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Diazepam (Valium®) is a benzodiazepine drug that can cause muscle relaxation, and is typically used to treat anxiety disorders and possibly seizure disorders. It also may be used to reduce dizziness in people who suffer from conditions like Meniere’s disease. The main side effects of diazepam are separated into benign and infrequent but serious effects requiring immediate medical attention. Not all users of this medication experience all of its adverse effects.
The benign side effects of diazepam are also sometimes seen as beneficial. Effects like drowsiness or feeling tired may be desirable if it is used for sleep or to reduce anxiety. Other effects may not be as pleasant, and some of them include: excess drooling, slight memory impairment, impairment of motor skills or hand eye coordination required to drive a vehicle, dry mouth, disinterest in sex, changes in speech pronunciation or speed, drunkenness or dizziness, rash, stomach upset that could include changes in bowel movements or vomiting, headaches, and changes to visual acuity that blur vision. These effects aren’t necessarily dangerous, but a high number of adverse effects should be mentioned to a physician, as another medication may be more appropriate.
The serious side effects of diazepam should be noted so a person can get medical attention right away if one or more of these occur. The drug can cause a severe allergy reaction, which is often evidenced by difficult breathing, rash or hives, and swelling of the lips, face, and tongue. Valium® may also cause increased suicidal thinking, hallucinations, confusion, fainting feelings, reduced or faint breathing, a sudden onset of flu symptoms that include fever, chills and muscle aches, tremors, involuntary muscle movement or twitches, decreased inhibitions with behavior that creates physical, emotional or financial risk, double vision, or jaundice.
A number of medications and substances either shouldn’t be taken or may enhance the side effects of diazepam. Most psychiatric medicines are included in this list, though they are frequently prescribed with Valium®. Other medications like anti-seizure drugs and pain medications may also interact with it. Doctors should have a complete list of patient medications prior to prescribing diazepam, and should know about patient use of cannabis or alcohol, since both of these may have a stronger effect when used with Valium®.
Certain conditions also contraindicate use and could increase side effects of diazepam. People who are pregnant or nursing, or who have eye diseases like glaucoma should avoid most of the benzodiazepines. Other conditions that could contraindicate or limit use include breathing problems like sleep apnea or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, advanced diseases of the liver, and myasthenia gravis.
Long-term use may create another of the side effects of diazepam. The drug tends to cause dependency, so people are advised to discontinue use through drug tapering. For some people, even tapering is challenging, and they may need more support to end medication use.