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What is Midazolam?

By K. K. Lowen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Midazolam is a medication commonly administered prior to medical procedures. Doctors provide the drug to counteract the nervousness or anxiety that patients, especially children, feel prior to surgery or before undergoing the anesthesia required for surgery. It functions by reducing brain activity to relieve apprehension, induce drowsiness, and cause amnesia so patients will have no memory of possibly traumatic medical experiences. Doctors sometimes also use it as a seizure treatment.

Midazolam is a benzodiazepine, a class of drug that primarily affects brain function. The drug is fast-acting and has a high potency level. Unlike several other benzodiazepines, the effects of the drug do not last for an extended period of time, and many people characterize it as a short-acting medication.

The drug exists in a variety of forms for medical applications. As the only water-soluble benzodiazepine, midazolam is available in a liquid form. The possibility of oral ingestion makes it a popular choice for pediatricians, who may offer young patients the drug in syrup form. Patients may also inject the medication into veins or directly into the muscle or spinal cord. Additionally, pharmaceutical manufacturers produce pills, tablets, and nasal spray, increasing the drug’s range of uses.

There is a wide range of side effects that may accompany the use of this medication. Overuse may cause the body to develop a high tolerance for the drug, reducing its effectiveness. Dependency also may occur following prolonged usage. Other side effects include an assortment of negative mental and neurological ramifications, such as general confusion, amnesia, uncharacteristic behavior, and loss of coordination. Some patients have suffered from permanent memory loss associated with continual use of the drug over an extended period of time.

Midazolam naturally contains a low level of toxicity, but an overdose is still possible. Toxicity may increase when used in conjunction with other substances that depress the central nervous system. If a healthy person overdoses, it is usually treatable, but the risk of complications increases if the patient suffers from other health problems. Although rare, death may result from an overdose, especially if the patient is elderly.

Medical professionals frequently prescribe the medication to children, and parents may wish to take special precautions. Increased observation of the young person may be necessary to avoid any unwanted complications. The person who administers the midazolam certainly should ask if a child has any pre-existing medical conditions or uses other types of medications. Parents should tell their child’s pediatrician if any irregular symptoms occur.

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Discussion Comments
By anon330810 — On Apr 18, 2013

My mother went in for a gallbladder removal and had perfect short and long term memory. She was an author who drew up her excellent memory to aid her writing.

This drug destroyed her short term memory. She is now unable to learn new skills because they simply will not 'stick' and be processed into long term memory. Many people have reported similar incidents and the medical fraternity will put it down to 'old age' or coincidence.

Plastic surgeons love this drug as it is what allows them to build their repeat business because people cannot remember the pain or trauma they went through. The incidents of prolonged memory loss and psychological disorders increases dramatically for people over 50 years of age.

If you fall into this category or have loved ones in this category, I beg you to get educated and dissuade them from having it. Not only is it distressing to see my mother, who was an author all her life not even want to read a book because she cannot remember what she read on the previous line, but the physical risks associated with no short term memory are huge. Do not think this is an appealing choice. The effects are devastating.

By anon291537 — On Sep 14, 2012

Midazolam is a patient-control drug that forces patients to lie immobile, often in agony, unable to resist or to communicate that they are in distress. It's not to relax you. It's patient abuse. I'm credentialed to administer this stuff and would never agree to receive it, but we providers love to give it to you!

By shell4life — On Jan 05, 2012

Midazolam sounds like a wonderful drug! I have often pondered how I would feel if I were about to have surgery, and I suspect I would be very nervous. Having something like this to calm me down before being put totally out would be awesome.

I have a kidney disease that is likely to cause me to one day need a transplant. I have a fear of going under the knife, because I have heard tales of people who say they felt everything during the surgery but were unable to move or scream.

Since midazolam is supposed to cause amnesia of a sort, it sounds like the ideal thing to use prior to a procedure. I will request it if I do end up getting a transplant someday.

By bear78 — On Jan 04, 2012

@ysmina-- Yes, midazolam is much stronger. It is sometimes prescribed for anxiety and sleeping disorders but I don't think this is very common. It's pretty much a tranquilizer so it can only be used in very serious cases.

I do know that the use of midazolam recreationally is very common. I was shocked when I first heard about this but I saw an article which said that at least two hundred thousand people in the United Kingdom use midazolam for recreation regularly. I'm not sure what the exact numbers are in the US but it must be even higher than this.

This is a serious issue. Midazolam is not a medication which should be taken lightly. As the wiseGEEK article pointed out, midazolam has side effects which can be dangerous, in addition to addiction and withdrawal effects.

Does anyone know about the recreational use of midazolam in the US? How common is it?

By ysmina — On Jan 04, 2012

I took Xanax for a short period of time several years ago for anxiety. The drug name is alprazolam and it also belongs to the benzodiazepine group. I'm not surprised that midazolam is in the same group as alprazolam because it also treats anxiety but I think that midazolam must be much stronger.

From what I've heard, it puts people in a sedated state depending on the midazolam dosage. When I use alprazolam, I never felt sedated, just relieved and calm. I can't imagine midazolam being used to treat anxiety at all. It's never used for that purpose right?

By discographer — On Jan 03, 2012

I was given midazolam right before my appendicitis surgery. I wasn't actually told about this until after everything was over. I was very stressed and anxious because this was the first time I was having surgery and I remember asking the doctor the morning of if there was an option other than surgery.

I think the nurse added the midazolam injection to my IV because a few minutes before the surgery, I became completely relaxed and felt like I was dosing off into sleep. I didn't even have the opportunity to stress out before anesthesiology.

Usually they're required to get permission from patients before giving midazolam right? I wasn't upset because if they had asked me, I might have refused the midazolam as well. So I'm glad they gave it to me and I got the surgery over with.

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