Withdrawal of rats from chronic ethanol, morphine, cocaine and amphetamine resulted in a marked reduction in extracellular dopamine (DA) concentration in the ventral striatum as measured by microdialysis. Following ethanol and naloxone-precipitated morphine withdrawal, the time course of DA reduction paralleled that of the withdrawal symptomatology. On the other hand, following discontinuation of chronic cocaine, DA reduction was delayed by over 24 h but persisted for several days. After amphetamine withdrawal the fall in DA occurred more rapidly but the reduction also persisted for several days. The administration of the NMDA receptor antagonist, MK-801, to rats withdrawn from chronic ethanol, morphine or amphetamine, but not from chronic cocaine, readily reversed the fall in DA output. The reduction in extracellular DA during ethanol withdrawal was also reversed by SL 82.0715, another NMDA receptor antagonist.