Snorting & Smoking Valium: Is It Actually Dangerous?

Medically Reviewed

Valium (diazepam) is a prescription medication used to treat anxiety disorders. It is in the class of medications called benzodiazepines and serves as a sedative, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant medication. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that Valium is intended for the short-term relief of anxiety symptoms.

The medication, which comes in tablet form, is dispensed in the dosages of 2 mg, 5 mg, or 10 mg of diazepam. These tablets are to be taken orally, swallowed, and metabolized through the stomach and gastrointestinal system. Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are considered to be highly habit-forming, even when they are taken as directed. For this reason, Valium is not recommended for long-term use.

Valium and benzos are big targets for abuse, and when misused, they can cause a mellowing and euphoric high that can be desirable. Valium is a controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), meaning that it is known to be a target for diversion and abuse, and it has a risk of dependence and possible addiction. The DEA publishes that 15 million prescriptions for diazepam where dispensed in 2011, and in that same year, 20 million-plus people in the U.S. reported misusing a benzodiazepine drug at some point in their lifetime.

Valium can be misused via several methods, such as swallowing, snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug. Snorting or smoking Valium can be particularly risky because it increases the odds for a life-threatening overdose, drug dependence, long-term health consequences, and addiction.

How Valium Works

Valium interacts with the brain’s chemistry to lower anxiety by mitigating the stress response. When a person feels high levels of stress or anxiety, the fight-or-flight reaction gets turned on. The body reacts by increasing the heart rate, raising blood pressure, speeding up respiration, and elevating body temperature. A person becomes hyper-alert and has trouble sleeping or relaxing. The body becomes tense.

Valium helps to quell anxiety and lower this stress reaction, both by acting as a CNS depressant and by interacting with levels of GABA in the body. GABA is a neurotransmitter produced naturally by the brain that helps to manage stress and works like a sedative itself. Valium can help a person to relax, feel less anxious, reduce muscle tension, and act as a sleep aid. It also can impair normal thinking and memory functions, however, as well as impair reflexes and motor skills.

Valium users may appear more sluggish, have balance issues, be unable to think clearly, and suffer from memory lapses. Valium intoxication from recreational use of the drug can often resemble being drunk from alcohol and carry many of the same side effects, like lowered inhibitions, increased sociability, drowsiness, and a higher likelihood of engaging in behaviors that are potentially risky or hazardous, resulting in accidents or injuries.

Because of the way it interacts with brain chemistry, Valium also can cause dependence with regular use, which is why it is only meant to be taken sparingly and for a short time. When Valium is taken on a long-term basis, the brain can become tolerant to the drug, and regular doses will no longer work.

Chronic Valium use can cause drug dependence, and it can then be hard to stop taking it. Once the brain relies on Valium to keep itself chemically balanced, withdrawal symptoms and cravings can kick in when the drug wears off.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be powerful and even potentially dangerous when a drug like Valium is stopped cold turkey after the brain and body are dependent on it. Abuse of Valium increases the odds for drug dependence and, therefore, hazardous withdrawal symptoms, including rebound anxiety, insomnia, hallucinations, delusions, and seizures.

Any misuse of a benzo is risky, and taking one of these drugs like Valium without a prescription is drug abuse. Snorting or smoking Valium bypasses the intended route of metabolism for the drug, which is through the gastrointestinal system, and instead sends the drug immediately across the blood-brain barrier. This can lead to a more instantaneous high, but also a quicker crash. A person may then be more inclined to take another dose of Valium sooner to limit the comedown and prolong the euphoria. This can more quickly cause drug dependence.

What Happens When You Snort Valium?

Snorting Valium is bad for you and increases the chances of adverse side effects. The most common side effects you can expect when snorting Valium include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of concentration
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Overdose
  • Seizures
  • Ulceration of the mucous membrane

Dangers of Snorting Valium

Snorting Valium is one of the quickest ways to introduce the drug into the bloodstream. This means it also can be one of the most dangerous methods of abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publishes that more than 10,000 people in the United States died from an overdose involving a benzodiazepine drug in 2016. In the past 20 years, deaths from benzodiazepine overdoses in America have spiked sevenfold, NPR warns. Most benzodiazepine overdoses involve another drug, such as an opioid, or alcohol, both of which are also central nervous system depressants.

Per the National Library of Medicine (NLM), There are Signs of a Potentially Life-Threatening Overdose on Valium. They Are:

  • Sleepiness or possible loss of consciousness
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Bluish color to the nails, lips, and skin
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Mental confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Tremors
  • Muscle weakness
  • Skin irritation
  • Nystagmus (rapid and uncontrollable side-to-side eye movements)

A Valium overdose is an immediate medical emergency and requires professional help.

