Diazepam, first marketed as Valium, is a medicine of the benzodiazepine family that typically produces a calming effect. It is commonly used to treat a range of conditions, including anxiety, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, muscle spasms, seizures, trouble sleeping, and restless legs syndrome. It may also be used to cause memory loss during certain medical procedures. It can be taken by mouth, inserted into the rectum, injected into muscle, or injected into a vein. When given into a vein, effects begin in one to five minutes and last up to an hour. By mouth, effects may take 40 minutes to begin.
Common side effects include sleepiness and trouble with coordination. Serious side effects are rare. They include suicide, decreased breathing, and an increased risk of seizures if used too frequently in those with epilepsy. Occasionally excitement or agitation may occur. Long term use can result in tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms on dose reduction. Abrupt stopping after long-term use can be potentially dangerous. After stopping, cognitive problems may persist for six months or longer. It is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Its mechanism of action is by increasing the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).