In common with other benzodiazepine drugs, diazepam elicits five principle pharmacological effects –namely: anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing)/ sedative; hypnotic (sleep-inducing); muscle relaxant and (a significant) anticonvulsant effect. These effects are a result of diazepam’s action of the main inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). Further detail on the diazepam’s mechanism of action can be found in the ‘benzodiazepine’ section, under the ‘pharmacology’ tab.
Diazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine which appears to act on several brain regions, thus altering several functions. It acts on the ‘thalamus’ which is responsible for emotion, motivation, long-term memory, olfaction (sense of smell), motor function (movement), consciousness and alertness. It also acts on the hypothalamus –the regulator of body temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue and sleep-wake cycles (circadian rhythm).
Diazepam’s significant anticonvulsant properties are thought to involve regulation of sodium levels within nerve cells (neurons) and in the tiny gaps existing between neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) called ‘synapses’.
Its muscle-relaxant properties are thought to be caused by its inhibition of chemical pathways that ordinarily occur within the spinal cord.