Benzodiazepine pharmacokinetics and withdrawal

The impact of benzodiazepine pharmacokinetics on dependence and withdrawal

Degree type

PhD

Closing date

7 March 2022

Campus

Hobart

Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International

About the research project

There is evidence that rapid metabolism of potentially addictive substances can exacerbate drug withdrawal effects and increase the difficulty associated with cessation. In the limited areas where this concept has been explored, findings have demonstrated important clinical implications related to the selection of appropriate withdrawal strategies based on speed of metabolism and subsequent drug elimination. For example, fast metabolisers of nicotine find smoking cessation more difficult. Similarly, with opioid dependence, harm minimisation strategies have successfully utilised long-acting methadone treatment regimens.

Benzodiazepines are a class of highly addictive, centrally acting medications that are eliminated through various metabolic pathways. Use of benzodiazepines is associated with significant adverse effects and morbidity in the community, particularly in older people, patients taking multiple central nervous system depressants and intravenous drug users. However, cessation of these medications is challenging due to high dependence on their use and the development of withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepine metabolism is complex with active metabolites and the involvement of multiple cytochrome P450 and glucuronidation metabolic pathways contributing to significant potential for inter-individual pharmacogenetic variability.

This project aims to develop a method to detect benzodiazepines and metabolites in finger prick samples (dried blood spot) to assess metabolism phenotype of benzodiazepine users. This data will then be used to investigate the relationship between dependence and metabolism phenotype in a clinical setting using an observational design and answer the question whether withdrawal symptoms and success is determined by metabolism phenotype.

The project will involve several Tasmanian stakeholders, including Tasmania’s Alcohol and Drug Services and private psychiatry practices.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Daniel Hoyle

Funding

Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Eligibility

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Daniel Hoyle, to discuss your suitability and the projects requirements; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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