Midazolam: the first water-soluble benzodiazepine. Pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and efficacy in insomnia and anesthesia

Pharmacotherapy. 1985 May-Jun;5(3):138-55. doi: 10.1002/j.1875-9114.1985.tb03411.x.


Midazolam is a 1,4-benzodiazepine derivative with a unique chemical structure: depending on environmental pH, the drug can produce highly water-soluble salts (pH less than 4) or exist in lipophilic diazepine ring-closed form (pH greater than 4). This characteristic contributes to rapid onset of action and to good local tolerance after parenteral administration. After both oral and parenteral administration, midazolam has a fast absorption rate and is rapidly excreted, with a half-life of only about 2 hours. A reasonably good correlation has been found between plasma levels and clinical effects, indicating a fast but brief response. As a hypnotic, midazolam is mainly indicated in insomniac patients with difficulties in falling asleep or having a pathologic sleep pattern during the first half of the night. No marked hangover effects are present the next morning. In anesthesiology, midazolam appears to be a useful, short-acting, sedative-anxiolytic and amnesic premedicant after both oral and parenteral administration. In minor surgery, however, the slow, unpredictable onset and variable duration of action, as compared with thiopental, may inhibit its routine use as an induction agent, especially in young patients, without heavy premedication. In major surgery, midazolam is an alternative to thiopental for induction of anesthesia in spite of its slow, variable induction time. Its advantages include good cardiovascular stability, transient and mild respiratory depression, low frequency of venous irritation, production of anterograde amnesia and short duration of action in comparison with other benzodiazepines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics*
  • Animals
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects
  • Benzodiazepines / blood
  • Benzodiazepines / metabolism
  • Benzodiazepines / pharmacology
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Biotransformation
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / blood
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / metabolism
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Kinetics
  • Midazolam
  • Preanesthetic Medication
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Anesthetics
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Midazolam