Benzodiazepines

Introduction
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By K K Jain MD

Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs whose core chemical structure is the fusion of a benzene ring and a diazepine ring. The pharmacological target of benzodiazepines is GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The best known drug of this series is diazepam, which is used as an anxiolytic, sedative-hypnotic, and anticonvulsant. Midazolam is used for preoperative sedation/anxiolysis with anterograde amnesia. Adverse effects include drowsiness and potential for addiction.

Key points

  • Benzodiazepines have a better safety profile than barbiturates but are potentially addictive.
  • Diazepam has been in clinical use for half a century as an anxiolytic and antiepileptic agent.
  • Midazolam is more potent than diazepam and is used to induce preoperative sedation/anxiolysis with anterograde amnesia.
  • Nonbenzodiazepine agents are now preferred as hypnotic agents

In This Article

Introduction
Historical note and nomenclature
Pharmacology
Clinical trials
Indications
Contraindications
Goals and duration of treatment
Dosing
Special considerations
Interactions
Adverse effects
References cited
Contributors