Behavioral studies show that the GABAergic system in the central amygdala (CeA) nucleus has a complex role in the reinforcing effects effects of ethanol and the anxiogenic response to ethanol withdrawal. Opioid peptides and nociceptin/orphanin FQ (nociceptin) within the CeA are implicated also in regulating voluntary ethanol consumption and ethanol relapse. Recently, we reported that basal GABAergic transmission was increased in ethanol-dependent rats, and that acute ethanol increases GABA(A) receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in CeA neurons from both naïve and ethanol-dependent rats to the same extent, suggesting lack of tolerance for the acute effect of ethanol. Here, we investigated the effect of nociceptin on IPSCs in CeA neurons and its interaction with ethanol effects on these GABA synapses. We found that nociceptin moderately decreased IPSC amplitudes, acting mostly presynaptically as it increased paired-pulse facilitation ratio of IPSCs and decreased miniature IPSC frequencies (but not amplitudes). Nociceptin also prevented the ethanol-induced augmentation of IPSCs in CeA of naïve rats. Interestingly, in CeA of ethanol-dependent rats, the nociceptin-induced inhibition of IPSCs was increased, indicating an enhanced sensitivity to nociceptin. Nociceptin also blocked the ethanol-induced augmentation of IPSCs in ethanol-dependent rats. Our data suggest that nociceptin has a role in regulating the GABAergic system and opposing the effect elicited by ethanol. Thus, nociceptin may represent a therapeutic target for alleviating alcohol dependence.