Drug addiction is a chronic relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use. Environmental conditioning factors are among the major determinants of relapse in abstinent cocaine users. Here we describe a role of the neuropeptide S (NPS) system in regulating relapse. In rats with a history of cocaine self-administration, presentation of stimuli predictive of drug availability reinstates drug seeking, triggering relapse. Intracerebroventricular (ICV) injection of NPS increased conditioned reinstatement of cocaine seeking, whereas peripheral administration of the NPS receptor antagonist SHA 68 reduced it. Manipulation of the NPS receptor system did not modify cocaine self-administration. We also found that ICV NPS administration activates c-Fos expression in hypocretin-1/orexin-A (Hcrt-1/Ox-A) immunoreactive neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (LH) and in the perifornical area (PeF). Of note, intra-LH and intra-PeF administration of NPS increased conditioned reinstatement of cocaine responding, an effect that was selectively blocked with the Hcrt-1/Ox-A receptor selective antagonist SB334867. Finally, results showed that intra-LH injection of the NPS antagonist [D-Cys(tBu) (5)]NPS blocked cue-induced cocaine seeking, indicating a role for this system in the pathophysiology of drug relapse.