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Eur J Pharmacol. 1999 Mar 5;368(2-3):161-72.

Changes of benzodiazepine receptors during chronic benzodiazepine administration in humans.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, West Haven, CT 06516, USA.


Changes of central type GABA(A)/benzodiazepine receptors during 24-day per-oral administration of alprazolam (2 mg/day) were measured with single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) in nine healthy human subjects. Receptor densities were measured on days -4 (baseline), 3, 10, 17 and 24. Comparison of baseline and day 3 SPECT images was used to assess receptor occupancy; comparisons of the four scans on medication were used to assess alterations in receptor levels. Clinical effects were evaluated by subjective ratings of mood and the Hopkins verbal learning test. Alprazolam induced sedation associated with a 16% receptor occupancy. Unoccupied receptor levels decreased 10% from day 3 to day 10 but then normalized to baseline values by day 17. Clinical effects showed corresponding changes 1-2 weeks after the changes in the receptor. Thus, the decrease of benzodiazepine receptor densities may be one of the major mechanisms for tolerance development in humans.

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