Diazepam (Page 2 of 6)
Risks from Concomitant Use with Opioids
Concomitant use of benzodiazepines, including diazepam, and opioids may result in profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death. Because of these risks, reserve concomitant prescribing of these drugs in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate.
Observational studies have demonstrated that concomitant use of opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines increases the risk of drug-related mortality compared to use of opioids alone. If a decision is made to prescribe diazepam concomitantly with opioids, prescribe the lowest effective dosages and minimum durations of concomitant use, and follow patients closely for signs and symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation. In patients already receiving an opioid analgesic, prescribe a lower initial dose of diazepam than indicated in the absence of an opioid and titrate based on clinical response. If an opioid is initiated in a patient already taking diazepam, prescribe a lower initial dose of the opioid and titrate based upon clinical response.
Advise both patients and caregivers about the risks of respiratory depression and sedation when diazepam is used with opioids. Advise patients not to drive or operate heavy machinery until the effects of concomitant use with the opioid have been determined (see PRECAUTIONS: Drug Interactions).
Abuse, Misuse, and Addiction
The use of benzodiazepines, including diazepam, exposes users to the risks of abuse, misuse, and addiction, which can lead to overdose or death. Abuse and misuse of benzodiazepines often (but not always) involve the use of doses greater than the maximum recommended dosage and commonly involve concomitant use of other medications, alcohol, and/or illicit substances, which is associated with an increased frequency of serious adverse outcomes, including respiratory depression, overdose, or death (see DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE: Abuse).
Before prescribing diazepam and throughout treatment, assess each patient’s risk for abuse, misuse, and addiction (e.g., using a standardized screening tool). Use of diazepam, particularly in patients at elevated risk, necessitates counseling about the risks and proper use of diazepam along with monitoring for signs and symptoms of abuse, misuse, and addiction. Prescribe the lowest possible dosage for the shortest duration; avoid or minimize concomitant use of CNS depressants and other substances associated with abuse, misuse, and addiction (e.g., opioid analgesics, stimulants); and advise patients on the proper disposal of unused drug. If a substance use disorder is suspected, evaluate the patient and institute (or refer them for) early treatment, as appropriate.
Dependence and Withdrawal Reactions
To reduce the risk of withdrawal reactions, use a gradual taper to discontinue diazepam or reduce the dosage (a patient-specific plan should be used to taper the dose) (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION: Discontinuation or Dosage Reduction of Diazepam).
Patients at an increased risk of withdrawal adverse reactions after benzodiazepine discontinuation or rapid dosage reduction include those who take higher dosages, and those who have had longer durations of use.
Acute Withdrawal Reactions
The continued use of benzodiazepines, including diazepam, may lead to clinically significant physical dependence. Abrupt discontinuation or rapid dosage reduction of diazepam after continued use, or administration of flumazenil (a benzodiazepine antagonist) may precipitate acute withdrawal reactions, which can be life-threatening (e.g., seizures) (see DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE: Dependence).
Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome
In some cases, benzodiazepine users have developed a protracted withdrawal syndrome with withdrawal symptoms lasting weeks to more than 12 months (see DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE: Dependence).
Diazepam is not recommended in the treatment of psychotic patients and should not be employed instead of appropriate treatment.
Since diazepam has a central nervous system depressant effect, patients should be advised against the simultaneous ingestion of alcohol and other CNS-depressant drugs during diazepam therapy.
As with other agents that have anticonvulsant activity, when diazepam is used as an adjunct in treating convulsive disorders, the possibility of an increase in the frequency and/or severity of grand mal seizures may require an increase in the dosage of standard anticonvulsant medication. Abrupt withdrawal of diazepam in such cases may also be associated with a temporary increase in the frequency and/or severity of seizures.
An increased risk of congenital malformations and other developmental abnormalities associated with the use of benzodiazepine drugs during pregnancy has been suggested. There may also be non-teratogenic risks associated with the use of benzodiazepines during pregnancy. There have been reports of neonatal flaccidity, respiratory and feeding difficulties, and hypothermia in children born to mothers who have been receiving benzodiazepines late in pregnancy. In addition, children born to mothers receiving benzodiazepines on a regular basis late in pregnancy may be at some risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms during the postnatal period.
Diazepam has been shown to be teratogenic in mice and hamsters when given orally at daily doses of 100 mg/kg or greater (approximately eight times the maximum recommended human dose [MRHD = 1 mg/kg/day] or greater on a mg/m 2 basis). Cleft palate and encephalopathy are the most common and consistently reported malformations produced in these species by administration of high, maternally toxic doses of diazepam during organogenesis. Rodent studies have indicated that prenatal exposure to diazepam doses similar to those used clinically can produce long-term changes in cellular immune responses, brain neurochemistry, and behavior.
In general, the use of diazepam in women of childbearing potential, and more specifically during known pregnancy, should be considered only when the clinical situation warrants the risk to the fetus. The possibility that a woman of childbearing potential may be pregnant at the time of institution of therapy should be considered. If this drug is used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant while taking this drug, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to the fetus. Patients should also be advised that if they become pregnant during therapy or intend to become pregnant, they should communicate with their physicians about the desirability of discontinuing the drug.
Labor and Delivery
Special care must be taken when diazepam is used during labor and delivery, as high single doses may produce irregularities in the fetal heart rate and hypotonia, poor sucking, hypothermia, and moderate respiratory depression in the neonate. With newborn infants it must be remembered that the enzyme system involved in the breakdown of the drug is not fully developed (especially in premature infants).
Diazepam passes into breast milk. Breastfeeding is therefore not recommended in patients receiving diazepam.
If diazepam is to be combined with other psychotropic agents or anticonvulsant drugs, careful consideration should be given to the pharmacology of the agents to be employed — particularly with known compounds which may potentiate the action of diazepam such as phenothiazines, narcotics, barbiturates, MAO inhibitors and other antidepressants (see Drug Interactions).
The usual precautions are indicated for severely depressed patients or those in whom there is any evidence of latent depression or anxiety associated with depression, particularly the recognition that suicidal tendencies may be present and protective measures may be necessary.
Psychiatric and paradoxical reactions are known to occur when using benzodiazepines (see ADVERSE REACTIONS). Should this occur, use of the drug should be discontinued. These reactions are more likely to occur in children and the elderly.
A lower dose is recommended for patients with chronic respiratory insufficiency, due to the risk of respiratory depression.
Benzodiazepines should be used with extreme caution in patients with a history of alcohol or drug abuse (see DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE).
In debilitated patients, it is recommended that the dosage be limited to the smallest effective amount to preclude the development of ataxia or oversedation (2 mg to 2.5 mg once or twice daily, initially, to be increased gradually as needed and tolerated).
Some loss of response to the effects of benzodiazepines may develop after repeated use of diazepam for a prolonged time.
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