Diazepam, also marketed under its brand name Valium, is a drug which is a benzodiazepine derivative. In essence, when this drug becomes active in one’s system it slows down the neurological system, therefore making it useful for treating anxiety, insomnia, seizures, alcohol withdrawal, and muscle spasms. In 1966, The Rolling Stones released the song “Mother’s Little Helper,” which is about a mother needing the “little yellow pill” to get through the day. Eventually it would be proven to help in the treatment of agitation, tremors, delirium, seizures and hallucinations resulting from alcohol withdrawal. Because of it’s calming effects, and like many other prescription drug medications, the likelihood of abuse can run high if not monitored. But what may surprise some, is this drug has not been around that long.
Introduction of Valium
Diazepam (Valium) was developed by Leo Sternbach of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Hoffmann-La Roche in early 1960s and approved for use in 1963. Its predecessor, chlordiazepoxide, was 2.5 times less effective and diazepam quickly surpassed it in sales. Since 1969 Valium was the most sold pharmaceutical drug in the United States with a peak in 1978 when 2.3 billion tablets were sold. In therapeutic doses diazepam has a much stronger sedative effect as compared to barbiturates.
The benzodiazepines gained popularity among medical professionals as an improvement upon barbiturates and are far more sedating at therapeutic doses. The benzodiazepines are also far less dangerous; death rarely results from diazepam overdose, except in cases where it is consumed with large amounts of other depressants (such as alcohol or other sedatives). It is also much safer to use with very rare cases of lethal overdose, which has usually resulted from mixing diazepam with other depressing substances such as alcohol or sedatives. It is used for the treatment of seizures and relief of muscle spasms in some neurological diseases including stiff-person syndrome.
The Journey of Valium
For the last 40 years, Valium remains to be one of the most prescribed drugs all over the world. It has also entered the list of core medications by the World Health Organization, which means it is mandatory for any basic healthcare system.
During its history, diazepam has shifted its primary use between different areas of pharmacology. Originally, as mentioned previously, it was used mainly by psychiatrists for the short-term treatment of anxiety. Today, neurologists who treat certain types of epilepsy and spastic activity mainly prescribe Valium.
It’s been penned as the first of the so-called “blockbuster” drugs. The tranquilizer was the top selling prescription drug during the 1970s. It was called a blockbuster because it was marketed and sold to a wide variety of people to help them with the common symptoms like anxiety, nervousness and tension. Over the next two decades, both the doctors who prescribed the drug and their patients who took it began to realize that Valium had several negative effects, and its popularity has decreased. However, Valium’s fame as an aid to relaxation is still widespread.
Valium’s Use Today
Over the years, physicians, psychiatrists and neurologists have discovered many new off-label uses for Valium, such as treatment of spastic paresis and palliative treatment of stiff-person syndrome. 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 also found in nature. Several plants, such as potato and wheat, contain trace amounts of naturally occurring diazepam and other benzodiazepines.
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