Valium (diazepam) is a medication marketed by Genentech that is used to relieve muscle spasms and anxiety. The medication also helps control agitation caused by alcohol withdrawal and can be used in combination with other medicines to treat seizures.

In Huntington’s disease patients, Valium is used to treat anxiety and might help improve the symptoms of chorea, which is involuntary and uncontrollable dance-like movement.

How Valium works

Valium works in a similar way to GABA, a neurotransmitter or signaling molecule in the brain, which inhibits neurons. GABA acts by binding to GABA receptors. Valium binds to one type of GABA receptors, known as GABAA and subsequently mimics GABA’s nerve-blocking activity.

Valium’s inhibitory action on neurons is thought to improve anxiety and chorea symptoms in Huntington’s disease.

Studies with Valium

Valium has not been tested in randomized, controlled clinical trials for Huntington’s disease. However, a case report suggests the medicine might benefit Huntington’s disease patients with chorea symptoms.

The report describes the case of a 40-year old man with chorea symptoms and intellectual deterioration. He had spontaneous, uncontrolled muscle activity, was irritable, forgetful, had difficulties concentrating, and was unable to learn new tasks.

The treatment started with 2 mg Valium twice daily and was increased to 25 mg per day over the following four days. Within 36 hours after starting the daily dose of 25 mg, chorea symptoms decreased markedly. However, forgetfulness and other signs of intellectual problems persisted. After two weeks the dose was increased to 35 mg per day.

Apart from mild dizziness, which disappeared after two days, the man tolerated 25 mg of Valium per day well. A daily dose of 35 mg caused ataxia (lack of muscle coordination) with stumbling. The treatment was readjusted to 25 mg per day.

Additional information

Common side effects of Valium include dizziness, tiredness, drowsiness, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, dry mouth, and changes in appetite.

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