Diazepam (better known by its trade name “Valium”) is a drug belonging to the family of anxiolytics and hypnotics . Nowadays, this type of psychotropic drug, derived from benzodiazepines, is still one of the most administered for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks and as sedatives prior to certain types of interventions.
We have all heard about diazepam, it may have been prescribed for us at some time or it is possible that someone close to us is one of those patients who are used to having it on their bedside table. The WHO (World Health Organization) itself has it included in its list of “essential drugs” for a very specific reason: it is one of the most effective and currently used standard benzodiazepines.
However, and this is important to keep in mind, its frequent and almost normalized use in many of our contexts, does not mean that we are far from harmless medicine .Diazepam, like the rest of benzodiazepines, carries a high risk of dependence. Its administration must be punctual, controlled and limited in time.
Next, we suggest you to know more about this type of psychotropic drug.
Who created the Diazepam?
Diazepam was the second benzodiazepine that Leo Sternbachalrededor invented around the 1960s . It is five times more potent than its predecessor, chlordiazepoxide. Up to that moment doctors prescribed to their patients the classic barbiturates, drugs with a high dependence and with quite serious side effects.
The Diazapam was considered for a few years as the “miracle drug”, to the point that it was for quite some time, the best-selling drug. However, little by little the doctors were aware that these wonderful pills were not as innocuous as was initially believed. In fact, in the 90s, its marketing fell by half.
What is Diazepam used for?
Diazepam, given its sedative and hypnotic effects, have multiple uses, are the following:
- Short-term treatment of insomnia .
- Treatment of anxiety, panic attacks and agitation states.
- Treatment of epileptic status.
- Initial management for various mood disorders such as mania. It is usually used in combination with lithium, valproate or neuroleptics.
- Diazepam is also used for the treatment of alcohol and opiate withdrawal.
- Diazepam is used together with other antidepressants in patients who develop suicidal thoughts.
- It is effective for various painful muscular conditions.
- It is also used to treat various muscle pareses due to injuries or brain problems.
- Diazepam is always present in outpatient clinics or hospitals to be used as sedation prior to an operation.
How does Diazepam work?
Diazepam is basically a drug that acts as a sedative of the nervous system . What does this mean? Whether we want it or not, the famous Valium like the rest of benzodiazepines diminish the activity of the brain . They do so by acting in different areas of the limbic system, the thalamus and the hypothalamus, thus inducing anxiolytic effects.
Neuroscientists deduce that their action starts by binding to GABA receptors. After that , the functioning of certain areas of the brain slows down to experience a prolonged state of drowsiness, decrease in anxiety and relaxation of the muscles.