A technique using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and deuterated internal standards is described for the quantitation in brain tissue of four constituents of the intoxicating beverage kava. Dihydrokawain, kawain, desmethoxyyangonin, and yangonin were administered ip to mice at a dosage of 100 mg/kg. At specific time intervals (5, 15, 30, and 45 min), the mice were sacrificed and the brain concentrations of these four compounds determined. After 5 min, dihydrokawain and kawain attained maximum concentrations of 64.7 +/- 13.1 and 29.3 +/- 0.8 ng/mg wet brain tissue, respectively, and were rapidly eliminated. In contrast, desmethoxyyangonin and yangonin had poorly defined maxima corresponding to concentrations of 10.4 +/- 1.5 and 1.2 +/- 0.3 ng/mg wet brain tissue, respectively, and these compounds were more slowly eliminated from brain tissue. When crude kava resin was administered ip at a dosage of 120 mg/kg, the concentration in brain of kawain and yangonin markedly increased (2 and 20 times, respectively) relative to the values measured from their individual injection. In contrast, dihydrokawain and desmethoxyyangonin, after the administration of crude resin, remained at the percentage incorporation into brain tissue established for their individual ip injection.