How does this medication work? What will it do for me?
Diazepam belongs to the class of medications called benzodiazepines. It is used for the short-term relief of symptoms of mild-to-moderate anxiety or alcohol withdrawal (such as agitation). It is also used for reducing muscle spasms. It works by slowing down the nerves in the brain (i.e., central nervous system).
The injectable form of this medication is used to control prolonged seizures.
This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.
Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are being given this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop using this medication without consulting your doctor.
Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to use this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.
What form(s) does this medication come in?
Diazepam Autoinjector is no longer being manufactured for sale in Canada. For brands that may still be available, search under diazepam. This article is being kept available for reference purposes only. If you are using this medication, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for information about your treatment options.
How should I use this medication?
The recommended dose of diazepam for adults ranges from 2 mg to 10 mg, taken 2 to 4 times daily. For children older than 6 months, the initial dose usually ranges from 1 mg to 2.5 mg, taken 3 or 4 times daily.
It is important that the dose be individualized to your specific needs to avoid excessive sleepiness or motor impairment. People over the age of 65 years often require lower doses of diazepam.
Diazepam is normally used at the lowest possible dose for a short period of time or as required. It may be habit-forming when taken for long periods of time. If you have been using this medication regularly for a long period of time (i.e., more than 1 month), do not stop using the medication without speaking with your doctor. To avoid withdrawal effects, a gradual reduction in dose is usually recommended when stopping this medication.
Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are using the medication without consulting your doctor.
It is important to use this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, administer it as soon as you remember and continue with your regular schedule. If your next dose is in less than 6 hours, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not administer a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Store at room temperature in a dry place. Keep out of reach of children.
Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.
Who should NOT take this medication?
Do not take diazepam if you:
- are allergic to diazepam or any ingredients of the medication
- are allergic to any other benzodiazepines
- have acute narrow-angle glaucoma
- have decreased liver function
- have myasthenia gravis
- have severe breathing problems
- have sleep apnea
Do not give this medication to infants under 6 months of age.
What side effects are possible with this medication?
Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.
The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.
Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.
- blurred vision
- changes in skin colour
- clumsiness or unsteadiness
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- muscle weakness
- slurred speech
Although most of these side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not check with your doctor or seek medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
- behaviour changes (e.g., anxiety, agitation, aggression, delusions, excitation, irritability, restlessness, inappropriate behaviour)
- falls and fractures
- hallucinations (e.g., seeing or hearing things that aren't there)
- incontinence (difficulty holding urine)
- low blood pressure (dizziness or fainting when rising from a sitting or lying position)
- memory loss
- signs of depression (e.g., poor concentration, changes in weight, changes in sleep, decreased interest in activities, thoughts of suicide)
Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:
- signs of a serious allergic reaction (e.g., abdominal cramps, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting, or swelling of the face and throat)
- slow, weak, or shallow breathing
- symptoms of taking too much medication
- extreme sleepiness
- loss of balance and coordination
- low blood pressure
- slurred speech
- slow reflexes
- slow, shallow breathing
- symptoms of withdrawal
- anxiety or restlessness
- irregular heart rate
- excessive sweating
- sensitivity to light, noise, or contact
- severe confusion
- stomach cramps
- thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.
Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?
Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.
Alcohol and other medications that cause drowsiness: Alcohol and other medications that cause drowsiness, such as antidepressants, sleeping pills, anxiety medications, or narcotic pain relievers, should be avoided when you are taking diazepam. Combining any of these medications with diazepam can result in severe drowsiness, breathing problems, and possibly coma and death. People who have an addiction to alcohol or other medications should not take diazepam, except in rare situations under medical supervision.
Dependence and withdrawal: Physical dependence (a need to take regular doses to prevent physical symptoms) has been associated with benzodiazepines such as diazepam. Severe withdrawal symptoms may occur if the dose is significantly reduced or suddenly discontinued. These symptoms include seizures, irritability, nervousness, sleep problems, agitation, tremors, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, memory impairment, headache, muscle pain, extreme anxiety, tension, restlessness, and confusion. Reducing the dose gradually under medical supervision can help prevent or decrease these withdrawal symptoms.
Rebound anxiety may also occur if treatment with diazepam is stopped abruptly. Rebound anxiety is a temporary syndrome where the symptoms that led to use of diazepam come back stronger than before.
