Anxiety is one of the early symptoms of opioid withdrawal and contributes to continued drug use and relapse. The acoustic startle response (ASR) is a component of anxiety that has been shown to increase during opioid withdrawal in both humans and animals. We investigated the role of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and norepinephrine (NE), two key mediators of the brain stress system, on acute heroin withdrawal-potentiated ASR. Rats injected with heroin (2 mg/kg s.c.) displayed an increased ASR when tested 4 h after heroin treatment. A similar increase in ASR was found in rats 10-20 h into withdrawal from extended access (12 h) to i.v. heroin self-administration, a model that captures several aspects of heroin addiction in humans. Both the α 2 adrenergic receptor agonist clonidine (10 μg/kg s.c.) and CRF1 receptor antagonist N,N-bis(2-methoxyethyl)-3-(4-methoxy-2-methylphenyl)-2,5-dimethyl-pyrazolo[1,5-a] pyrimidin-7-amine (MPZP; 20 mg/kg s.c.) blocked heroin withdrawal-potentiated startle. To investigate the relationship between CRF1 and α 2 adrenergic receptors in the potentiation of the ASR, we tested the effect of MPZP on yohimbine (1.25 mg/kg s.c.)-potentiated startle and clonidine on CRF (2 μg i.c.v.)-potentiated startle. Clonidine blocked CRF-potentiated startle, whereas MPZP partially attenuated but did not reverse yohimbine-potentiated startle, suggesting that CRF may drive NE release to potentiate startle. These results suggest that CRF1 and α 2 receptors play an important role in the heightened anxiety-like behaviour observed during acute withdrawal from heroin, possibly via CRF inducing the release of NE in stress-related brain regions.