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Archives - The Hunt for a "Benzo" Without Drawbacks

Winter 2011

The Hunt for a "Benzo" Without Drawbacks

By: Marjorie Centofanti
Date: February 18, 2011

When benzodiazepines like Librium or Valium came out in the 1960s, they seemed nothing short of heaven-sent for anxiety: They worked—quickly—were well-tolerated, and overdose wasn’t a particular worry. Yet their downside in having a high potential for abuse and dependence not only marked them as a controlled substance but, after two decades, made physicians wary. So the search has been on for an agent with benzodiazepines’ calming effect but fewer or no drawbacks. In a recent issue of The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Nancy Ator and colleagues reported primate-testing TPA023—a compound more selective in the subtypes of the GABA receptors it stimulates than prescribed benzodiazepines. Not only did the drug appear nonaddictive, but the animals could ease off it with only a shadow of withdrawal. Says Ator, “This warrants more study.”