Benzodiazepine hypnotic metabolism: drug interactions and clinical implications

D. R. Abernethy, D. J. Greenblatt, R. I. Shader

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Benzodiazepines are the drugs of choice when initiating hypnotic therapy. Though the mechanism of benzodiazepine action in the central nervous system is similar for all drugs in this class, differences in absorption and pathway of elimination are associated with differences in observed clinical effect. After single‐dose administration, onset of hypnotic effect is most closely related to rate of drug absorption and duration of effect is more closely associated with extent of drug distribution. Relative affinity of the individual benzodiazepine for the specific central nervous system binding site may also determine duration of action. During multiple‐dose chronic therapy, route of metabolic biotransformation and elimination half‐life assume more importance. An increased incidence of adverse drug effects due to high doses of accumulating benzodiazepines may be seen in the elderly and patients with central nervous system deficits or chronic liver disease. Benzodiazepine metabolic biotransformation and clearance is broken into three groups. Group 1—oxidative biotransformation; Group 2—high clearance drugs; Group 3—drug conjugation. Groups 1 and 2 are implicated in a number of drug‐disease and drug‐drug interactions. Group 3 drugs have little change in patients with liver disease or when administered with inhibitors of drug biotransformation. Clinical implications of these metabolic interactions are variable, but inhibition of Group 1 and 2 benzodiazepine clearance has been associated with increased sedation and psychomotor impairment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-38
Number of pages7
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Issue number332 S
StatePublished - Dec 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • Benzodiazepine pharmacokinetics
  • drug‐drug interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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