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 benzodiazepines and opioids 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. Advise both patients and caregivers about the risks of respiratory depression and sedation when diazepam is used with opioids (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. 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. Do not exceed the recommended dosing frequency; 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 After Use of Diazepam More Frequently Than Recommended
For patients using diazepam more frequently than recommended, to reduce the risk of withdrawal reactions, use a gradual taper to discontinue diazepam (a patient-specific plan should be used to taper the dose).
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 may lead to clinically significant physical dependence. Although diazepam is indicated only for intermittent use (see INDICATIONS AND USAGE and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION), if used more frequently than recommended, abrupt discontinuation or rapid dosage reduction of diazepam 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).
When used intravenously, the following procedures should be undertaken to reduce the possibility of venous thrombosis, phlebitis, local irritation, swelling, and, rarely, vascular impairment; the solution should be injected slowly, taking at least one minute for each 5 mg (1 mL) given; do not use small veins, such as those on the dorsum of the hand or wrist; extreme care should be taken to avoid intra-arterial administration or extravasation.
Do not mix or dilute diazepam with other solutions or drugs in syringe or infusion container. If it is not feasible to administer diazepam directly intravenous., it may be injected slowly through the infusion tubing as close as possible to the vein insertion.
Extreme care must be used in administering Diazepam Injection, particularly by the intravenous route, to the elderly, to very ill patients and to those with limited pulmonary reserve because of the possibility that apnea and/or cardiac arrest may occur. Concomitant use of barbiturates, alcohol or other central nervous system depressants increases depression with increased risk of apnea. Resuscitative equipment including that necessary to support respiration should be readily available.
When diazepam is used with a narcotic analgesic, the dosage of the narcotic should be reduced by at least one-third and administered in small increments. In some cases the use of a narcotic may not be necessary.
Diazepam Injection should not be administered to patients in shock, coma, or in acute alcoholic intoxication with depression of vital signs. As is true of most CNS-acting drugs, patients receiving diazepam should be cautioned against engaging in hazardous occupations requiring complete mental alertness, such as operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle.
Tonic status epilepticus has been precipitated in patients treated with intravenous diazepam for petit mal status or petit mal variant status.
Neonatal Sedation and Withdrawal Syndrome
Use of Diazepam injection late in pregnancy can result in sedation (respiratory depression, lethargy, hypotonia) and/or withdrawal symptoms (hyperreflexia, irritability, restlessness, tremors, inconsolable crying, and feeding difficulties) in the neonate (see PRECAUTIONS; Pregnancy). Monitor neonates exposed to Diazepam injection during pregnancy or labor for signs of sedation and monitor neonates exposed to Diazepam injection during pregnancy for signs of withdrawal; manage these infants accordingly.
Use in Children
Efficacy and safety of parenteral diazepam has not been established in the neonate (30 days or less of age).
Prolonged central nervous system depression has been observed in neonates, apparently due to inability to biotransform diazepam into inactive metabolites.
In pediatric use, in order to obtain maximal clinical effect with the minimum amount of drug and thus to reduce the risk of hazardous side effects, such as apnea or prolonged periods of somnolence, it is recommended that the drug be given slowly over a three-minute period in a dosage not to exceed 0.25 mg/kg. After an interval of 15 to 30 minutes the initial dosage can be safely repeated. If, however, relief of symptoms is not obtained after a third administration, adjunctive therapy appropriate to the condition being treated is recommended.
Benzyl alcohol has been reported to be associated with a fatal gasping syndrome in premature infants.
Risks from Concomitant Use with Opioids
Advise both patients and caregivers about the risks of potentially fatal respiratory depression and sedation when diazepam is used with opioids and not to use such drugs concomitantly unless supervised by a health care provider. Advise patients not to drive or operate heavy machinery until the effects of concomitant use with the opioid have been determined (see WARNINGS; Risks from Concomitant Use with Opioids and PRECAUTIONS; Drug Interactions).
Abuse, Misuse, and Addiction
Inform patients that the use of diazepam more frequently than recommended, even at recommended dosages, exposes users to risks of abuse, misuse, and addiction, which can lead to overdose and death, especially when used in combination with other medications (e.g., opioid analgesics), alcohol, and/or illicit substances. Inform patients about the signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse, misuse, and addiction; to seek medical help if they develop these signs and/or symptoms; and on the proper disposal of unused drug (see WARNINGS and DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE).
Inform patients that use of diazepam more frequently than recommended may lead to clinically significant physical dependence and that abrupt discontinuation or rapid dosage reduction of diazepam may precipitate acute withdrawal reactions, which can be life-threatening. Inform patients that in some cases, patients taking benzodiazepines have developed a protracted withdrawal syndrome with withdrawal symptoms lasting weeks to more than 12 months (see WARNINGS and DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE).
Propylene glycol toxicity has been reported in patients treated with diazepam injection at doses significantly greater than recommended. In these cases, diazepam was being used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms at doses greater than 900 mg/day. Propylene glycol toxicity is associated with an anion gap metabolic acidosis, serum hyperosmolality, and increased lactate. Propylene glycol toxicity can cause acute tubular necrosis (which can progress to multi-organ failure), mental status changes, hypotension, seizures, and cardiac arrhythmias. Patients at high risk for propylene glycol toxicity include those with renal dysfunction, hepatic dysfunction, impaired alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes, or other comorbidities (such as a history of alcoholism).
