Discriminative stimulus effects of zolpidem in pentobarbital-trained subjects: II. Comparison with triazolam and caffeine in humans

Craig R. Rush, Sudhakar Madakasira, Nancy H. Goldman, William L. Woolverton, James K. Rowlett

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42 Scopus citations


In the present study, four non-drug-abusing humans were trained to discriminate between a hypnotic dose of pentobarbital, 100 mg, and placebo. After acquiring the pentobarbital-placebo discrimination, a range of doses of zolpidem, triazolam, pentobarbital and caffeine were tested to determine whether they shared discriminative stimulus effects with the training dose of pentobarbital. Zolpidem, a rapid-onset, short-duration, quickly eliminated imidazopyridine hypnotic agent, was tested because its discriminative stimulus effects have been shown to differ from those of classic sedative/hypnotic compounds in rodents, but not in nonhuman primates. Triazolam and caffeine were included as positive and negative controls, respectively. The subject-rated and performance-impairing effects of zolpidem, triazolam, pentobarbital and caffeine were assessed concurrently. These four subjects met the discrimination criterion (≤80% correct drug identifications on four consecutive sessions) in 4 to 18 (mean = 8.5) sessions, and the pentobarbital-placebo discrimination was well maintained during a test-of-novel-doses and test-of-novel-drugs phase (i.e., placebo and 100 mg pentobarbital occasioned 0-35% [mean = 17%] and 75-100% [mean = 85%] drug-appropriate responding, respectively). Zolpidem, triazolam and pentobarbital generally produced dose-related increases in pentobarbital- appropriate responding and sedative-like, subject-rated drug effects. Caffeine on average produced low levels of pentobarbital-appropriate responding, although some doses of caffeine produced maximal pentobarbital- appropriate responding in some subjects. Caffeine produced some stimulant- like (e.g., jittery, motivated, nervous and stimulated) subject-rated drug effects. Zolpidem and triazolam, and to a much lesser extent pentobarbital, but not caffeine, impaired performance. These results suggest that humans can acquire and maintain a pentobarbital-placebo discrimination, and this discrimination is pharmacologically specific. These results also suggest that despite the somewhat unique biochemical profile of zolpidem, its discriminative stimulus, subject-rated and performance-pairing effects are similar to those of classic sedative/hypnotic compounds like the barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Finally, the results observed in the present study with zolpidem, triazolam and caffeine demonstrate that the discriminative stimulus effects of drugs observed with nonhuman primates can be systematically replicated in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-188
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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