The effects of cocaine on defensive withdrawal behavior in rats and elevated plus-maze behavior in mice were investigated. Cocaine (20 mg/kg IP) injected daily for 7 or 14 days induced defensive withdrawal; that is, the latency to emerge from a small chamber in an open field and the mean time in the chamber were both significantly increased. Acute cocaine administration also induced defensive withdrawal, and this effect was prevented by prior treatment with chlordiazepoxide (5 mg/kg IP). Both acute and chronic cocaine treatments significantly increased plasma concentrations of corticosterone and reduced the ratios of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid to dopamine and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid to serotonin in several brain regions. Further evidence for an acute anxiogenic effect of cocaine was obtained from mice studied in the elevated plus-maze. Acute cocaine administration decreased both the number of entries into and the time spent in the open arms of the maze. These results taken together strongly support an anxiogenic action of acute and chronic cocaine administration.