Metabolism of anxiolytics and hypnotics:
benzodiazepines, buspirone, zoplicone, and zolpidem

Chouinard G, Lefko-Singh K, Teboul E
Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital,
Department of Psychiatry,
University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Cell Mol Neurobiol 1999 Aug; 19(4):533-52


1. The benzodiazepines are among the most frequently prescribed of all drugs and have been used for their anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, and sedative/hypnotic properties. Since absorption rates, volumes of distribution, and elimination rates differ greatly among the benzodiazepine derivatives, each benzodiazepine has a unique plasma concentration curve. Although the time to peak plasma levels provides a rough guide, it is not equivalent to the time to clinical onset of effect. The importance of alpha and beta half-lives in the actions of benzodiazepines is discussed. 2. The role of cytochrome P450 isozymes in the metabolism of benzodiazepines and in potential pharmacokinetic interactions between the benzodiazepines and other coadministered drugs is discussed. 3. Buspirone, an anxiolytic with minimal sedative effects, undergoes extensive metabolism, with hydroxylation and dealkylation being the major pathways. Pharmacokinetic interactions of buspirone with other coadministered drugs seem to be minimal. 4. Zopiclone and zolpidem are used primarily as hypnotics. Both are extensively metabolized; N-demethylation, N-oxidation, and decarboxylation of zopiclone occur, and zolpidem undergoes oxidation of methyl groups and hydroxylation of a position on the imidazolepyridine ring system. Zopiclone has a chiral centre, and demonstrates stereoselective pharmacokinetics. Metabolic drug-drug interactions have been reported with zopiclone and erythromycin, trimipramine, and carbamazepine. Reports to date indicate minimal interactions of zolpidem with coadministered drugs; however, it has been reported to affect the Cmax and clearance of chlorpromazepine and to decrease metabolism of the antiviral agent ritonavin. Since CYP3A4 has been reported to play an important role in metabolism of zolpidem, possible interactions with drugs which are substrates and/or inhibitors of that CYP isozyme should be considered.
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Benzodiazepine abuse
Benzodiazepine antagonists
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Anxioselective compounds and GABA(A)
GABAergic dysfunction in mood disorders
Diazepam (Valium) and the potato: the natural origin of benzodiazepines

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