Diazepam is a tranquilizer, or central nervous system depressant, classified as a benzodiazepine. It is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and certain types of muscle spasms. This drug can cause tolerance as well as physical and psychological dependence, so it should not be discontinued suddenly. The abrupt cessation can produce unpleasant symptoms of diazepam withdrawal, some of which can be very serious. For this reason, the dose of diazepam should be slowly and gradually reduced under the supervision of a doctor.
When patients suddenly stop taking diazepam, they may experience dizziness, changes in personality, and numbness or tingling. Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, might also occur. Dangerous symptoms of diazepam withdrawal include rapid heartbeat, hallucinations, and seizures. Due to the potential for these dangerous effects, patients should not change the dose of their medicine without checking with their doctor. If the dose is reduced slowly, the withdrawal symptoms will be lessened.
Diazepam withdrawal after a long duration of use is difficult. It is available in small quantity doses of 2 milligram (mg) tablets, which can be divided into fourths for low incremental dose reductions. Some people prefer the liquid form of diazepam to help them gradually wean themselves from the last few milligrams. If the patient is on a total daily dose of 60 mg of the drug, the incremental process of weaning can take several months.
Patients on diazepam should follow some general guidelines for use. Diazepam should never be shared with a friend or family member, particularly if they are predisposed toward drug abuse. Patients should monitor the number of pills in the bottle so that they will know if a member of the household is using them. The drug should be kept in a safe spot where visitors to the home can't get to it. Anyone who takes diazepam needs to be aware that it is a drug frequently abused.
In order to prevent tolerance and dependence, diazepam shouldn't be used for a long period. As a general rule, it's best to not take it longer than a four-month period, unless otherwise directed by a doctor. This can prevent the problem of diazepam withdrawal. Patients may need to undergo periodic blood and liver function tests in order to monitor the effects of diazepam. The most important thing to remember is not to take a dose greater than that which has been prescribed, as an overdose might be fatal.