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