Progesterone effects on the discriminative stimulus, subjective and performance effects of triazolam in healthy, premenopausal women

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There is accumulating evidence that sex plays a critical role in drug abuse. Female sex hormones have been shown to affect central nervous system function and modulate the effects of drugs of abuse. For example, γ-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptor function is positively modulated by progesterone metabolites. There is evidence from preclinical in-vitro and in-vivo studies as well as some clinical research suggesting that progesterone and its metabolites may enhance the behavioral effects of benzodiazepines, which also serve as positive modulators of GABAA receptors. The purpose of this experiment was to determine the independent and combined discriminative stimulus, subjective and psychomotor effects of progesterone and triazolam in healthy adult premenopausal women. Oral micronized progesterone (100 mg), triazolam (0.06, 0.12 and 0.25 mg/70 kg) and placebo were administered to healthy, premenopausal women (n=9) under conditions of low circulating sex hormones. Triazolam alone functioned as a discriminative stimulus and produced prototypical sedative-like effects (e.g., performance impairment, enhanced reports of sedative effects). Progesterone alone produced sedative-like effects on several subjective and performance measures, and the dose combination effects of progesterone and triazolam on several subjective measures of drug effect were similar to the summation of the two drug effects in isolation. Progesterone did not substitute for or modify the discriminative stimulus effects of triazolam. These results suggest that the parent hormone, progesterone, and triazolam have discordant neuropharmacological mechanisms of action. Additional research is necessary to determine the degree to which neurosteroids influence sex differences in benzodiazepine use and abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-449
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Pharmacology
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • benzodiazepine
  • neurosteroid
  • progesterone
  • triazolam
  • women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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