Recent studies have shown that methamphetamine is capable of potentiating the hepatotoxicity of carbon tetrachloride in mice. In the present study, it was found that this potentiation is sensitive to changes in the timing of the methamphetamine dose relative to the administration of carbon tetrachloride. Potentiation of hepatotoxicity, measured using serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) activity, was observed only if the dose of methamphetamine (15 mg/kg, i.p.) was given with, or 3 h after, the carbon tetrachloride dose (0.005 ml/kg, i.p.). No increase in carbon tetrachloride hepatotoxicity was evident when methamphetamine was administered 3 h before the carbon tetrachloride dose, or when given 6 or more hours after carbon tetrachloride. Increased covalent binding of carbon tetrachloride to proteins and lipids, shown previously to occur when methamphetamine and carbon tetrachloride are administered together, was not observed when methamphetamine was administered 3 h after the carbon tetrachloride dose and could not, therefore, account for the increased toxicity resulting from this treatment regimen. Pretreatment with the Kupffer cell inhibitor gadolinium chloride (10 mg/kg, i.v.) significantly diminished the potentiation of carbon tetrachloride hepatotoxicity by methamphetamine, suggesting that potentiation by methamphetamine involves, at least in part, a stimulation of Kupffer cells. Mice administered a methamphetamine pretreatment regimen known to induce behavioral sensitization displayed an enhanced potentiation of carbon tetrachloride hepatotoxicity, i.e. the extent of potentiation by methamphetamine was increased and the methamphetamine dose required for potentiation was diminished. Mice pretreated with a methamphetamine sensitization regimen were also found to be more responsive to the effects of morphine to enhance carbon tetrachloride hepatotoxicity. These observations suggest that there are important CNS, as well as hepatic, components in the potentiation of carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury by methamphetamine and perhaps other drugs.