We evaluated demeclocycline and lithium therapy in 10 patients with the syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone. Despite severe water restriction, all patients had hyponatremia (mean +/- S.E.M. serum sodium of 122 +/- 1.1 meq per liter) and elevated urine osmolality (744 +/- 59 mOsm per kilogram) before treatment. Demeclocycline (600 to 1200 mg daily) restored serum sodium concentration to 139 +/- 1.1 meq per liter within five to 14 days, permitting unrestricted water intake in all patients. In three patients given lithium carbonate (900 mg daily) the serum sodium concentration, urine osmolality and urine volume were unchanged; since two patients had adverse central-nervous-system symptoms during lithium therapy, further study of this agent was abandoned. A patient with an unusual 22-year history of the syndrome was unresponsive to lithium, whereas long-term treatment with demeclocyline was markedly effective. Demeclocycline is superior to lithium in the treatment of the syndrome and may obviate the need for severe water restriction.