It is known that the action of general anesthetics is proportional to their partition coefficient in lipid membranes (Meyer-Overton rule). This solubility is, however, directly related to the depression of the temperature of the melting transition found close to body temperature in biomembranes. We propose a thermodynamic extension of the Meyer-Overton rule which is based on free energy changes in the system and thus automatically incorporates the effects of melting point depression. This model provides a quantitative explanation of the pressure reversal of anesthesia. Further, it explains why inflammation and the addition of divalent cations reduce the effectiveness of anesthesia.