In this article, we’re going to discuss how to use Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal. People who cross the line from heavy drinking to alcoholism are often shocked at how difficult it can be to quit drinking. The process can be made much easier by taking a benzodiazepine like Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
As alcohol consumption increases over time, withdrawal symptoms can progress from mild to psychologically exhausting and even dangerous. Many people avoid discussing their true levels of alcohol consumption with their doctors. As a result, they do not find out about the proper use of benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal. Binging, abstinence, and relapse can form a vicious cycle that continues for many years.
It’s important to understand that alcohol withdrawal is not all in your head. Symptoms like rapid heart beat, panic attacks, or a profound sense of impending doom can get worse and lead to fatal seizures. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms become more severe with repeated episodes because of a phenomenon known as kindling.
In a medical detox environment, it’s common to receive benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal. A patient may be given an initial injection followed by 1-2 weeks of tapered oral doses that are carefully monitored.
Diazepam is in a family of anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines. Diazepam is generic and it is most commonly sold under the brand name Valium. Other benzodiazepine brands include Librium, Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin.
All of these drugs can be effective for alcohol withdrawal symptoms because they reduce anxiety, prevent convulsions, and help with sleep. Because they vary in terms of strength and their length of effects, doctors choose between them depending on the patient’s symptoms.
Diazepam is effective at alleviating or preventing the following symptoms:
- Panic attacks
- High blood pressure
- Delirium Tremens
Benzodiazepines work by activating GABA receptors in the brain, which are also stimulated by alcohol. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter associated with feelings of calm. Alcohol intoxication causes a spike in GABA and withdrawal involves a plunge in GABA. Many alcohol withdrawal symptoms (including panic and even seizures) are caused by insufficient levels of GABA in the brain.
Using Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal can provide temporary peace of mind and prevent severe symptoms from manifesting. Because of the effectiveness of Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal symptoms, hospitals often prescribe this drug to alcoholics and then gradually reduce the dose to taper them off of it.
Here are some things to consider before obtaining a prescription of Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal symptoms:
- Because everyone is biochemically different, another benzodiazepine may work better for you than Diazepam.
- Depending on the severity of your alcoholism, your doctor may recommend inpatient detox or prescribe you with Diazepam that you can taper off of while you quit drinking at home. If you quit drinking at home, make sure you have support and that you repair your body proactively.
- All benzodiazepines including Diazepam can be addictive, which is why they should only be used for a short period of time and in the lowest effective dose.
- All benzodiazepines including Diazepam can cause overdose if too much is taken at once. Mixing these drugs with alcohol can be very dangerous and lead to blackouts.
- Even if you take Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal, you will still need to repair nutrient deficiencies caused by excessive drinking. You may also have other symptoms such as low motivation and depression that benzodiazepines cannot resolve.
- Using Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal is a great strategy for the short term, but in the longer term, it’s important to have external support and to renew your sense of purpose in life.
How To Take Diazepam
Here are some things to consider as you take Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal symptoms:
- Only take Diazepam with a prescription and under the supervision of a doctor.
- Diazepam tablets are typically 2, 5, or 10 mg.
- Doses of Diazepam are often divided throughout the day, with 3 or 4 doses on the first day being a common practice.
- There is no standard dosage of Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal; a doctor can determine this depending on your situation.
- Most people do not need to take Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal for more than a few days or a week.
- To avoid dependence, do not use Diazepam for longer than you need it.
By preventing complications caused by low levels of GABA in the brain, using Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal can help you have a much safer and more pleasant detox. Even if your symptoms aren’t severe, envisioning life without alcohol is hard enough. Nervous exhaustion and insomnia can make the task of quitting drinking seem nearly impossible.
But while Diazepam can help with getting off of alcohol, it is not a cure-all for the physical damage caused by alcoholism. Many people who use benzodiazepines like Diazepam end up relapsing because they feel tortured by depression or alcohol cravings after their taper ends. These other symptoms are often caused by the following problems that are NOT resolved by benzodiazepines:
- Low dopamine
- Low serotonin
- Magnesium deficiency (my life changed when I began taking magnesium!)
- B-vitamin deficiencies
- Other vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Poor liver health
Fortunately, there is a way to address all of these problems at once. Check Fit Recovery’s list of supplements that work best for supporting the brain-body system through alcohol recovery.
Another trick is to take glutamine to resolve sudden, intense bouts of alcohol cravings. Try it and you’ll see that it works. Glutamine is an amino acid that can help to repair every cell in your body.
I could go on for pages about the process of repairing your body after quitting drinking, but I’ve already written my magnum opus on that subject.
The bottom line is that using Diazepam for alcohol withdrawal can be very effective, but it’s just the first part of a long process. Give your body what it needs during this time, and your mind will be sure to follow!
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Dr. Ken Starr is board certified in both Addiction Medicine and Emergency Medicine, and diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. In addition to his work as the Addiction Medicine Director for Fit Recovery, he operates Ken Starr MD Wellness Group in Arroyo Grande, CA. His clinic offers advanced drug and alcohol detox methods, long term recovery facilitation, and IV nutritional programs including NAD+ therapy.