Abuse liability assessment of anxiolytics/ hypnotics: rationale and laboratory lore


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This paper describes the rationale, practical details, and laboratory lore relevant to conducting an acute dose‐effect crossover evaluation for abuse liability of a novel anxiolytic/hypnotic compound relative to a standard compound. Basic principles underlying meaningful abuse liability assessments are presented and illustrated with examples from a comparative evaluation of the hypnotics zolpidem and triazolam. These principles include using a double‐blind placebo‐controlled design, selecting an appropriate comparison compound, evaluating a wide range of doses including supratherapeutic doses, using subjects with histories of sedative drug abuse, and using a range of dependent measures. The dose‐effect crossover evaluation is proposed as a crucial first step in any rigorous drug abuse liability evaluation of a novel anxiolytic or hypnotic drug. Such a study can be expected to generate a broad data base which not only provides a prediction about the likelihood of abuse of the novel compound, but provides an assessment of some of the adverse consequences of recreational abuse. The crossover study also establishes parameters for subsequent studies such as direct assessment of reinforcing effects with drug self‐administration testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1625-1632
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Addiction
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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