Regional cerebral blood flow (RCBF) was measured with the [14C]iodoantipyrine technique and quantitative autoradiography in awake, restrained rats shortly after intravenous injection of heroin, naloxone or naloxone before heroin. The RCBF observed in these animals was compared to those obtained in similarly treated, saline-injected rats. In an identically treated series of animals, no significant change in arterial blood gases, pH or bicarbonate was seen following any of the drug treatments at the equivalent time RCBF was determined. Blood flow increased an average 36% in 37 of the 40 areas measured 1 min after heroin injection. Significant increases were found in 21 areas including visual and piriform cortex, basal ganglia, diencephalon, limbic system, midbrain tegmentum, superior colliculus, periaqueductal gray, internal capsule and fornix. These elevations in blood flow were reversed in rats receiving heroin following naloxone pretreatment. RCBF decreased in 35 areas (mean = -12%) 4 min after naloxone injection; a 40% decrease in blood flow to entorhinal cortex was significant. These results suggest that opiate receptor stimulation by heroin increases functional activity within selected brain areas, and this effect is not limited to regions with dense populations of opiate receptors.