The relationship between anterograde amnesia, sedation and plasma levels of benzodiazepines was studied prospectively in a group of 24 patients who took an overdose of benzodiazepines. Patients were tested on two sequential days after having taken an overdose. Anterograde amnesia was tested by using a verbal recall test and a photo recognition test. Sedation was scored on a visual analogue scale (VAS) by the patient and the interviewer. The concentration of benzodiazepines in plasma was measured by using a radioreceptor assay that adds benzodiazepines and their active metabolites. The cumulative amount of benzodiazepines was expressed as diazepam equivalents (DZE). Diazepam equivalents determined by this radioreceptor assay were significantly higher on the first day than on the second day. Ratings on the verbal recall test were significantly lower on the first day than on the second day. There was a significant relation between decrease of diazepam equivalents and increase of verbal recall: more than 30% of increase of verbal recall was explained by decrease of diazepam equivalents. There was not a strong relation between decrease of diazepam equivalents and reduction of level of sedation as scored by the patients. There was almost no relation between decrease of diazepam equivalents and reduction of level of sedation as scored by the interviewer. No relation was found between verbal recall, sedation and diazepam equivalents. There was no relation between diazepam equivalents and photo recognition. It was concluded that anterograde amnesia was strongly associated with benzodiazepines in patients who take benzodiazepines in an overdose. Sedation does not predict the degree of anterograde amnesia.