OBJECTIVE: Several studies have shown that achieving adequate serum valproate levels is critical to rapid stabilization of acute mania, but estimates of the target therapeutic level have been imprecise. A post hoc analysis of pooled intent-to-treat data from three randomized, placebo-controlled studies of divalproex treatment for acute mania was performed to test a hypothesized linear relationship between serum concentration and response and to determine optimal blood levels for treatment of acute mania. METHOD: Subjects (N=374) were stratified into seven groups (six valproate serum level ranges and placebo), and effect size was determined for each. Linearity of dose response was tested with both parametric and nonparametric techniques. ANOVA was used to compare the response at each serum level range with that of placebo as well as the lowest valproate level (≤55.0 μg/ml). The mean serum valproate level was then determined for all subjects with an effect size greater than or equal to the maximal effect derived from linear modeling. RESULTS: The fit of blood level and response to a linear model was good. Efficacy was significantly greater than placebo beginning at the 71.4–85.0 μg/ml range and for all higher valproate levels; the 94.1–107.0 and >107.0 μg/ml groups were superior to the lowest valproate serum level group. The effect size associated with highest serum levels (>94 μg/ml) was 1.06 (0.59 after placebo correction). Subjects obtaining this effect or greater (N=84) had a mean serum level of 87.5 μg/ml. Blood levels in the lowest effective range were 60% more effective than placebo and in the higher ranges were 120% more effective. Tolerability appeared similar for all groups. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study suggest that there is a linear relationship between valproate serum concentration and response and that the target blood level of valproate for best response in acute mania is above 94 μg/ml.