Module 2: Basic Pharmacology of Controlled Drugs and Substances

Lesson 1

Benzodiazepines – Pharmacodynamics / mechanism of action

Benzodiazepines are prescribed for their anxiolytic and sedative effects. They exert their action by binding to gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) receptors and increasing the action of GABA, which slows neurotransmitter activity and, causes sedative, hypnotic and anxiolytic effects (Poole Arcangelo & Peterson, 2013; Edmunds & Mayhew, 2014).

Short term effects include a feeling of well-being, loss of inhibition, decreased muscle tension, reduced mental alertness, and mildly impaired coordination and balance. On rare occasions, and usually at high doses, paradoxical reactions such as rage, personality disturbances, and sleep disturbances can occur. Benzodiazepines are seldom fatal in overdoses except when mixed with other drugs, especially alcohol (Canadian Pharmacists Association, 2014).