Zolpidem and triazolam in humans: Behavioral and subjective effects and abuse liability

S. M. Evans, F. R. Funderburk, R. R. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Zolpidem, which is currently marketed in Europe as a hypnotic, is a short-duration imidazopyridine whose actions are mediated at the γ-aminobutyric acid benzodiazepine receptor complex. However, zolpidem produces a variety of biochemical differences from classic benzodiazepine agonists including showing selectivity for the central BZ11) receptor subtype as well as showing a different pattern of distribution of binding sites. This study compared zolpidem to the benzodiazepine hypnotic triazolam in 15 healthy male volunteers with histories of sedative drug abuse. Placebo, zolpidem (15, 30 and 45 mg) and triazolam (0.25, 0.5 and 0.75 mg) were administered p.o. in a mixed sequence in a double-blind, cross-over design. The onset time with zolpidem was faster than with triazolam, with peak effects of both drugs occurring at 1 to 2 hr after administration. Both zolpidem and triazolam produced dose-related decrements in performance on various performance tasks including circular lights, reaction time, balance, number recall and the digit symbol substitution test. Both drugs also produced similar dose-related changes on various observer ratings including overall strength of drug effect. Triazolam, but not zolpidem, increased subject- and observer-rated sleepiness and produced greater impairment on a picture memory task. Zolpidem, but not triazolam, produced increases in subject ratings of various somatic symptoms (e.g., dizzy, anxious and queasy) and there were 9 days on which subjects vomited after zolpidem, but none after triazolam. Although the highest dose of both drugs was identified by subjects as being active, the highest dose of triazolam was identified as being barbiturate, benzodiazepine or alcohol, almost twice as often as the highest dose of zolpidem. Overall, this study shows that although zolpidem produces many effects in common with triazolam, it also has a unique profile of effects distinguishable from classic benzodiazepine agonists. The mechanism(s) underlying these differences is unclear, but may be related to the atypical biochemical profile of zolpidem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1246-1255
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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