Q: Hi Tracy – love your guidance and insight; thanks very much! I have a client who takes Valium to sleep. What kind of drug is it, and how does it work? She wants to stop taking it. And I want to know if there is anything I can do to help her?
A: Valium (generic: diazepam) is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. These drugs enhance the brain’s receptors for a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is the most plentiful inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. And it also counters the brain’s most plentiful excitatory neurotransmitter called glutamate. Valium can be excellent triage for short-term trauma or stress, but it can be quite habit-forming. Benzodiazepines are notoriously difficult to withdraw from, and you will want to encourage your client to do so slowly over a period of 2-3 months (at least – much longer if they have been taking over a year consistently). I do recommend clients do this in consultation with their physician, especially for longer-duration usage. Benzo withdrawal effects are pretty much a given and can be quite debilitating (e.g. insomnia, anxiety, jitteriness, restlessness, irritability, nausea, panic attack). Hence, the importance of going slowly and getting support.
You can support your client by removing stimulants from their diet (e.g. caffeine, sugars) and recommending calming amino acids that will help to boost natural GABA production in the brain. In particular, I recommend
If you have a unique client situation with these medications and need further input (or additional tools if those above aren’t enough), please be in touch!