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Diazepam is a medication mainly used to treat people with anxiety. To get diazepam, you need a prescription written for you by a doctor.
What is diazepam used for?
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 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.
How does diazepam work?
Diazepam 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:
- appearances (size, shape or colour)
- forms (tablets, liquid or by injection)
No matter which brand you are prescribed, diazepam works in the same way to treat your condition.
Risks and benefits 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:
- muscle weakness
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 two to four weeks, unless advised by your doctor. If used over a long period, diazepam may become addictive. Check with your doctor for how long you can take diazepam. If you are thinking of stopping or lowering your dose, speak with your doctor. Suddenly stopping the medicine can cause side effects.
For more information about diazepam, speak to your doctor or pharmacist. You can also read the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) leaflet about diazepam.
Alternatives to diazepam
Psychological treatment, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), is usually the main treatment for anxiety. However, adding medication such as diazepam may be helpful in reducing anxiety symptoms.
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.
Last reviewed: December 2016