Alterations in opioid signaling that take place in murine peritoneal macrophages in vitro are variably dependent on opiate exposure conditions. Acute exposure to morphine inhibits Fc-mediated phagocytosis by a pertussis toxin (PT)-sensitive mechanism, but has no effect on cAMP levels. In contrast, chronic exposure to morphine results in a "tolerant" state, wherein test and control values for both phagocytosis and cAMP are equivalent. However, drug withdrawal after chronic exposure to morphine results in inhibition of phagocytosis and a concomitant 4-fold increase in cAMP by a PT-insensitive mechanism. This increase is causally related to inhibition of phagocytosis since an artificial increase in cAMP inhibits phagocytosis in non-withdrawn cells exposed chronically to morphine. We suggest that macrophage opioid receptors signaling switches from a Gi/o-mediated mechanism that does not involve adenylate cyclase in acute exposure to a non-Gi/o-mediated adenylate cyclase superactivation during chronic exposure.