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Studies suggest that 80% to 90% of all patients in the manic state respond to lithium provided that they are relatively free of dysphoria ("pure mania"). In contrast, less than 40% of individuals in the manic state who cycle rapidly or are substantially dysphoric ("dysphoric mania") respond to lithium. These patients appear to be more responsive to carbamazepine and valproate. The authors conclude that carbamazepine and valproate are the drugs of choice if one desires to treat a rapidly cycling individual or patient with dysphoric mania with just one agent. However, they emphasize that a prospective study designed to identify the predictors of response of primary mania to lithium, carbamazepine and valproate is required. Studies assessing the relative value of lithium, carbamazepine or valproate as prophylactic agents in the care of patients with specific subtypes of mania are also needed. These studies would address the most important issues confronting researchers interested in the drug treatment of mania.