • incontinence or urinary retention
  • constipation
  • skin rash
  • generalized exfoliative dermatitis
  • hypotension
  • changes in libido

Paradoxical reactions have also been reported; these include:

  • hyper-excitation
  • anxiety
  • excitement
  • hallucinations
  • increased muscle spasticity
  • insomnia
  • rage
  • sleep disturbances
  • stimulation

What can I do with this information?

People’s lives can be stressful and medication can really help people through those periods.  But we also understand that what goes on in someone’s personal life can have an effect on his or her professional life. The two parts must be able work well together to keep personal lives less stressful and maintain high performance in professional areas.  The first step to managing the risk of medications such as Valium on professional performance, is awareness.  So feel free to reproduce and distribute this information in your newsletters and safety bulletins.  If you do, please include a link or a credit to www.sleepanddreams.com.

For more information on how we can help your team balance their personal and professional lives, contact us today!


(1)  Most of this information in this document was abridged from www.mentalhealth.com.

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