Chronic cocaine administration produces significant increases in cocaine-induced locomotor activity and stereotypy. In vivo microdialysis procedures were used to monitor extracellular dopamine (DA) and cocaine concentrations in the nucleus accumbens (N ACC) and cocaine concentrations in plasma of animals that received chronic or acute cocaine treatments. Following a cocaine challenge injection, concentrations of both cocaine and DA increased to significantly higher levels over time in animals that had received daily cocaine injections for 10 or 30 days than in control animals that received daily injections of saline. Concentrations of cocaine and DA in the N ACC reached maximum levels in the first 30 min following a challenge injection of cocaine. The maximum cocaine concentrations of 10- and 30-day chronic animals were, respectively, 186% and 156%, whereas the maximum DA concentrations were 264% and 216% above the maximum values observed in acute control animals. The results indicate that reverse tolerance effects observed following chronic cocaine administration may in part be accounted for by increased cocaine concentrations. Furthermore, chronic cocaine administration (over a 10- or 30-day period) increased the concentration of cocaine detected in plasma above control levels following a challenge injection. The increase in brain concentrations of cocaine in chronic animals is apparently due to increased concentrations of cocaine in plasma. A physiological change occurs in the periphery as a result of chronic cocaine administration that increases cocaine concentrations in plasma, increases extracellular cocaine levels in the brain, and increases the extracellular concentration of DA in the N ACC.