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Mixing Diazepam and Alcohol: Dangers and Risks

People may take benzodiazepines as prescribed by their doctors to manage issues such as anxiety, but these medications can also be misused—such as by being used in combination with alcohol.1

Mixing alcohol with other substances, including benzodiazepines such as diazepam, can increase the risk of adverse effects, including overdose.2 If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol and diazepam misuse, you should know that addiction rehab and polysubstance use treatment can help.

Keep reading to learn more about what diazepam is, the side effects of diazepam, the side effects of alcohol, the risks of mixing these two substances, the risk of overdose, and how to find treatment.

What Is Diazepam?

Diazepam is a benzodiazepine medication that is approved to treat:2

  • Anxiety.
  • Seizures.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Alcohol withdrawal.

It may also be provided to patients prior to receiving anesthesia as a pre-procedural sedative.2

In its various formulations, diazepam is available as an oral tablet under the brand name Valium, a rectal gel/jelly known as Diastat, and as a nasal spray known as Valtoco.2 Diazepam falls into the category of substances known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants.1 Like other benzodiazepines, diazepam works by increasing inhibitory brain signaling through its actions at the receptor for the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which can induce feelings of calmness and drowsiness.3

Side Effects of Diazepam

While diazepam is generally considered to be safe when taken as directed under the supervision of a doctor, people can still experience side effects or adverse health effects even with recommended doses, especially when they first start taking the drug.2,3

Common side effects may include:

  • Drowsiness.4
  • Fatigue.4
  • Muscle weakness.4
  • Ataxia, or impaired coordination.4
  • Decreased concentration.2
  • Headaches, sleepiness, or nasal discomfort (from the nasal spray).2

Other rare, but serious side effects are possible, including shortness of breath, dizziness, and passing out.2

Side Effects of Alcohol

People are often unaware of the ways that alcohol can contribute to different medical problems, as well as the side effects it may pose. Side effects of alcohol and health effects may depend on different factors, such as the amount and frequency of use.5,6 These effects may include:

  • Blackouts.7
  • Vomiting.7
  • Loss of consciousness.7
  • Alcohol poisoning, which can be caused by dangerously high blood alcohol levels.5
  • An increased risk of injuries, like motor vehicle accidents, drownings, falls, and burns.5,8
  • An increased risk of violent or dangerous behavior, including intimate partner violence, homicide, and suicide.5
  • Risky sexual behaviors, which can lead to unintended pregnancy or infectious diseases like HIV.5

Health Risks of Drinking Alcohol While Taking Diazepam

Polysubstance use is a practice that refers to the use of two or more substances, such as alcohol and other drugs, at the same time or within a short time period of each other.9 People might wonder, can you drink alcohol on diazepam? It’s important to understand that combining alcohol and diazepam can be dangerous, and can result in unpredictable, severe, or even lethal effects.9

Combining diazepam and alcohol can increase the potential negative effects associated with each substance.4,10 Some of these can occur because alcohol and diazepam both have central nervous system depressant effects.4

The health risks of using diazepam and alcohol can include:

  • An increased risk of overdose, which can be fatal.10
  • An increased risk of slowed heart rate and slowed or stopped breathing, which can lead to death.2,3
  • Hypoxic injury to the brain and other organs, should breathing stop.9
  • Increased drowsiness and dizziness.10
  • Impaired motor control.10
  • Unusual behaviors.10
  • Memory problems.10

In 2020, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a black box warning explaining that abuse and misuse of benzodiazepines, especially when combined with alcohol, illicit drugs, or opioids, can increase the risk of overdose and death.11 People are advised to avoid drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs or other sedating substances while taking diazepam.2 Doing so can increase the risk of adverse effects, such as potentially dangerous over-sedation.2

People who engage in polysubstance use, including the use of diazepam and alcohol together, can experience an increased risk of alcohol use disorder or other substance use disorders.9

Overdose Risk of Alcohol and Diazepam

It’s not advisable to drink when you’re using diazepam because this combination can present an increased risk of overdose, which can be fatal.7

Polysubstance use, as mentioned above, means using two or more substances at a time, which can pose potentially dangerous, unknown, and severe risks, including overdose.9 Alcohol overdose/poisoning means that a person has consumed enough alcohol to cause a shutdown of vital functions, such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control, which can lead to death.7

Signs of Alcohol and Diazepam Overdose

An alcohol and diazepam overdose is a medical emergency.7 If you suspect that someone is overdosing, you should call 911 right away because the person requires urgent medical care.7

Several of the signs of an overdose involving alcohol or diazepam may overlap, and may include:

  • Confusion.2
  • Dulled reflexes.7
  • Impaired coordination.2
  • Loss of consciousness.7
  • Inability to be awoken.7
  • Slowed breathing.7

An overdose that results in respiratory arrest can also result in hypoxic brain injury, coma, and death.7

If you suspect that someone is overdosing, you should call 911 right away. You should also:7

  • Provide information to emergency responders, such as how much diazepam the person took, how much alcohol they drank, and other pertinent health information.
  • Avoid leaving them alone. Help them remain upright so they don’t fall or choke.
  • Help them lean forward if they are vomiting, so they don’t choke. If they are not conscious, lie them on the ground on one side with one ear toward the ground to prevent choking.

Get Help for Diazepam and Alcohol Addiction

People struggling with diazepam and alcohol addiction can benefit from specialized treatment that addresses polysubstance use.12 Rehab for polysubstance use can help people safely stop using substances and regain control of their lives.12

Everyone is unique, and different people may require different types of treatment. Common treatment settings include:

  • Medical detox for alcohol and diazepam. Detox can help people safely stop using alcohol and diazepam, manage symptoms of acute withdrawal, become medically stable, and transition to ongoing treatment.12
  • Inpatient rehab. This involves living onsite at a rehab for the duration of treatment, where a person can focus on their recovery and receive 24/7 care and support.13
  • Outpatient treatment. This means that the individual lives off-site, usually at home, but travels to a rehab on a regular schedule to receive treatment.13

People may participate in different types of behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or contingency management, to help them achieve and maintain abstinence, learn necessary recovery skills, and learn to cope with cravings and high-risk situations.13 People may also participate in self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to help support their recovery journeys.13

If you or a loved one are struggling, American Addiction Centers is here to help. Please call our free, confidential helpline at to speak with an admissions navigator about your rehab options. You can also use our directories tool to find alcohol rehabs near you and easily check your insurance coverage for treatment.

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