Depression: Benzodiazepine medications such as diazepam have been known to cause mood swings and symptoms of depression. If you have depression or a history of depression, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed. If you experience symptoms of depression such as poor concentration, changes in weight, changes in sleep, decreased interest in activities, or notice them in a family member who is taking this medication, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Drowsiness/reduced alertness: Because diazepam causes drowsiness and sedation, do not engage in activities requiring mental alertness, judgment, and physical coordination (such as driving or operating machinery) while taking it. This is particularly true when you first start taking the medication and until you find out how the diazepam affects you. Alcohol can increase the drowsiness effects and should be avoided.
Falls and fractures: Diazepam can cause drowsiness or dizziness that can affect your balance and increase your risk of falling. This can result in fractures or other injuries. Your risk of falls is increased if you drink alcohol or take other sedatives while taking this medication, are elderly, or have a condition that causes weakness or frailty.
Grapefruit juice: Avoid drinking grapefruit juice while you are taking this medication as it can increase the levels of diazepam in your blood.
Lactose intolerance: This medication contains lactose. If you have a hereditary condition that makes you intolerant to lactose, discuss other alternatives with your doctor.
Liver function: Liver disease or reduced liver function may cause this medication to build up in the body, causing side effects. If you have liver problems, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Lung disease: If you have underlying lung disease (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep apnea), discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Suicidal or agitated behaviour: People taking this medication sometimes feel agitated (restless, anxious, aggressive, emotional, and feeling not like themselves), or they may want to hurt themselves or others. This behaviour is more likely among children or seniors, however other adults may also experience this, particularly those with mental or emotional disorders. These symptoms may occur within several weeks after starting this medication. If you experience these side effects or notice them in a family member who is taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately. You should be closely monitored by your doctor for emotional and behaviour changes while taking this medication.
Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately. Babies born to mothers who have used diazepam regularly during late pregnancy may have breathing difficulties and show signs of withdrawal when they are first born.
Breast-feeding: This medication passes into breast milk. If you are breast-feeding and are taking diazepam, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.
Children: The safety and effectiveness of this medication have not been determined for use by children less than 6 months old.
Seniors: Seniors may be at increased risk for the sedative and impaired coordination effects of this medication. Seniors should be started on lower doses of this medication. They also need to use extra caution, for example, when getting up during the night.
What other drugs could interact with this medication?
There may be an interaction between diazepam and any of the following:
- antihistamines (e.g., azelastine, cetirizine, doxylamine, diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine, loratadine)
- antipsychotics (e.g., chlorpromazine, clozapine, haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone)
- "azole" antifungals (e.g., itraconazole, ketoconazole, voriconazole)
- barbiturates (e.g., butalbital, phenobarbital)
- other benzodiazepines (e.g., alprazolam, lorazepam)
- calcium channel blockers (e.g., diltiazem, verapamil)
- chloral hydrate
- grapefruit juice
- HIV non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs; e.g., efavirenz, etravirine)
- HIV protease inhibitors (e.g., atazanavir, indinavir, ritonavir, saquinavir)
- lumacaftor and ivacaftor
- macrolide antibiotics (e.g., clarithromycin, erythromycin)
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs; e.g., moclobemide, phenelzine, tranylcypromine)
- muscle relaxants (e.g., baclofen, cyclobenzaprine, methocarbamol, orphenadrine)
- narcotic pain relievers (e.g., codeine, fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone)
- protein kinase inhibitors (e.g., dasatinib, imatinib, lapatinib, palbociclib)
- St. John's wort
- seizure medications (e.g., carbamazepine, clobazam, levetiracetam, phenobarbital, phenytoin, primidone, topiramate, valproic acid, zonisamide)
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs; e.g., citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline)
- sodium oxybate
- theophyllines (e.g., aminophylline, oxtriphylline, theophylline)
- tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline, clomipramine, desipramine, trimipramine)
If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:
- stop taking one of the medications,
- change one of the medications to another,
- change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
- leave everything as is.
An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. In many cases, interactions are intended or are managed by close monitoring. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.
Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications that you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.
All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2023. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/drug/getdrug/Diazepam-Autoinjector-by-Meridian