The effect of a dopamine receptor antagonist on locomotor activity was examined during withdrawal from either self-administered or experimenter-administered cocaine. In the self-administration experiment, the locomotor response to a challenge injection of cis-flupenthixol was assessed in photocell cages at 4 h after the cessation of a 12-h cocaine self-administration session. Rats which had self-administered cocaine, and were challenged with cis-flupenthixol (0.05 mg/kg), were found to be hypoactive relative to controls. In the experimenter-administered cocaine experiment, animals were given eight IP injections of 15 mg/kg cocaine over a 9.5-h period, for a total of 120 mg/kg. At 4, 8, and 24 h (tested in three separate groups of rats) after cessation of the eight injections, the locomotor response to a challenge injection of saline or cis-flupenthixol was tested. Cocaine-treated animals displayed a dose-dependent, heightened sensitivity to the locomotor depressant effects of 0.05 mg/kg and 0.2 mg/kg cis-flupenthixol 4 h post-cocaine, whereas they did not show increased sensitivity to 0.05 mg/kg cis-flupenthixol 8 or 24 h post-cocaine. However, cocaine-treated animals displayed a mild hypoactivity 8 h post-cocaine. In a separate group of animals, a dose-response experiment was performed which indicated that a dose of cis-flupenthixol as high as 0.2 mg/kg was required to produce locomotor depression in cocaine-naive rats. The results of this study support clinical observations of dopamine antagonist-precipitated motor dysfunction in abstinent cocaine abusers, and lend further support to the hypothesis that alterations in dopaminergic neurotransmission consequent to prolonged cocaine exposure are partly responsible for some of the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal.