We studied a distinctive group of young intravenous Ritalin abusers with profound obstructive lung disease. Clinically, they seemed to have severe emphysema, but the pathologic basis of their symptoms had not been investigated previously. Seven patients have died and been autopsied: in four, the lungs were fixed, inflated, dried, and examined in detail radiologically, grossly, microscopically, and by electron probe X-ray microanalysis. All seven patients had severe panlobular (panacinar) emphysema that tended to be more severe in the lower lung zones and that was associated with microscopic talc granulomas. Vascular involvement by talc granulomas was variable, but significant interstitial fibrosis was not present. Five patients were tested for alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency and found to be normal, as were six similar living patients. These findings indicate that some intravenous drug abusers develop emphysema that clinically, radiologically, and pathologically resembles that caused by alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency but which must have a different pathogenesis. Talc from the Ritalin tablets may be important, but the mechanism remains to be elucidated.