Other Potential Risk Factors for Snorting Valium Aside from Overdose, Drug Dependence, and Addiction Include:

  • Damage to nasal and sinus cavities
  • A loss of sense of smell
  • A chronic runny nose
  • Frequent nosebleeds

Why Is Snorting Valium Popular?

If you’re someone who doesn’t use drugs or you’ve experimented and didn’t like it, you might wonder why on earth would anyone snort anything? Especially prescription medication. First of all, our noses aren’t designed for snorting, so why are people snorting Valium or other prescription drugs? Unfortunately, the answer is simple. When a person becomes dependent on a substance and builds a tolerance, traditional means of ingestion won’t cut it anymore. When taking a pill as intended, orally, the person won’t achieve their desired effects.

As was mentioned above, Valium is prescribed to treat anxiety, and in some cases, might be administered during alcohol withdrawal. However, the same effects that can be life-saving in those with severe anxiety or coming off alcohol are the same reasons why Valium is abused. The anxiolytic effects and euphoria are enough to hook a person and leave them coming back for more. 

When you change the route of administration, you also alter the concentration and how Valium affects you. Snorting a drug like Valium is popular because you achieve the desired effects much faster than conventional oral ingestion. Snorting Valium has a much faster impact on the central nervous system (CNS) because it bypasses the digestive tract, which it typically goes through to metabolize. 

When snorting, it goes through the nasal cavity and crosses the blood-brain barrier shortly after it’s snorted, causing you to feel the effects in less than ten minutes versus 30 to 45 minutes. However, when you alter the concentration of Valium in your brain, it increases the chances of adverse side effects.

What Happens When You Smoke Valium

When Valium is smoked, it is regularly laced into other drugs, such as marijuana, heroin, or cocaine, which can greatly increase the odds for a life-threatening overdose. Valium may be added to stimulant drugs like cocaine in an attempt to combat its negative side effects. The push-pull effect can dampen the feelings of each drug; therefore, a person may then take too much, resulting in an overdose. Valium also may be added to marijuana or heroin to amplify the effects of these drugs, which also raises the risk factors for both.

Smoking Valium can negatively affect the respiratory system and lead to possible infections in the lungs and respiratory system, including pneumonia or bronchitis. A chronic cough is another potential side effect of smoking Valium. Smoking drugs can potentially raise the rate for certain types of cancers as well as adversely affect the immune system and open the door for illness, infection, and disease.

In the short-term, smoking Valium can cause burns on the hands or face. It can influence a person’s decision-making process and make it more challenging to think through possible consequences logically.

Smoking Valium makes the drug take effect more quickly than taking it by mouth. This practice amplifies all of the possible side effects and risk factors of the drug.

Dangers of Smoking Valium

Valium is prescribed as a tablet meant to be taken orally. When you use drugs outside their intended purpose or in any other way than prescribed, it’s considered abuse. Even if you are experimenting or it’s something you don’t do regularly, smoking a drug is considered abuse. When you smoke Valium, you can experience confusion, hallucinations, and low blood pressure. Smoking Valium is the least effective way to take the medication, and it’s challenging to experience intoxication when heating and inhaling the drug. 

You might be disappointed to find out that smoking Valium won’t get you high. While snorting or smoking the drug works on occasion, it’s the least effective means of using the medication. It’s a potent tranquilizer, sedative, and central nervous system depressant (CNS), and it was designed to be taken orally. When you use the drug as prescribed, it will be rapidly absorbed. The oral bioavailability of this drug is 100 percent. Even more, close to 99 percent is bound in plasma. 

Even though smoking Valium won’t likely get you high, you should always monitor your symptoms. If you develop lightheadedness, unusual dizziness, slowed or labored breathing, a strong desire to sleep, you must call 911. If you witness someone become unresponsive who recently smoked Valium, don’t hesitate and get help immediately. The sooner you reach out for help, the lower the odds are of the person developing long-term or permanent brain damage or death. 

If you’ve reached a point where you feel the need to either smoke or snort Valium, it could indicate an even more significant problem. Those experimenting with drugs aren’t typically snorting or smoking these drugs. It’s mostly reserved for those who can’t find relief because of their tolerance. However, there are exceptions to everything, but it might be time to get help. Valium can produce severe and even deadly withdrawal symptoms upon cessation, meaning professional help is necessary to overcome a dependence on the drug. 

Don’t wait another day and continue risking your life over something that can be treated.

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