With the object of studying the kinetics of imipramine and desipramine five healthy volunteers received single intramuscular, oral and intravenous doses and multiple oral doses of imipramine hydrochloride on different occasions. Two of the volunteers also received single intramuscular and oral doses of desipramine hydrochloride. Great interindividual differences were noted in the plasma concentrations of imipramine and the formed desipramine after single doses of imipramine hydrochloride. In all subjects more desipramine was formed after oral than after parenteral adminstration of imipramine. The bioavailability of an orally administered dose of imipramine ranged between 29.5 and 54.7%. The concentration of imipramine was generally lower in the blood cells than in the plasma, unlike the concentration of desipramine which was considerably higher in the blood cells. The half-lives of imipramine ranged from 4.0-17.6 hrs (M = 7.6 +/- 2.5) after single oral doses and between 9.2 and 20.2 hrs (M = 14.0 +/- 1.9) after multiple oral doses. The half-lives of the formed desipramine ranged between 13.5 and 61.5 hrs (M = 29.9 +/- 8.7) after multiple oral doses of imipramine hydrochloride. The observed mean steady-state plasma concentration after multiple oral doses of imipramine hydrochloride, 50 mg t.i.d. varied from 21.4-69.0 mug/1 (M = 38.2 +/- 8.7) for imipramine and from 33.7-136.0 mug/1 (M 72.3 +/- 19.5) for desipramine. The great difference in the ability to form desipramine after oral and parenteral administration of imipramine hydrochloride may have therapeutic consequences as imipramine and desipramine have differing pharmacological properties.