The activity of dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area is modulated by excitatory (glutamatergic) and inhibitory (GABAergic) afferents. GABA, released by intrinsic neurons and by projection neurons originating in the nucleus accumbens and other regions, inhibits dopamine neurons via activation of GABA(A) and GABA(B) receptor subtypes. Using in vivo microdialysis in freely moving rats, we investigated the role of ventral tegmental area GABA(B) receptors in modulating levels of dopamine and glutamate within the ventral tegmental area, both in naive rats and in rats treated repeatedly with saline or amphetamine (5 mg/kg i.p., for 5 days). In naive rats, administration of a potent and selective GABA(B) receptor antagonist (CGP 55845A) into the ventral tegmental area elicited a concentration-dependent increase in dopamine levels, but did not alter glutamate levels. In rats tested 3 days after discontinuing repeated amphetamine administration, 50 microM CGP 55845A increased dopamine levels to a greater extent than in saline controls. This difference was no longer present in rats tested 10-14 days after discontinuing repeated amphetamine injections. CGP 55845A (50 microM) had no effect on glutamate levels in the ventral tegmental area of saline-treated rats. However, it produced a robust increase in glutamate levels in rats tested 3 days, but not 10-14 days, after discontinuing repeated amphetamine injections. These results suggest that somatodendritic dopamine release is normally under strong tonic inhibitory control by GABA(B) receptors. Repeated amphetamine administration enhances GABA(B) receptor transmission in the ventral tegmental area during the early withdrawal period, increasing inhibitory tone on both dopamine and glutamate levels. This is the first demonstration, in an intact animal, that drugs of abuse alter GABA(B) receptor transmission in the ventral tegmental area.