ABT-384 is a potent, selective inhibitor of 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (HSD-1). One milligram of ABT-384 daily fully inhibited hepatic HSD-1. Establishing the dose that fully inhibits central nervous system (CNS) HSD-1 would enable definitive clinical studies in potential CNS indications. [9,11,12,12-(2)H4] cortisol (D4 cortisol), a stable labeled tracer, was used to characterize HSD-1 inhibition by ABT-384. D4 cortisol and its products were measured in the plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of healthy male volunteers during D4 cortisol infusions, for up to 40 h after five daily doses of 1-50 mg ABT-384. Similar procedures were conducted in control subjects who received no ABT-384. Peripheral HSD-1 inhibition was calculated from plasma levels of D4 cortisol and its products. CNS HSD-1 inhibition was characterized from plasma and CSF levels of D4 cortisol and its products. ABT-384 regimens ≥2 mg daily maintained peripheral HSD-1 inhibition ≥88%. ABT-384 1 mg daily maintained peripheral HSD-1 inhibition ≥81%. No CNS formation of D3 cortisol (the mass-labeled product of HSD-1) was detected following ABT-384 ≥2 mg daily, indicating full CNS HSD-1 inhibition by these regimens. Partial CNS HSD-1 inhibition was associated with 1 mg ABT-384 daily. CNS HSD-1 inhibition was characterized by strong hysteresis and increased with maximum post-dose plasma concentration of ABT-384 and its active metabolites. ABT-384 has a wide potential therapeutic window for potential indications including Alzheimer's disease and major depressive disorder. Stable labeled substrates may be viable tools for measuring CNS effect during new drug development for other enzyme targets.