The drug valium contains the active ingredient Diazepam. Diazepam affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with anxiety. Valium is used to treat anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or muscle spasms. Valium is sometimes used with other medications to treat epileptic seizures.
Chemical Formulae: C16H13ClN2O
Diazepam is a long-acting “classical” benzodiazepine. Diazepam has anticonvulsant properties. Diazepam has no effect on GABA levels and no effect on glutamate decarboxylase activity but has a slight effect on gamma-aminobutyric acid transaminase activity. It differs from some other anticonvulsive drugs with which it was compared. Benzodiazepines act via micromolar benzodiazepine binding sites as calcium channel blockers and significantly inhibit depolarization-sensitive calcium uptake in rat nerve cell preparations.
Studies have shown that Diazepam inhibits acetylcholine release in mouse hippocampal synaptosomes. This has been found by measuring sodium-dependent high-affinity choline uptake in mouse brain cells in vitro, after pretreatment of the mice with diazepam in vivo. This may play a role in explaining diazepam’s anticonvulsant properties.
Diazepam binds with high affinity to glial cells in animal cell cultures. Diazepam at high doses has been found to decrease histamine turnover in mouse brain via diazepam’s action at the benzodiazepine-GABA receptor complex.
Benzodiazepines are positive allosteric modulators of the GABA type A receptors (GABAA). The GABAA receptors are ligand-gated chloride-selective ion channels that are activated by GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Binding of benzodiazepines to this receptor complex promotes binding of GABA, which in turn increases the total conduction of chloride ions across the neuronal cell membrane. This increased chloride ion influx hyperpolarizes the neuron’s membrane potential. As a result, the difference between resting potential and threshold potential is increased and firing is less likely. As a result, the arousal of the cortical and limbic systems in the central nervous system is reduced.
The GABAA receptor is a heteromer composed of five subunits, the most common ones being two αs, two βs, and one γ (α2β2γ). For each subunit, many subtypes exist (α1–6, β1–3, and γ1–3). GABAA receptors containing the α1 subunit mediate the sedative, the anterograde amnesic, and partly the anticonvulsive effects of diazepam. GABAA receptors containing α2 mediate the anxiolytic actions and to a large degree the myorelaxant effects. GABAA receptors containing α3 and α5 also contribute to benzodiazepines myorelaxant actions, whereas GABAA receptors comprising the α5 subunit were shown to modulate the temporal and spatial memory effects of benzodiazepines. Diazepam is not the only drug to target these GABAA receptors. Drugs such as flumazenil also bind to GABAA to induce their effects.
Diazepam appears to act on areas of the limbic system, thalamus, and hypothalamus, inducing anxiolytic effects. Benzodiazepine drugs including diazepam increase the inhibitory processes in the cerebral cortex.
The anticonvulsant properties of diazepam and other benzodiazepines may be in part or entirely due to binding to voltage-dependent sodium channels rather than benzodiazepine receptors. Sustained repetitive firing seems limited by benzodiazepines’ effect of slowing recovery of sodium channels from inactivation. The muscle relaxant properties of diazepam are produced via inhibition of polysynaptic pathways in the spinal cord.
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