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Is Ambien a Benzodiazapine?

Posted by fachad on April 8, 2002, at 9:22:22

Is Ambien a Benzodiazapine?
(or fachad plays The Devil's Advocate.)

I think Ambien IS a benzodiazepine.

The whole argument turns on semantics and your definition of what is or is not a benzodiazepine.

If you define a benzo by it's chemical structure, a benzene ring attached to a seven-sided diazepine nucleus, well then, no, Ambien is not a benzo.

But that strikes me as a rather transparent linguistic maneuver. Think about this example. You tell a child not to walk over a line. He subsequently jumps over the line, and then insists that he didn't break your rule because he did not in fact walk over the line, he jumped over it. In a literal sense he is correct. But we feel that he is attempting to deceive us, and we can see right through it. He has ended up on the other side of the line, regardless of how he got there.

I think the analogy is fairly clear with Ambien and the benzodiazepines. No, Ambien does not literally have a benzene ring and a diazepine nucleus. But it does act at the GABA BZD1 receptor complex just like a classical benzodiazepine. It gets to the same place, so to speak, albeit with a different chemical structure.

So, from the standpoint of a chemist Ambien is not a benzodiazepine, but from the standpoint of a patient's nervous system it is a benzodiazepine.

It is particularly annoying to me that the marketing folks at Searle have leveraged this little word game to make Ambien seem more innocuous to prescribing physicians and sleep disturbed consumers.

Postscript: The motivation for this venting is twofold. First, I'm sore that they charge so much for Ambien. Second, I had SEVERE rebound insomnia when I tried to switch from Ambien to a generic benzo.




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