After single injections of ethanol (1-4 g/kg, i.p.), single unit extracellular recordings of rat cerebellar Purkinje cells show dramatically increased frequency of climbing fiber bursts and occasional increases in simple spike firing rate. These effects of ethanol are not observed in rats chronically treated with the substance for 11-14 days: firing patterns 0-3 h after the last ethanol administration do not differ significantly from controls. However, rats chronically treated and then withdrawn from ethanol slow significant, progressive decreases in climbing fiber activity and firing rates from 3 to 32 h after the last ethanol administration. These effects on cerebellar Purkinje cell firing appear to be physiological correlates of the phenomena of ethanol intoxication, tolerance, and dependence.