HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

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Return to Diazepam overview
  1. Use and Action
  2. Warnings and side effects
  3. Sex, drink, weight and everything else
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Taking Olanzapine and Sertraline: Elizabeth's story
After a couple of weeks my sleeping patterns regulated to how they had been before I began the medication

Diazepam can be used to treat the following conditions

Headmeds fills the medicines information gaps for young people - things you might want to know about meds like will it affect my sex life? Can I still study?  Can I drink?
Headmeds does not give medical advice so this is just general information.
Each medicine has a balance of good and bad effects, and each person gets their own individual effects.
You might want to know just one thing about your medicine, but on each page we have given you the ‘safety headlines’. Please read them as they are important.
We have included lots of information about each medicine - but if you want all the details, please look at the patient information leaflet - which is inside every pack. These leaflets are also at www.medicines.org.uk - where there will be the most up-to-date information.

Safety headlines

  • If you have taken more diazepam than it said on the label, you must see a doctor quickly – even if you do not feel any different.
  • Diazepam can make some people think about hurting themselves or committing suicide. You must go straight to hospital with your tablets if you have any of these thoughts.
  • Diazepam can cause serious side-effects: allergic reactions (difficulty breathing, swelling of your face or throat, itching skin lumps), and other serious symptoms that you can find here. Go to a hospital if you get any of these symptoms, with your medicine.
  • Stopping diazepam suddenly can cause unpleasant side-effects – go to your doctor if you want to stop, or if you are having these effects.
  • You might feel sleepy or dizzy, and find it difficult to concentrate, in the first few days after taking diazepam – do not drive a car, ride a bike or operate machines until you see how this affects you.
  • If you take diazepam while you are pregnant, risks of it affecting the developing baby look to be very low. Use good contraception while you are taking diazepam. It can also cause symptoms in newborn babies if you take it at the end of pregnancy. Talk to your doctor or midwife about this and get their help.

Basic details

The tablets contain lactose, and the injection contains a very small amount of alcohol.

  • The tablets may not be suitable for you if you have problems eating some sugars or dairy (milk-based) foods as they contain lactose.
  • Some of the oral solutions contain sugar, but you can ask for sugar-free versions.
  • The non-tablet preparations contain a very small amount of alcohol, which will not affect your blood alcohol levels.

Diazepam is a controlled drug

  • A prescription for diazepam has to be dispensed within 28 days (you can keep most other prescriptions for 6 months)
  • This is all because diazepam can be abused and might be sold as a street drug.
  • If you have to take it to school, it might have to be locked in a safe place.

Diazepam can be used for a number of conditions

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Panic disorders
  • Panic attacks (usually by an injection)
  • Treating withdrawal symptoms from alcohol
  • To help to reduce the agitation like side-effects of some antidepressant medicines when you start them
  • Epilepsy

Diazepam can help to increase the levels of the chemical GABA in your brain

  • The brain is usually good at making sure we have enough of the chemicals we need to function properly. 
  • Diazepam improves the effect of a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
  • GABA is a chemical whose transmission across nerves in the brain is to produce a ‘calming effect’.
  • When diazepam locks on to the GABA receptors in the brain, it changes shape - the GABA binds to it better and the calming effect of GABA is increased.

You should take diazepam as agreed with your doctor

  • Make sure that you know your dose. If it is not written on the label, check it with your pharmacist or doctor.
  • You may have to take it a few times each day.
  • You might only take it for one day if you are having it before an operation.
  • You should not normally continue on diazepam for more than 4 weeks at the most.
  • If you are taking it to help you sleep, you should take it just before bedtime.
  • Choose the times of day that you can always remember. This could be a mealtime, or when you brush your teeth.
  • You can take it before or after food.
  • Swallow tablets with a drink of water - if you chew it, it tastes bitter.
  • Do not take the medicine with drinks containing caffeine (like coffee or cola) as this can reduce the effect of the diazepam.

If you forget to take a dose take it as soon as possible unless it is getting close to your next dose.

What to do if you miss a dose:

  • If you remember later during the day, take it as soon as possible.
  • If you forget to take it and you are coming up to the time of your next dose (if it is 4 hours away or less), just take the next dose.
  • If you take it for sleeping, you must allow yourself 7-8 hours sleep after taking it, so – for example – do not take it if you have only got 5 hours left to sleep.
  • Do not take a double dose.

What might happen?

  • If you forget to take your medicine for a few days, you may start to get some uncomfortable withdrawal effects, and you could get your old symptoms back of anxiety or difficulty getting to sleep. You should talk to your doctor about stopping your medicine.

You must go to A&E if you take too much 

What to do if you take too much:

  • If you have taken more diazepam than it said on the label, you must get help quickly – even if you do not feel any different.
  • Go to A&E. Take your medicine with you, to show to the doctors. Tell them how much you have taken.
  • Get a friend or family member to go with you, if you can, just in case you feel ill on the way.
  • You might feel tired or confused, feel clumsy, get strange movements of your eyes, or have problems with your balance, co-ordination or speech.
  • Your breathing might get very slow, and you could fall into a coma.
  • If you have taken diazepam with street drugs, including alcohol, you could get more serious side-effects. You must get help quickly.
  • Tell the doctors everything you have taken, so they can help you.

It only takes a few hours for diazepam to start helping

  • Diazepam starts to work very quickly in your body
  • You should get the calming effects from diazepam within two hours of taking it

You would not normally take diazepam for more than 4 weeks
You and your doctor should talk about how long you need to take diazepam.

  • You will get the effects within a few hours of taking it.
  • You may only be taking it over one day to prepare you for an operation or dental procedure.
  • People can become dependent on the effects of diazepam if they take it for more than 4 weeks, and then when they stop they get withdrawal symptoms
  • If you take diazepam for anxiety or sleeping you will probably take it for 2-4 weeks, to get you into a new routine, and then stop it so that you do not get dependent on it.

Reference sources

Search www.medicines.org.uk to find patient information leaflets and prescribing information on diazepam. Tablets, liquid, injection and rectal tubes are listed separately. Scroll down to find the best fit as there are many makers of diazepam products especially tablets. The SmPC lists all the inactive ingredients in the product so you can check against any allergies. If you are still unsure about this then speak to your pharmacist.

British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for children. Download the BNF/BNFC app (blue background) on to your mobile device. No longer available for public access via the web

  • Taylor D, Barnes T, Young A. Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry, 13th edition. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, May 2018. ISBN: 978-1-119-44260-8
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Medicines Ethics and Practice (42nd edition). London: RPS, 2018. Standards for pharmacists to work to. It is not a free publication
  • World Anti Doping Agency WADA Prohibited Listhttps://www.wada-ama.org/en/resources/science-medicine/prohibited-list-documents
  • Choiceandmedication; an independent source of information on many mental health conditions and their medicines with easy to read fact sheets www.choiceandmedication.org Personal subscriptions to download the app available for £1 per month (with proportionate discounts for longer periods) but your local mental health Trust may subscribe and provide information sheets for free.
  • Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS). Information sheets on drugs in pregnancy http://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/
  • Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Information on drugs in breastfeeding https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm