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Designer Benzodiazepines: Another Class of New Psychoactive Substances

  • Bjoern Moosmann
  • Volker Auwärter
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series


Benzodiazepines have been introduced as medical drugs in the 1960s. They replaced the more toxic barbiturates, which were commonly used for treatment of anxiety or sleep disorders at the time. However, benzodiazepines show a high potential of misuse and dependence. Although being of great value as medicines, dependence to these drugs is a concern worldwide, in part due to overprescription and easy availability. Therefore, the phenomenon of benzodiazepines sold via Internet shops without restrictions at low prices is alarming and poses a serious threat to public health. Most of these compounds (with the exception of, e.g., phenazepam and etizolam) have never been licensed as medical drugs in any part of the world and are structurally derived from medically used benzodiazepines. Strategies of clandestine producers to generate new compounds include typical structural variations of medically used 1,4-benzodiazepines based on structure-activity relationships as well as synthesis of active metabolites and triazolo analogs of these compounds. As they were obviously designed to circumvent national narcotics laws or international control, they can be referred to as “designer benzodiazepines.” The majority of these compounds, such as diclazepam, clonazolam, and nitrazolam, have been described in scientific or patent literature. However, little is known about their pharmacological properties and specific risks related to their use. This chapter describes the phenomenon of designer benzodiazepines and summarizes the available data on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics as well as analytical approaches for their detection.


Analysis Designer benzodiazepines Metabolism NPS Pharmacokinetics Toxicology 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Forensic Medicine, Forensic ToxicologyKantonsspital St. GallenSt. GallenSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Forensic Medicine, Forensic ToxicologyMedical Center - University of Freiburg, Faculty of Medicine, University of FreiburgFreiburgGermany

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