Anxiety is a very common psychiatric state today, unfortunately. Job stress, socioeconomic problems, and a multitude of other factors contribute to these unpleasant episodes.

Diazepam , along with other medications, decrease these symptoms and other conditions. Next, we will explain everything you need to know about it.

What is diazepam?

Anxiety disorders and substance abuse are unfortunately common today and their global impact is high, according to a study published by the Institute for Health Measurement and Evaluation . (1)

Their treatments consist of using medications such as diazepam, an anxiolytic (medications that treat anxiety associated with depression), of the benzodiazepine family.

Benzodiazepines are composed of substances that increase the action of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA . These bind to their main receptor, decreasing the neuron’s ability to send nerve stimuli.

Note: Diazepam comes in oral, parenteral, and rectal forms of 2.5, 5, 10, and 25 mg.

What is diazepam used for?

The effect of diazepam makes it possible to treat psychiatric conditions in adults, like many other benzodiazepines. Next, we will explain some of them.

1. Symptoms of psychoneurotic states

Diazepam treats syndromes such as anxiety. The most common are the feeling of restlessness, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating and falling asleep. (two)

As treatment, the patient should take 2 to 10 mg tablets , depending on the severity of the symptomatology, 2 to 4 times a day.

To highlight: Diazepam acts on the limbic system and on the cerebral cortex, relieving anxiety symptoms and induces a state of drowsiness and lethargy in the person.

2. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome

If a patient with chronic alcoholism stops drinking abruptly, it causes reactions such as insomnia, hand tremors , excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and seizures, which is known as withdrawal syndrome . (3)

Note: As a treatment for this condition, diazepam is administered orally in a dose of 10 mg that can be lowered to 5 mg, depending on the evolution of the patient, 3 times a day.

3. Seizures and muscle spasms

Diazepam also exerts its action at the level of the spinal cord , which transmits the impulse that generates muscle contraction and movement, which can increase the inhibitory effects of GABA.

Note: To treat muscle spasticity, 2-10 mg is prescribed orally, 3-4 times daily. Alternatively, IV or intramuscularly, 5 mg 3 to 4 times a day.

It is also a treatment for patients with status epilepticus. Intravenous doses of diazepam range from 0.15 to 0.20 mg/kg. They cannot exceed 10 mg per dose.

What contraindications does diazepam have?

Like all medicines, not every patient can receive this treatment . Since it is a central nervous system inhibitor , the action of diazepam can be life-threatening in certain people. Next, we will explain what they are.

1. Allergy to components

Discontinue treatment if you notice symptoms such as rash, itching, throbbing, or feeling weak. However, the risk is relatively low with these drugs, ranging from 3% to 9%. (4)

2. Myasthenia gravis

It is an autoimmune condition, which alters the transmission of the nerve impulse to the muscles, generating uncontrollable fatigue and tiredness. The use of a muscle relaxant would be counterproductive for the improvement of the patient.

3. Hepatic, renal and respiratory deficiency

Patients with hepatic or renal insufficiency may accumulate diazepam in their bodies. Those with sleep apnea, respiratory distress, adults with respiratory problems, are risk groups.

Important: Since diazepam reduces the respiratory rate, it could lead to severe respiratory depression.

4. Dependence on alcohol and other substances

Diazepam administration toxicity occurs if the patient consumes other substances, such as opioids, alcohol or other muscle relaxants. Adverse effects vary in intensity, with the greatest risk being coma.

5. Pregnancy and lactation

The Food and Drug Federation (FDA) states that there is some risk to the fetus if the drug is administered during pregnancy (not only diazepam, but for all benzodiazepines). Its use in children under 6 months is also not recommended. (5)

Important: Diazepam can reach breast milk , causing symptoms such as insomnia, lethargy, and difficulty feeding in the baby. In such cases, discontinuation of treatment is recommended.

What are the side effects of diazepam?

Every doctor should be aware of the possible adverse effects , so adequate doses must be adjusted for each patient. Next, we will explain the most frequent ones.

1. Gastrointestinal upsets

Oral administration can cause symptoms such as nausea , intestinal transit irregularities and constipation. If they are experienced, they tend not to be very severe.

2. Headache, tiredness and muscle weakness

Paradoxical effects may occur, such as headache. Others include lethargy, which the patient describes as a constant lack of energy.

Note: Its use can cause changes in the patient’s gait, a condition called ataxia, caused by muscle weakness and relaxation, due to the effects of diazepam on the cerebellum.

3. Drowsiness, amnesia, confusion and irritability

Various studies have reported effects of benzodiazepines on the patient’s memory , such as anterograde amnesia. The latter is more common in patients receiving IV diazepam, especially with doses greater than 10 mg. (6)

4. Cardiac and urogenital disorders

Diazepam can cause severe hypotension, decreased volume of blood pumped (decreased cardiac output) and the number of heartbeats (bradycardia), urinary incontinence, and retention.

5. Depression and dependency

People with a history of addiction are more likely to develop dependence on diazepam, particularly if they receive high doses of the drug for a long time.

Important: The same occurs with patients who have previously demonstrated suicidal behavior or depression, since the medication can exacerbate these conditions.

Key Findings

  • Diazepam is a medication used as a muscle relaxant, sedative, and as a treatment for anxiety or other psychiatric conditions.
  • Its use is not recommended in pregnant women, lactating women, people with muscular weakness or those with organic deficits.
  • The administration of this medicine can cause adverse effects, such as drowsiness, weakness, irritability, memory disturbances, etc.
  • For its proper use, it is recommended to administer it preferably under medical supervision, to avoid unwanted adverse effects.

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