It has been suggested that tolerance to the bronchodilating effects of sympathomimetics may develop in asthmatic patients after long-term use of these agents. In an emergency room setting, the effects of inhaled and injected sympathomimetic therapy in 58 patients who had pretreated themselves with beta agonists were compared with the results observed in 38 patients who had not used such drugs. The two groups had similar degrees of obstruction on presentation and were also well-matched with respect to the clinical features of their illness. Both populations showed equal responses to treatment; no significant differences were found in either the amount of bronchodilation or the incidence of adverse effects in those who had or had not taken sympathomimetics as outpatients. These findings indicate that drug resistance does not account for outpatient treatment failures with sympathomimetics and that beta agonists can be usefully employed in the treatment of acute asthma, irrespective of a patient's medication history.