The 3 alpha-hydroxy A-ring-reduced steroid alphaxalone was examined for its ability to block stress-induced behavioral effects. Alphaxalone (3 and 6 mg/kg, IP) significantly antagonized the response-suppressing effects of corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) (0.5 micrograms, ICV) on punished responding in a conflict paradigm. In the plus maze, alphaxalone (3 and 6 mg/kg, IP) blocked the anxiogenic behavioral effects produced by a prior ambient-temperature swim stress. These doses of alphaxalone produced no intrinsic effects on plasma ACTH levels, nor did they attenuate CRF-induced increases in plasma ACTH. These findings support the hypothesis that some pregnane steroids may be involved in the modulation of an animal's behavioral response to stress and suggest that these effects may occur independently of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis.