The transition from stable to escalated levels of cocaine self-administration has been shown to depend upon drug availability. The generality of this phenomenon is assessed here by studying the effects of availability on heroin self-administration. Two groups of rats were trained on a 1-h continuous schedule of self-administration, after which, access to heroin (40 microg/injection) was increased to 11 h in one group (long access or LgA rats) or kept to 1 h in the other group (short access or ShA rats). After 18 sessions on this regimen, both ShA and LgA rats were tested for extinction and stress-induced reinstatement of heroin-seeking behavior. In LgA rats, both total and first hour intake gradually escalated over time. After escalation, LgA rats were slower to extinguish heroin-seeking behavior and responded more to the reinstating effect of stress after extinction. These findings show that: (1) the escalation process in drug consumption is common to both opiate and stimulant self-administration; (2) escalation in heroin consumption is associated with a persistent increase in the motivation for taking heroin.