Seven healthy subjects received oral placebo, 1.5 mg lorazepam, or 3.0 mg lorazepam in a single-dose, three-way crossover study. Plasma lorazepam concentrations and subjects' self-rated sedative effects were evaluated at multiple points during 24 hours after each dose. Information acquisition and recall was studied by use of a 16-item word list at 3 and 24 hours after dosing. Lorazepam plasma concentrations were proportional to dose. Self-rated sedation was maximal 2 to 3 hours after lorazepam dosing, persisted for 8 hours, and was dose dependent in intensity; no significant sedation occurred with placebo. At 3 hours after placebo dosing, subjects learned a mean 96% of words presented during six trials; this was reduced to 79% and 62% after lorazepam, 1.5 and 3.0 mg, respectively (F = 6.2; P less than 0.02). Twenty-four hours after placebo, subjects recalled 92% of words presented the previous day, then improved to 99% after six relearning trials. After 1.5 and 3.0 mg lorazepam, however, only 52% and 44% of words were initially recalled from the previous day. Thus single oral doses of lorazepam within the therapeutic range produce dose-dependent sedation and impairment of information acquisition and recall.