Investigation of preference for nightly triazolam versus placebo in moderate social alcohol drinkers

Miriam Z. Mintzer, R. P. Allen, Roland R. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study was designed to examine whether the widely prescribed benzodiazepine hypnotic triazolam has reinforcing effects in moderate social alcohol drinkers, without histories of drug abuse or insomnia, in the context of its use as a hypnotic. Eleven healthy adult volunteers who met criteria for 'good sleepers' participated in a 60-session double-blind choice study which was conducted on an outpatient basis with participants sleeping at home. Twenty three-session sampling/choice tests were conducted sequentially to provide 20 evaluations of the reinforcing effects of 0.25 mg/70 kg triazolam versus placebo, ingested orally 30 min before bedtime. Each three-session test consisted of two sampling sessions, in which participants received exposure to each of the two drug conditions in different colored capsules, followed by one choice session, in which participants were asked to choose one of the two colour-coded capsules for sell administration. Four participants exhibited a significant choice of triazolam, three, a significant choice of placebo (i.e. triazolam avoidance), and four, a random (i.e. non-significant) choice between triazolam and placebo. The reasons provided by participants were consistent with their choices and with the expected effects of triazolam versus placebo. Analyses of post-sleep questionnaires indicated that triazolam did not produce a clinically meaningful improvement in sleep. The finding that triazolam functioned as a reinforcer in participants without insomnia suggests that triazolam has reinforcing effects in some individuals for which hypnotic treatment is not clinically indicated, and that health care professionals must continue to assess the risk/benefit ratio of benzodiazepine hypnotic prescription.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-8
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Benzodiazepine
  • Human
  • Hypnotic
  • Reinforcement
  • Triazolam

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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