Using behavior to elucidate receptor mechanisms: a review of the discriminative stimulus effects of benzodiazepines

Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2000 Aug;8(3):294-311. doi: 10.1037//1064-1297.8.3.294.


Drug discrimination procedures have been used to study receptor mechanisms of benzodiazepine (BZ) agonists with the goal of developing new therapeutic agents that retain positive effects of conventional BZ ligands yet have reduced side effects. The present review provides a synthesis of existing literature on discriminative stimulus effects of BZ agonists in order to elucidate their underlying receptor mechanisms, specifically in terms of intrinsic efficacy and receptor selectivity. The available evidence suggests that receptor selectivity is a critical determinant of the discriminative stimulus effects of BZ agonists. In particular, BZ-1 receptors appear to play a fundamental role, whereas the role of BZ-2 receptors remains elusive. In addition, data from many drug discrimination studies suggest that the conventional BZ agonist chlordiazepoxide may have reduced intrinsic efficacy compared with other BZ agonists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Discrimination, Psychological / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects*
  • Steroids / pharmacology


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Steroids
  • Benzodiazepines