Mixing Valium and Alcohol

Mixing Valium and alcohol can pose a serious threat to your health and safety.1 This combination can intensify the effects of Valium and alcohol effects on your body and have the potential to lead to injury, overdose, coma, and may even be life-threatening.1

In this article: 

Why Do Valium and Alcohol Interact?

Valium is in a type of drug class called benzodiazepines, or diazepams.3 Physicians prescribe benzodiazepines to relieve anxiety, seizures, and muscle spasms.3 Valium provides temporary relief of some symptoms, but can also produce adverse side effects.3

Valium produces mild sleepiness, fatigue, relaxed muscles, and lowered anxiety when used as prescribed.3

If you take too much Valium, the symptoms become more intense and can include the following:3

  • Headaches
  • Shakiness
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Digestive problems
  • Disorientation and memory problems
  • Tolerance, dependence, and addiction

Alcohol is not the only substance that, when mixed with Valium, can cause life-threatening consequences. For example, if you take Valium with other opioids, you may experience a dangerous increase in side effects.3

Any alcoholic beverage—including beer, wine, and liquor—can interact with Valium. This interaction occurs because benzodiazepines and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants.4

Unlike Valium, alcohol also attaches to dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate systems in the brain.4 The more alcohol you consume, the more intense effects you may experience.4

The effects of alcohol can include:5

  • Slurred speech
  • Altered mood
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Confusion
  • Increased stomach acid
  • Digestive problems
  • Increased blood sugar levels
  • Change in body temperature

Long-term effects of drinking alcohol include:5

  • Shrinking of the brain
  • Sleep disorders
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Weakened immune system
  • Tolerance, dependence, and addiction

When comparing these lists, Valium and alcohol effects are clearly similar when taken separately. When used together, these shared effects can be intensified and other dangerous side effects can occur.

What Are the Short-Term Risks of Mixing Valium and Alcohol?

Using too much of any substance can cause mental and physical harm to your body. Mixing Valium and alcohol—which are both depressants—can lead to the following short-term effects:2

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Extreme dizziness and confusion
  • Blood poisoning
  • Loss of balance that can lead to falls
  • Loss of control over bodily functions
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Brain damage
  • Coma
  • Overdose

There are factors that put you at higher risk for overdosing when mixing Valium and alcohol. If you are taking prescription medications other than Valium, Valium and alcohol could also interact with that medication. If you consume too much alcohol or Valium too fast, your organs may not process them, leading to an overdose. Psychological distress and personal stressors—such as relationship problems—may also play a role.6 Combining or intentionally misusing Valium and alcohol can be potentially life-threatening.

What Are the Long-Term Risks of Mixing Valium and Alcohol?

Mixing Valium and alcohol can cause central nervous system suppression and extreme sedation. The short-term effects may become more pronounced over time and are more likely to become dangerous with chronic substance misuse.

You may experience:7

  • Mild drowsiness that becomes extreme, making it easier to lose consciousness
  • Short-term and long-term memory loss
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • The inability to control your body
  • Loss of bladder control, including not feeling the urge to urinate or noticing until you have already urinated
  • Slow breathing to a point where you slip into a coma or stop breathing altogether
  • Permanent damage to the brain and organs

Can I Become Addicted to Valium and Alcohol?

Some factors can increase your risk for developing a substance use disorder, or addiction, when mixing alcohol and valium. Risk factors include:8

  • Genetics—Heredity is a factor in the development of a substance or alcohol use disorder. Having addiction in your family does not predict or guarantee that you will develop an addiction, but it may make it more likely for substance misuse to become an addiction.
  • Environment—Where you live, who you live with, and what happens in the place you live contribute to developing a substance use disorder. For example, if you grew up with adults who modeled mixing prescription medication and alcohol, you may be more likely to do the same.
  • Age of first use—Some research indicates that when you start misusing alcohol or prescription medication earlier, you may be more likely to develop an addiction.

Often, a polysubstance use disorder—or an addiction to two or more substances—progresses from clinical tolerance to the substances to dependence on the substances before addiction develops.

Tolerance can happen with any substance. Clinical tolerance occurs when you begin to need more of the substance to achieve the same effects.9 As your tolerance grows, you are more likely to develop a dependence on the substances.9

Physical dependence on a substance occurs when you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms if you do not use the substance in the same amounts or at the same frequency that you normally do.10

Mixing alcohol and Valium can cause severe withdrawal symptoms like:11

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Delirium
  • Delusions
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors or shakiness
  • Digestive problems
  • Muscle pains, spasms, or aches
  • Seizures

Once you become addicted to mixing Valium and alcohol, you may have trouble seeing yourself living without them.12

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Many people with substance use disorders struggle with the behaviors that are associated with addiction. Some examples are:12

  • Spending large amounts of time finding ways to get the money that will be used to purchase Valium or alcohol
  • Lying to family or friends about how you use Valium and alcohol
  • Spending most of your time with other people who have a substance use disorder
  • Continuing to use Valium and alcohol even when doing so negatively impacts your life, such as affecting your:
    • Interpersonal relationships
    • Career
    • Finances
    • Housing, transportation, or food stability
  • Spending more time alone so you can use Valium and alcohol
  • Participating in risky behaviors to obtain Valium and alcohol or while using them
  • Experiencing legal problems related to substance use, such as DUIs
  • No longer participating in activities you once enjoyed

Along with behavioral signs, there are physical symptoms you may experience with addiction, including:12

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Decrease in personal hygiene
  • Unusual odors on your breath or body

Psychological symptoms that can appear include paranoia, extreme depressive symptoms, anxiety, irritability, lack of motivation, defensiveness, and aggression.12

If you have become physically dependent on or addicted to Valium and alcohol, you may need to undergo medically supervised detox in order to safely stop using these substances and to manage your withdrawal symptoms.

After detox, you may enter inpatient rehab to continue working toward recovery. Call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak with a counselor about starting a detox program.

Resources:

  1. Jones, C.M., Paulozzi, L.J., & Mack, K.A. (2014). Alcohol Involvement in Opioid Pain Reliever and Benzodiazepine Drug Abuse–Related Emergency Department Visits and Drug-Related Deaths — the United States, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 63.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020). Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines.
  3. S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Diazepam. MedlinePlus.
  4. Banerjee N. (2014). Neurotransmitters in alcoholism: A review of neurobiological and genetic studies. Indian Journal of Human Genetics, 20(1), 20–31.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Alcohol Use and Your Health.
  6. Lyons, R. M., Yule, A. M., Schiff, D., Bagley, S. M., & Wilens, T. E. (2019). Risk factors for drug overdose in young people: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 29(7), 487–497.
  7. Leigh, S. (2019). Research Study: Problem Drinkers Have Higher ‘Benzo’ Use, UCSF-Kaiser Permanente Study Shows Alcohol with Xanax, Valium, Ativan Increases Risks for Overdose, Accidents, Falls. University of California San Francisco.
  8. Whitesell, M., Bachand, A., Peel, J., & Brown, M. (2013). Familial, social, and individual factors contributing to risk for adolescent substance use. Journal of Addiction, 2013, 579310.
  9. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021). Warning Signs of Substance and Alcohol Use Disorder. Indian Health Services.
  10. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2000). Alcohol Alert. Alcohol and Tolerance.
  11. Trevisan, L. Boutros, N., Petrakis, I.L., & Krystal, J.H. (1998). Complications of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol Health and Research World, 22, 61-66.
  12. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics.

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