Dextromethorphan is primarily metabolized to dextrorphan by cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6), a genetically polymorphic enzyme in humans. Dextrorphan is an active metabolite that produces phencyclidine-like behavioral effects in animals and exhibits anticonvulsant and neuroprotective properties in a variety of experimental models. In these studies, we examined the effects of CYP2D6 phenotype and quinidine inhibition on the pharmacokinetics of dextromethorphan and its metabolites in humans. After a single oral dose of dextromethorphan HBr (30 mg), the major metabolites in the plasma of extensive metabolizers (N = 5) were conjugated dextrorphan and conjugated 3-hydroxymorphinan. Free dextrorphan concentrations were about 100-fold less than the conjugated dextrorphan, and dextromethorphan was not detectable. Pretreatment of these subjects with 100 mg of quinidine, a selective inhibitor of CYP2D6, significantly suppressed the formation of dextrorphan and elevated the concentrations of dextromethorphan (t1/2, 16.4 hours). In poor metabolizers (N = 4) given the same dose, dextromethorphan was the major component in the plasma with a t1/2 of 29.5 hours. Present at concentrations 5- to 10-fold less were conjugated dextrorphan and the other two metabolites. Urinary recovery studies indicated that the inhibition by quinidine was reversible and that the elimination of dextromethorphan primarily depends on CYP2D6 activity rather than renal elimination. These data demonstrated that the CYP2D6 phenotype and the concurrent administration of quinidine significantly affect the disposition of dextromethorphan and the formation of the active metabolite dextrorphan and are important factors to be considered in studies of the pharmacologic and behavioral effects of dextromethorphan.