Is Valium a real addiction?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on January 30th, 2012 - Last updated: September 19th, 2019
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Dear Stanton:

I was disappointed in your web site. I combed through it but not a word on the most harmful and troublesome drugs, benzodiazepines. It is well known that benzo withdrawal is as bad as heroin but more prolonged in about 40% of long term users. It is far worse than alcohol or tobacco withdrawal and yet no mention on your site? Now why might that be? I’d like to hear from you on this.



Dear Rand:

The underlying message in my work is that it is not possible to divide the world into “addictive” and “nonaddictive” drugs. Rather, it depends on the individual’s relationship to the substance. I have often discussed benzodiazepine addictions in regards to America’s most popular tranquilizer, Valium. (Search my site.) In this footnote to my article with Rich DeGrandpre, “Cocaine and the concept of addiction,” I describe some prominent examples of Valium addicts, including an example of one TV personality who was addicted to both cocaine and valium:

Benzodiazepine and caffeine addictions are often faceless, since this drug use is so readily accepted in our society and all of us know many nonaddicted users. When personal accounts of severe and problematic addiction were reported for tranquilizers in several first-person best sellers such as Barbara Gordon’s I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can and Betty Ford’s The Times of My Life, industry spokespeople pointed out that these cases were quite unusual. Indeed they are, as are cases of cocaine addiction. Nonetheless, it strikes most people as ludicrous to speak of tranquilizer and cocaine addiction in the same breath. One person for whom this is not the case is New York television newscaster Jim Jensen, who reported readily giving up a cocaine habit in treatment but being unable to shake his valium dependence: “Valium withdrawal soon plunged him into a massive depression that left him unable to eat or sleep. It took two more months in two hospitals for him to regain his mental and physical health” (Jensen, 1989, p. 67).

Ref.: Jensen, J. (1989, September 4). A veteran TV anchorman’s toughest story was his own — he had to beat drugs and depression. People, pp. 67-73.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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