SWISS MEDICAL EXPERTISE: ZURICH, MALLORCA, LONDON, NEW YORK

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With a substantial part of the population still struggling with the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it should not be surprising to learn about the increasing prevalence of anxiety and panic disorders. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), this global pandemic alone led to a whopping 25 per cent increase in depression and anxiety statistics worldwide. A staggering 90 per cent of the countries that the WHO surveyed included mental health and psychosocial support in their treatment plans, but even that was not enough. This unprecedented stress has now led to general social isolation and fear about health, and many people have eventually turned to alcohol and drugs to cope better.

With a record number of people abusing alcohol and drug, the statistics of overdose cases are at an all-time high. People constantly turn to alcohol to calm their nerves and sedatives like diazepam (valium) to ease their rising anxiety. While nothing new about these behaviours, they are now appearing at unprecedented rates. Unfortunately, diazepam and alcohol are highly addictive and can quickly lead to misery. So what happens if you mix them? Because both valium and alcohol are depressants, they must be used with caution. While using them separately may lead to addiction and tolerance, combining them is even worse and can lead to severe complications.

Can you drink on diazepam? What are the consequences of combining them? Below, we will discuss this in-depth.

The acute side effects of mixing diazepam and alcohol include but are not limited to

  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Increased sociability
  • Decreased motor control and coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Impaired decision-making skills
  • Drowsiness
  • Disorientation
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Decreased inhibitions
  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Aggression and hostility

Both diazepam and alcohol have similar effects on the body and brain chemistry. For instance, both improve the levels of two important chemical messengers in the brain: dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Dopamine is a natural chemical that the brain needs to regulate mood, control impulses, and supervise memory-related functions. A spike in this chemical significantly amplifies the feelings of happiness and pleasure. GABA, on the contrary, is a natural tranquiliser that dampens the fight-or-flight response and promotes sedation and relaxation. A combination of alcohol and diazepam causes a surge in dopamine and GABA levels to the point that it is impossible to achieve when either is used alone.

In simpler words, taking both of these substances together causes an individual to become intoxicated and drunk at a much faster rate. This rapid intoxication often lowers inhibitions and increases sociability, increasing the likelihood of engaging in risk-taking behaviours with possible long-term consequences. For instance, people abusing this combination may engage in harmful sexual encounters leading to contracting an infectious disease or unwanted pregnancies. Because alcohol and diazepam also impair memory functions, these individuals may not recall the entire time period while under the influence.

Similarly, people under the influence of alcohol and diazepam are at an increased risk of acquiring an injury or being in a serious accident. Because the combination increases sedation and decreases mental alertness and reaction times, driving a vehicle can get extremely difficult and life-threatening. Surveys suggest a crash is more than twice as likely if the driver is under alcohol or a benzodiazepine.

As long as you take it as directed, diazepam or valium is a relatively safe drug and equally effective for short-term relief from anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. It is not intended to be taken for a long time since most benzodiazepines are addictive and carry a high potential for abuse and misuse. Combined with alcohol, these drugs interact with the brain chemistry to create a pleasant, relaxing, and mellow effect on the body. Since both of these substances change the chemical makeup of the brain, regularly mixing them can quickly lead to the buildup of drug tolerance. As someone becomes more tolerant of certain levels of these mind-altering agents, they will need to take more of them the next time to keep feeling the same. As a result, dependence sets in.

The physical dependence on a substance happens when the brain starts anticipating its presence to keep its neurotransmitters and chemicals in balance. This implies that the brain can no longer regulate itself without having these substances to assist it. So when someone misses a dose or stops using diazepam and alcohol altogether, powerful cravings and intense withdrawal symptoms may manifest. The withdrawal symptoms for both diazepam and alcohol are similar and may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Mental confusion
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Tremors and muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Fluctuating blood pressure
  • High sensitivity to sound, light, and touch
  • Jitteriness
  • Depressive feelings and anxious thoughts
  • Psychosis

As long as central nervous system depressants like diazepam and alcohol are in the system, they dampen the brain fun by suppressing certain nerve firings. So, after a long history of constant exposure, the brain undergoes a rebound effect when these substances are suddenly not there anymore. This rebound effect results from the brain attempting to restore its balance too quickly, leading to significant emotional and physical ramifications.

Not to forget that the withdrawal symptoms associated with both diazepam and alcohol can be extremely life-threatening. Delirium tremens is a potentially fatal type of withdrawal syndrome that happens following the cessation of a central nervous system depressant. It is characterised by fever, hallucinations, extreme confusion, and seizures and its risk significantly increases if you abuse two depressants simultaneously.

Addiction is one of the most important long-term consequences of abusing mood-altering substances. Consider it a brain disease that may make a person incapable of controlling their drug use. Taking more than one substance simultaneously significantly increases the risk of losing control and developing addiction more quickly. Since both alcohol and valium interact with the brain similarly, they lead to cross-tolerance that heightens their possible side effects.

In addition to polysubstance abuse, several other factors also determine the risk of acquiring addiction, such as

  • Age at first use
  • Family history
  • Environmental aspects
  • Biological factors
  • Socioeconomic factors
  • Presence of co-occurring disorders

The risk of acquiring addiction doubles, and sometimes triples for some who tends to combine diazepam with alcohol more regularly. Once addiction sets in, it can take a toll on several aspects of life, including personal relationships, career, academics, and physical health. It becomes challenging to overcome such an addiction on your own, and doing so can sometimes prove life-threatening too. Suppose you or someone you know has been mixing alcohol and valium regularly and cannot stop on their own. In that case, it is time to get help before this dangerous combination further deteriorates the health.

One of the best ways to make sure that you save yourself and your loved ones is by taking an active approach to recovery. Multiple addiction treatment programs support people in overcoming their physical and mental addictions due to alcohol and diazepam.

The first part of an addiction treatment program is called detoxification. Detoxification essentially involves the removal of unwanted substances and chemicals in addition to the safe management of withdrawal symptoms. Since the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and diazepam are excruciating, detoxing in a suitable rehab is advised under professional supervision. Once the detox is complete, the experts then focus on mental healing.

To treat a mental addiction, joining an inpatient or outpatient rehab is essential. These rehabs routinely utilise the following types of therapy to make recovery possible:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Medication-assisted therapy
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Stress management.

If you are suffering from a co-occurring disorder and already seeking treatment, combining alcohol and diazepam can interfere with this treatment and increase the risk of a relapse. In such cases, an integrated treatment program that addresses addiction and other co-occurring mental health disorders is the best choice for a sustained recovery.

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