Advise pregnant females that use of Diazepam Injection late in pregnancy can result in sedation (respiratory depression, lethargy, hypotonia) and/or withdrawal symptoms (hyperreflexia, irritability, restlessness, tremors, inconsolable crying, and feeding difficulties) in newborns (see WARNINGS; Neonatal Sedation and Withdrawal Syndrome and PRECAUTIONS; Pregnancy). Instruct patients to inform their healthcare provider if they are pregnant.
Advise patients that there is a pregnancy exposure registry that monitors pregnancy outcomes in women exposed to Diazepam Injection during pregnancy (see PRECAUTIONS; Pregnancy).
Advise patients that breastfeeding is not recommended during treatment with Diazepam Injection (see PRECAUTIONS; Nursing Mothers).
The concomitant use of benzodiazepines and opioids increases the risk of respiratory depression because of actions at different receptor sites in the CNS that control respiration. Benzodiazepines interact at GABAA sites and opioids interact primarily at mµ receptors. When benzodiazepines and opioids are combined, the potential for benzodiazepines to significantly worsen opioid-related respiratory depression exists. Limit dosage and duration of concomitant use of benzodiazepines and opioids, and monitor patients closely for respiratory depression and sedation.
Although seizures may be brought under control promptly, a significant proportion of patients experience a return to seizure activity, presumably due to the short-lived effect of diazepam after intravenous administration. The physician should be prepared to re-administer the drug. However, diazepam is not recommended for maintenance, and once seizures are brought under control, consideration should be given to the administration of agents useful in longer term control of seizures.
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. In highly anxious patients with evidence of accompanying depression, particularly those who may have suicidal tendencies, protective measures may be necessary.
The usual precautions in treating patients with impaired hepatic function should be observed. Metabolites of diazepam are excreted by the kidney; to avoid their excess accumulation, caution should be exercised in the administration to patients with compromised kidney function.
Since an increase in cough reflex and laryngospasm may occur with peroral endoscopic procedures, the use of a topical anesthetic agent and the availability of necessary countermeasures are recommended.
Until additional information is available, diazepam injection is not recommended for obstetrical use.
Diazepam injection has produced hypotension or muscular weakness in some patients particularly when used with narcotics, barbiturates or alcohol.
Lower doses (usually 2 mg to 5 mg) should be used for elderly and debilitated patients.
The clearance of diazepam and certain other benzodiazepines can be delayed in association with cimetidine administration. The clinical significance of this is unclear.
Pregnancy Exposure Registry
There is a pregnancy exposure registry that monitors pregnancy outcomes in women exposed to AEDs, such as Diazepam injection, during pregnancy. Healthcare providers are encouraged to recommend that pregnant patient taking Diazepam injection enroll in the North American Antiepileptic Drug (NAAED) Pregnancy Registry by calling 1-888- 233-2334 or online at http://www.aedpregnancyregistry.org/.
Infants born to mothers using benzodiazepines late in pregnancy have been reported to experience symptoms of sedation and/or neonatal withdrawal (see WARNINGS; Neonatal Sedation and Withdrawal Syndrome, and Clinical Considerations). Available data from published observational studies of pregnant women exposed to benzodiazepines do not report a clear association with benzodiazepines and major birth defects (see Data).
The background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage for the indicated population is unknown. All pregnancies have a background risk of birth defect, loss, or other adverse outcomes. In the U.S. general population, the estimated risk of major birth defects and of miscarriage in clinically recognized pregnancies is 2% to 4% and 15% to 20%, respectively.
Fetal/Neonatal Adverse Reactions
Benzodiazepines cross the placenta and may produce respiratory depression, hypotonia, and sedation in neonates. Monitor neonates exposed to Diazepam injection during pregnancy or labor for signs of sedation, respiratory depression, hypotonia, and feeding problems. Monitor neonates exposed to Diazepam injection during pregnancy for signs of withdrawal. Manage these neonates accordingly (see WARNINGS; Neonatal Sedation and Withdrawal Syndrome).
Published data from observational studies on the use of benzodiazepines during pregnancy do not report a clear association with benzodiazepines and major birth defects.
Although early studies reported an increased risk of congenital malformations with diazepam and chlordiazepoxide, there was no consistent pattern noted. In addition, the majority of more recent case-control and cohort studies of benzodiazepine use during pregnancy, which were adjusted for confounding exposures to alcohol, tobacco and other medications, have not confirmed these findings.
Diazepam has been shown to produce increased incidences of fetal malformations in mice and hamsters when given orally at single doses of 100 mg/kg or greater (approximately 20 times the maximum recommended adult dose [0.4 mg/kg/day] or greater on a mg/m2 basis). Cleft palate and exencephaly are the most common and consistently reported malformations produced in these species by administration of high, maternally-toxic doses of diazepam during organogenesis. In published animal studies, administration of benzodiazepines or other drugs that enhance GABAergic inhibition to neonatal rats has been reported to result in widespread apoptotic neurodegeneration in the developing brain at plasma concentrations relevant for seizure control in humans. The window of vulnerability to these changes in rats (postnatal days 0-14) includes a period of brain development that takes place during the third trimester of pregnancy in humans.
Diazepam is present in breastmilk. There are reports of sedation, poor feeding and poor weight gain in infants exposed to benzodiazepines through breast milk. There are no data on the effects of diazepam on milk production. The developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the mother's clinical need for Diazepam injection and any potential adverse effects on the breastfed infant from Diazepam injection or from the underlying maternal condition.