Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan


  • JoAnn TschanzEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_1759


Anxiolytics; Sedative-hypnotics


Benzodiazepines belong to a class of medications known as sedative-hypnotics. The benzodiazepine molecule binds to the subtype A portion of the protein receptor of the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter substance in the brain, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). The simultaneous binding of the endogenous neurotransmitter GABA on the GABA-A postsynaptic receptor increases the frequency of the opening of the chloride channel, allowing greater amounts of this negatively charged anion, chloride, to rapidly enter the cell due to the concentration gradient. The additional entry of chloride into the cytoplasm hyperpolarizes the cell, which reduces depolarization, or firing, of the cell. Hence, greater stimulation is required for cell firing. This is known as the GABA-benzodiazepine receptor complex (Stahl 2004).

Benzodiazepines have wide-ranging effects. Their popular use is reflected in their anxiolytic, muscle relaxant, sedative, anesthetic,...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Allain, H., Bentu’e-Ferrer, D., Polard, E., Akwa, Y., & Patat, A. (2005). Postural instability and consequent falls and hip fractures associated with use of hypnotics in the elderly. A comparative review. Drugs in Aging, 22, 749–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barker, M. J., Greenwood, K. M., Jackson, M., & Crowe, S. F. (2004). Cognitive effects of long-term benzodiazepine use. A meta-analysis. CNS Drugs, 18, 37–48.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourin, M., & Lambert, O. (2002). Pharmacotherapy of anxious disorders. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 17, 383–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buffett-Jerrott, S. E., & Stewart, S. H. (2002). Cognitive and sedative effects of benzodiazepine use. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 8, 45–58.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Gold, R., & Oreja-Guevara, C. (2013). Advances in the management of multiple sclerosis spasticity: Multiple sclerosis spasticity guidelines. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 13(12 Suppl), 55–59.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Iversen, L. L., Iversen, S. D., Bloom, F. E., & Roth, R. H. (2009). Antidepressants and anxiolytics. In Introduction to neuropsychopharmacology (pp. 306–335). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Meador, W., Salter, A. R., & Rinker, J. R., 2nd. (2016). Symptomatic management of multiple sclerosis-associated tremor among participants in the NARCOMS registry. International Journal of MS Care, 18, 147–153.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Montplaisir, J., Hawa, R., Moller, H., Morin, C., Fortin, M., Matte, J., Reinish, L., & Shapiro, C. M. (2003). Zopiclone and zaleplon vs benzodiazepines in the treatment of insomnia: Canadian consensus statement. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 18, 29–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ntais, C., Pakos, E., Kyzas, P., & Ioannidis, J. P. (2005). Benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 20, CD005063.Google Scholar
  10. Stahl, S. M. (2013). Anxiolytics and sedative hypnotics. In Essential psychopharmacology: Neuroscientific basis and practical applications (pp. 297–333). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Center for Epidemiologic StudiesUtah State UniversityLoganUSA