Diazepam is used to relieve anxiety and to control agitation caused by alcohol withdrawal. It is also used along with other medications to control muscle spasms and spasticity caused by certain neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy (condition that causes difficulty with movement and balance), paraplegia (inability to move parts of the body), athetosis (abnormal muscle contractions), and stiff-man syndrome (a rare disorder with muscle rigidity and stiffness). Diazepam is also used along with other medications to control seizures. Diazepam is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It works by calming abnormal overactivity in the brain.
Side Effects Of Diazepam
Diazepam may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- muscle weakness
- dry mouth
- difficulty urinating
- frequent urination
- changes in sex drive or ability
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms or those listed in the WARNING section, call your doctor immediately or get emergency medical treatment:
- loss of control of bodily movements
- uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
- slurred speech
- slowed breathing and heartbeat
Diazepam may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.
Warnings & Precautions
Before taking diazepam:
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to diazepam, alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium, in Librax), clonazepam (Klonopin), clorazepate (Gen-Xene, Tranxene), estazolam, flurazepam, lorazepam (Ativan), oxazepam, temazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion), any other medications, or any of the ingredients in diazepam products. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, and nutritional supplements, you are taking. Be sure to mention any of the following: antihistamines; barbiturates such as phenobarbital (Luminal); cimetidine (Tagamet); digoxin (Lanoxin); disulfiram (Antabuse); fluoxetine (Prozac); fluvoxamine (Luvox); isoniazid (Laniazid, in Rifamate, in Rifater); ketoconazole; medications for anxiety, depression, mental illness, seizures, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, colds, or allergies; metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL); monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors including isocarboxazid (Marplan), linezolid (Zyvox), methylene blue, phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar), and tranylcypromine (Parnate); muscle relaxants; phenothiazine medications for mental illness or nausea such as chlorpromazine, fluphenazine, prochlorperazine (Compro, Procomp), and promethazine (Promethegan); omeprazole (Prilosec); probenecid (Probalan, in Col-Probenecid); propranolol (Hemangeol, Inderal, Innopran); ranitidine (Zantac); rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane, in Rifamate, in Rifater); sedatives; sleeping pills; theophylline (Elixophyllin, Theo 24, Theochron); tranquilizers; or valproic acid (Depakene). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- tell your doctor if you have myasthenia gravis (a disorder of the nervous system that causes muscle weakness), sleep apnea (a condition in which a person briefly stops breathing many times during the night), or lung or liver disease. Also, tell your doctor if you have narrow-angle glaucoma (a serious eye condition that may cause loss of vision. Your doctor will probably tell you not to take diazepam. Diazepam should not be used in infants younger than 6 months of age.
- tell your doctor if you drink or have ever drunk large amounts of alcohol, use or have ever used street drugs, or have overused prescription medications. Also, tell your doctor if you have or have ever had open-angle glaucoma (increase in internal eye pressure that damages the optic nerve); depression or other mental illness; seizures; or heart disease.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. If you become pregnant while taking diazepam, call your doctor immediately.
- tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding. Do not breastfeed while you are taking diazepam.
- talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking diazepam if you are 65 years of age or older. Older adults should not usually take diazepam because it is not as safe as other medications that can be used to treat the same conditions.
- if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking diazepam.
- you should know that this drug may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.
- you should know that your mental health may change in unexpected ways and you may become suicidal (thinking about harming or killing yourself or planning or trying to do so) while you are taking diazepam for the treatment of epilepsy. A small number of adults and children 5 years of age and older (about 1 in 500 people) who took anticonvulsants such as diazepam to treat various conditions during clinical studies became suicidal during their treatment. Some of these people developed suicidal thoughts and behavior as early as one week after they started taking the medication. There is a risk that you may experience changes in your mental health if you take an anticonvulsant medication such as diazepam, but there may also be a risk that you will experience changes in your mental health if your condition is not treated. You and your doctor will decide whether the risks of taking an anticonvulsant medication are greater than the risks of not taking the medication. You, your family, or your caregiver should call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms: panic attacks; agitation or restlessness; new or worsening irritability, anxiety, or depression; acting on dangerous impulses; difficulty falling or staying asleep; aggressive, angry, or violent behavior; mania (frenzied, abnormally excited mood); talking or thinking about wanting to hurt yourself or end your life; withdrawing from friends and family; preoccupation with death and dying; giving away prized possessions, or any other unusual changes in behavior or mood. Be sure that your family or caregiver knows which symptoms may be serious so they can call the doctor if you are unable to seek treatment on your own.
Diazepam comes as a tablet, a solution, and as a concentrate (liquid) to take by mouth. It is usually taken 1 to 4 times a day and may be taken with or without food. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take diazepam exactly as directed.
Diazepam concentrate comes with a specially marked dropper for measuring the dose. Ask your pharmacist to show you how to use the dropper. Dilute the concentrate in water, juice, or carbonated beverages just before taking it. It also may be mixed with applesauce or pudding just before taking the dose. Stir the mixture gently for a few seconds. Take the entire mixture immediately; do not store it for future use.
Diazepam can be habit-forming. Do not take a larger dose, take it more often, or for a longer time than your doctor tells you to.
Tolerance may develop with long-term or excessive use, making the drug less effective. This medication must be taken regularly to be effective. Do not skip doses even if you feel that you do not need them.
Do not stop taking this medication without talking to your doctor. If you suddenly stop taking diazepam, you may experience anxiousness, sleeplessness, and irritability. Your doctor probably will decrease your dose gradually.
If you are taking diazepam along with other medications to control seizures, do not stop taking diazepam without talking to your doctor, even if you experience side effects such as unusual changes in behavior or mood. If you suddenly stop taking diazepam, your seizures may get worse. Your doctor will probably decrease your dose gradually.
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests to check your response to diazepam.
If you are taking diazepam along with other medications to control seizures and have an increase in their frequency or severity, call your doctor. Your dose of diazepam or the other medications may need to be adjusted. If you use diazepam for seizures, carry identification (Medic Alert) stating that you have epilepsy and that you are taking diazepam and other medications.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Diazepam is a controlled substance. Prescriptions may be refilled only a limited number of times; ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
All information has been provided courtesy of MedLinePlus from the National Library of Medicine and from the FDA.