1. Dextromethorphan is a widely used antitussive agent which is a non- narcotic codeine analogue. We have investigated whether inhaled administration of dextromethorphan provides antitussive activity in a citric acid induced cough model. 2. Twenty normal subjects underwent repeated cough challenge with 5% citric acid. Subjects were studied on six occasions. Study medication consisted of oral dextromethorphan 30 mg or oral matched placebo or 1, 3 and 30 mg inhaled dextromethorphan or matched inhaled placebo. Cough challenge was administered 10 min after study medication and hourly thereafter up to 250 min. 3. No significant differences were seen between baseline cough responses. Oral dextromethorphan (30 mg) produced a mean percentage reduction in cough of 38% (P < 0.002), which remained significant at 250 min. Inhaled dextromethorphan had no clinically significant effect although activity at later time points was not excluded. The antitussive effect of oral dextromethorphan is confirmed with prolonged inhibition of induced cough. It is possible that dextromethorphan or its active metabolites act centrally to inhibit the cough reflex.