Valium is the best known trade name of diazepam, the best known of a class of drugs called the benzodiazepines which began to be used in place of barbituates in the early 1960s. From 1969 to 1982, it was the best selling drug in the United States. It has many clinical uses - to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal and even withdrawal from other benzodiazepines. Valium and its related drugs tend to be both more effective and safer than the drugs they replaced. It can be administered orally, intravenously, intramuscularly, or through a suppository. It rapidly diffuses through the body's tissues. As such, it often must be avoided by nursing mothers. Valium works by binding to molecules that control the firing of neurons and inhibit this function. Valium has side effects including drowsiness, suppression of REM sleep, dizziness, depression, impaired learning, and amnesia, as well as others that are far rarer. It also has many interactions with drugs with similar effects, such as narcotics, barbituates and anti-depressants. It should be avoided in patients with ataxia, hepatitis or other liver dysfunction, snoring, clinical depression, women who are pregnant or nursing, and those with a history of any type of drug dependence, including alcohol. It should be avoided altogether with children, except for the treatment of epileptic seizures.
Like many other drugs, Valium can cause physical dependence or even addiction. The risk of addition increases with the dosage and the length of treatment. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe or life threatening, and a gradual lessening of the dosage is recommended.