Diazepam (pronounced , marketed under brand names Valium, Stesolid, Seduxen, Bosaurin and Apozepam) is a drug which is a benzodiazepine derivative. It possesses anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, sedative, skeletal muscle relaxant and amnestic properties. This makes it a useful drug for treating anxiety, insomnia, seizures, alcohol withdrawal, and muscle spasms. It is also used before certain medical procedures (such as endoscopies) to reduce tension and anxiety, and in some surgical procedures to induce amnesia.
Diazepam is a core medicine in the World Health Organization's "Essential Drugs List", which is a list of minimum medical needs for a basic health care system. Diazepam is used to treat a wide range of conditions and is one of the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepines.
Diazepam has a range of side effects which are common to most benzodiazepines. Most common side effects include:
Rare paradoxical side effects can include: nervousness, irritability, insomnia, muscle cramps, and in extreme cases, rage and violence. If these side effects are present, diazepam treatment should be immediately terminated.
Up to 30% of individuals treated on a long-term basis develop a form of dependence known as "low-dose-dependence". These patients do not develop a tolerance, and do not need increasingly large doses to experience the euphoric side effects of the drug .
Diazepam may impair the ability to drive vehicles or operate machinery. The impairment is worsened by consumption of alcohol, because both act as central nervous system depressants.
During the course of therapy, tolerance to the sedative effects usually develops.
Patients with severe attacks of apnea during sleep may suffer respiratory depression (hypoventilation) leading to respiratory arrest and death.
Organic changes such as leukopenia and liver-damage of the cholostatic type with or without jaundice (icterus) have been observed in a few cases.