Meds and you

Updated 11 February 2013

Diazepam

Diazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine medication, a tranquiliser prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe anxiety and panic disorders.

0

Diazepam is the active ingredient of Aspen-Diazepam, Betapam, Micro-diazepam, Pax, Sandoz Diazepam, Tranject and Valium.

General Information

Diazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine medication, a tranquiliser prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe anxiety and panic disorders, insomnia (short-term), muscle spasms and alcohol withdrawal. It is also used to treat, and in some cases (in combination with epileptic drugs) prevent, severe epilepsy.

If possible this medication should not be used continuously for longer than 14 days, as tolerance and physical and psychological dependence can occur. The higher the dose and the longer the drug is taken, the higher the risk of experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Rebound anxiety, for one, can commonly occur.

Anxiety and tension related to everyday life should not be treated with diazepam.

How does diazepam work?

Diazepam has an effect on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is the brain's quieting or tranquilising neurotransmitter, possessing an inhibitive effect on the transmission of nerve signals. Diazepam, and other benzodiazepines, enhances the effect of GABA, thus slowing down the transmission of nerve signals.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: Schedule 5

Available as: Diazepam is available as tablets and injection.

What does it do? Benzodiazepine relieves anxiety and muscular spasms.

Overdose risk: Medium

Dependence risk: High

Is diazepam available as a generic? Yes

Is diazepam available on prescription only? Yes

User information

Onset of effect: Within 2 hours

Duration of action: Up to 12 hours

Dietary advice: This medication should best be taken before meals.

Stopping this medicine: This medication should not be stopped abruptly - Sudden discontinuation may lead to withdrawal symptoms. The dosage of diazepam should be gradually reduced according to the advice of your doctor.

Prolonged use: Short-term therapy is advised. Treatment should generally be no longer than -12 weeks, including a tapering off process. Do not take for longer periods unless strictly instructed by your doctor. Tolerance and dependence may occur.

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • You have a known hypersensitivity to benzodiazepines
  • You have acute closed-angle glaucoma
  • You have myasthenia gravis
  • You have liver or kidney disease
  • You have a history of alcohol or substance abuse
  • You have a chronic lung disease
  • You suffer from epilepsy
  • You have a mental illness or suffer from depression
  • You suffer from sleep apnoea.

Pregnancy: Avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: Avoid. This medication is passed through breast milk and may affect your baby adversely. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: Avoid. This medication may cause serious adverse effects. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: This medication is safe for use in children at the recommended dose. Caution: Side effects may be more common; use only as prescribed by your doctor.

Elderly: Caution is advised in the elderly as side effects are more likely to occur.

Driving and hazardous work: Caution is advised as use of this medication may lead to dizziness, light-headedness and/or sedation. Avoid such activities until you know how this medication affects you.

Alcohol: Avoid concomitant use of alcohol with this medication, as effects on the central nervous system may be exaggerated.

Possible side effects

Side effect

Frequency

Consult your doctor

Common

Rare

Only if severe

In all cases

Drowsiness

x

x

Loss of coordination/dizziness

x

x

Slurred speech

x

x

Change in libido

x

x

Fever/chills

x

x

Extreme fatigue

x

x

Nausea/vomiting

x

x

Rash/itching

x

x

Anger/behaviour changes

x

x

Yellow tinge: eyes/skin

x

x

Bruising/bleeding

x

x

Interactions:

Drug interactions:

Alcohol, antihistamines, antidepressants, other benzodiazepines, narcotics

Increased depression of central nervous system (CNS)

Digoxin

Increased possibility of digoxin toxicity

Disulfiram

Increased possibility of bromazepam toxicity

Ketokonazole and other related antifungals

Increased possibility of bromazepam toxicity

Cimetidine

Increased possibility of bromazepam toxicity

Isoniazid

Increased possibility of bromazepam toxicity

Oral contraceptive

Increased possibility of bromazepam toxicity

Propranolol

Increased possibility of bromazepam toxicity

Valproic acid

Increased possibility of bromazepam toxicity

Isoniazid

Increased possibility of a bromazepam toxicity

Levodopa

Decreases levodopa's anti-Parkinson effect.

Probenecid

Increased possibility of bromazepam toxicity

Rifampicin

May decrease the effect of bromazepam.

Theophylline

May counteract the sedative effects of bromazepam.

Disease interactions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have acute closed-angle glaucoma, myasthenia gravis, liver or kidney disease, a chronic lung disease, epilepsy, mental illness or depression, or if you suffer from sleep apnoea.

Overdose action

An overdose of diazepam can be fatal. Seek immediate emergency medical attention. Symptoms may include poor coordination, slow breathing, tremors, drowsiness, slurred speech, confusion, slow reflexes and loss of consciousness.

Recommended dosage

Adults, oral: 2-60 mg/day in divided dose

Children over 5 weeks: 0.5 - 2 mg/day;

Children 1-6 years: 1-6 mg per day

Children 6-14 years: 2-10 mg/day

Interesting fact

The State of California in the USA offers diazepam to inmates on death row as a pre-execution sedative.

 

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.