In recent years several arylpiperazine derivatives have reached the stage of clinical application, mainly for the treatment of depression, psychosis or anxiety. Examples are the pyrimidinylpiperazine buspirone, the chlorophenylpiperazine derivatives nefazodone and trazodone, the dichlorophenylpiperazine aripiprazole and the benzisothiazolyl derivatives perospirone and ziprasidone. Most of them undergo extensive pre-systemic and systemic metabolism including CYP3A4-dependent N-dealkylation to 1-aryl-piperazines. These metabolites are best known for the variety of serotonin receptor-related effects they cause in man and animals, although some have affinity for other neurotransmitter receptors; others, however, are still largely unexplored despite uncontrolled use as amphetamine-like designer drugs. Once formed they distribute extensively in tissues, including brain which is the target site of most arylpiperazine derivatives, and are then primarily biotransformed by CYP2D6-dependent oxidation to hydroxylates which are excreted as conjugates; only 1- (2-benzisothiazolyl)-piperazine is more susceptible to sulfur oxidation than to aromatic hydroxylation. In studies analysing animal brain and human blood, 1-aryl-piperazine concentrations were either higher or lower than the parent compound( s), although information is available only for some derivatives. At steady state, the metabolite-to-parent drug ratios varied widely among individuals taking the same dosage of the same arylpiperazine derivative. This is consistent with the known individual variability in the expression and activity of CYP3A4 and CYP2D6. This review also surveys current published information on physiological and pathological factors affecting the 1-aryl-piperazine-to-parent drug ratios and examines the potential role of 1-aryl-piperazine formation in the pharmacological actions of the arylpiperazine derivatives that are already or will shortly be available in major markets.