Rationale: Parametric preclinical studies of the benzodiazepine antagonist flumazenil have contributed to the understanding of the physical dependence associated with chronic benzodiazepine use. However, few parametric studies have been conducted in human participants. Objective: This study was designed to assess the effect of duration of benzodiazepine exposure on the intensity of flumazenil-precipitated withdrawal in healthy volunteers. Method: Participants were randomly assigned to receive either oral diazepam (15 mg/70 kg; n=10) or placebo (n=8) capsules nightly for 28 days. Effects of flumazenil (1 mg/70 kg, intravenously administered) were assessed in challenge sessions conducted before capsule ingestion, and after 1, 7, 14, and 28 days of capsule ingestion. Results: Flumazenil produced a profile of participant-rated effects consistent with benzodiazepine withdrawal that peaked immediately after completion of the 5-min flumazenil injection and rapidly dissipated thereafter. The magnitude of these effects was comparable after 7, 14, and 28 days of diazepam. Flumazenil also produced modest elevations in blood pressure and decreases in skin temperature in the diazepam group, both of which were sustained throughout the approximate 60-min session. Conclusions: These findings support previous human research studies indicating that flumazenil precipitates withdrawal after short chronic exposure to benzodiazepines and suggests that duration of exposure does not influence the intensity of withdrawal beyond the first week of exposure.
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