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Diazepam

4-minute read

LOOKING FOR A MEDICINE? — See this list of medicines that contain diazepam to find out more about a specific medication.

What is diazepam used for?

Diazepam is a medicine mainly used to treat people with anxiety. To get diazepam, you need a prescription written for you by a doctor.

Diazepam is used to treat anxiety that is more serious than that caused by the normal stress of everyday life. Diazepam is also used to relax muscles and treat muscle spasms that occur due to injury and conditions like cerebral palsy and paraplegia. It can also be used to treat panic attacks as well as symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as trembling, confusion and anxiety.

Your doctor may have prescribed diazepam for another reason. If you are unsure about why you are taking diazepam, ask your doctor.

How does diazepam work?

Diazepam belongs to a group of medicines called benzodiazepines. It works on several different chemicals in the brain. Overall, it slows the brain and slows the transmission of information from the brain to the nerves.

What forms of diazepam are available?

Diazepam is the name of the active ingredient. It is available in many different brands, which have different:

  • names
  • appearances (size, shape or colour)
  • forms (tablets, liquid or by injection)
  • packaging

No matter which brand you are prescribed, diazepam works in the same way to treat your condition.

What are the possible side effects of diazepam?

All medicines have benefits but also the risk of side effects. Diazepam helps most people with anxiety but some people have side effects.

The most common side effects include:

  • tiredness
  • sleepiness
  • muscle weakness
  • unsteadiness

It can also make you forgetful and dizzy.

There are other rare side effects. Tell your doctor at once or go to the emergency unit of your nearest hospital if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • sudden excitation or anxiety
  • feelings of restlessness, agitation or anger
  • abnormal behaviour
  • hallucinations (hearing, seeing or smelling things that aren’t there)
  • difficulties in breathing
  • serious sleep disturbances

In general, diazepam should be used only for short periods, around 2 to 4 weeks, unless advised by your doctor. If used over a long period, you can become dependent on diazepam.

This is not a full list of side effects for diazepam. For more information about diazepam, speak to your doctor or pharmacist. You can also read the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) leaflet about diazepam.

When should I speak to my doctor?

Speak to your doctor if you:

  • experience side effects that trouble you
  • have signs of an allergic reaction
  • have a health condition or are taking medication that may affect how your body reacts to diazepam
  • become pregnant or start breastfeeding

See the CMI for full details about when to speak with your doctor before or after you have started taking diazepam.

Are there alternatives to diazepam?

Psychological treatment, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), is usually the main treatment for anxiety. However, adding medicine such as diazepam may be helpful in reducing anxiety symptoms.

There are alternatives to diazepam for muscle spasms, such as heat, exercise, relaxation and other medication.

More information

Asking about your treatment or medication is important to help you understand your options. Read our guide to important questions to ask your pharmacist or doctor before taking a medicine.

You can also visit healthdirect's list of medicines that contain diazepam to read the CMI for the brand of diazepam prescribed.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2020


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