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Side Effects of Valium & Alcohol

By Catherine Schaffer ; Updated August 14, 2017

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were over 1 million drug related emergency room visits in 2006. Ten percent of these visits were alcohol combined with prescription drugs. Of those visits that were for non-medical use of pharmaceuticals, 32 percent were related to hypnotics and sedatives. Valium is a drug from the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. These medications are used to treat anxiety disorders and have hypnotic, sedative effects because they act on certain chemicals within the brain. They are known as central nervous system depressants. Mixing alcohol with Valium can be lethal.

Respiratory Arrest

Because Valium acts on the central nervous system it has the potential to slow the respiratory rate. Drugs.com states that the use of alcohol with Valium has the potential to cause depressed vital signs and is contraindicated. The additive affects of alcohol to Valium’s central acting depressant effect can cause severe respiratory depression and death. Using alcohol and Valium can result in a fatal overdose which can stop the heart or cause coma.

Liver Damage

Valium is metabolized in the liver according to Drugs.com. Alcohol abuse causes liver damage and those patients with known cirrhosis should not take Valium. Liver damage does not allow the hepatocytes or liver cells to detoxify the body of Valium and there is a buildup of excess drug in the system. If there liver damage is present, alcohol cannot be processed either. Liver damage can potentially result in a fatal overdose of Valium and alcohol.

Other Central Nervous System Effects

Valium can cause drowsiness and confusion. Patients on Valium may lose coordination and the ability to speak coherently. Valium causes memory loss, difficulty thinking and disorientation. Slurred speech, restlessness, anger, hostility and other behavioral changes can occur while on Valium. Alcohol increases these effects according to Drugs.com. Alcohol disinhibits behavior as well and combined with valium may lead to aggressive or violent behavior. The use of a motor vehicle or other machinery is contraindicated when using Valium alone or with alcohol. The resulting motor retardation and slowed reflexes make operating equipment dangerous for those using Valium and mixing it with alcohol.

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