The serotonin (5-HT) syndrome is the most serious side effect of antidepressants, and it often necessitates pharmacotherapy. In the present study, the efficacy of several drugs was evaluated in an animal model of the 5-HT syndrome. When 2 mg/kg of clorgyline, a type-A monoamine oxidase inhibiting antidepressant, and 100 mg/kg of 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan, a precursor of 5-HT, were administered intraperitoneally to rats to induce the 5-HT syndrome, the rectal temperature of the rats increased to more than 40 degrees C, and all of the animals died by 90 min after the drug administration. The noradrenaline (NA) levels in the anterior hypothalamus, measured by microdialysis, increased to 15.9 times the preadministration level. Pretreatment with propranolol (10 mg/kg), a 5-HT(1A) receptor antagonist as well as a beta-blocker, and dantrolene (20 mg/kg), a peripheral muscle relaxant, did not prevent the death of the animals, even though these two drugs suppressed the increase in rectal temperature to some extent. Chlorpromazine and cyproheptadine prevented the lethality associated with the 5-HT syndrome only at high doses. By contrast, pretreatment with ritanserin (3 mg/kg) and pipamperone (20 mg/kg), both potent 5-HT(2A) receptor antagonists, completely prevented the increase in rectal temperature and death of the animals, and the hypothalamic NA levels in these two groups increased less than that in the other groups. These results suggest that potent 5-HT(2A) receptor antagonists are the most effective drugs for treatment of the 5-HT syndrome, and that NA hyperactivity occurs in the 5-HT syndrome.