Recent studies in humans with no prior history of opiate abuse indicated that naloxone-precipitated signs of opiate withdrawal could be observed after a single exposure to morphine, and that the severity of withdrawal was enhanced following a second morphine exposure 24 h later. The current study was conducted to establish a paradigm in rodents that resembled these conditions described in humans. To that end, naloxone-precipitated (0.03-3.0 mg/kg) suppression of operant response rates and somatic signs of withdrawal following single or repeated treatments with morphine (5.0 mg/kg) were assessed in previously opiate-naive rats. In one group of rats, naloxone was administered 4 h after both the first and second morphine pretreatment, while in a separate group of rats naloxone was administered 4 h after the second morphine pretreatment only. A single morphine pretreatment significantly increased naloxone's potency to suppress operant response rates, and resulted in the precipitation by naloxone of certain somatic signs of withdrawal. The effects of naloxone on both dependent measures (operant response rates and somatic signs) were potentiated following a second morphine pretreatment, regardless of whether naloxone was administered following both morphine exposures or only following the second morphine exposure. Thus, repeated morphine administration appears to be the critical factor underlying the progressive increase in antagonist potency, whereas prior experience with naloxone is not a necessary factor. The results provide additional support for the hypothesis that the development of dependence on opiates is a progressive phenomenon that may begin with a single dosing.