This experiment was designed to characterize the withdrawal syndrome produced by discontiuation of treatment with escalating, non-neurotoxic doses of d-amphetamine (AMPH). AMPH withdrawal was associated with both transient and persistent changes in behavior and postmortem brain tissue catecholamine concentrations. During the first week of withdrawal rats showed a significant decrease in spontaneous nocturnal locomotor activity. This behavioral depression was most pronounced on the first 2 days after the discontinuation of AMPH pretreatment, was still evident after 1 week, but had dissipated by 4 weeks. Behavioral depression was not due to a simple motor deficit, because AMPH-pretreated animals showed a normal large increase in locomotion when the lights initially went out, but they did not sustain relatively high levels of locomotor activity throughout the night, or show the early morning rise in activity characteristic of controls. Behavioral depression was associated with the transient decrease in the concentration of norepinephrine (NE) in the hypothalamus, and a transient decrease in the ability of an AMPH challenge to alter dopamine (DA) concentrations in the caudate-putamen and nucleus accumbens. AMPH pretreatment also produced persistent changes in brain and behavior. The persistent effects of AMPH were not evident in spontaneous locomotor activity, but were revealed by a subsequent challenge injection of AMPH. AMPH pretreated animals were markedly hyper-responsive to the stereotypy-producing effects of an AMPH challenge. This behavioral sensitization was not fully developed until 2 weeks after the discontinuation of AMPH pretreatment, but then persisted undiminished for at least 1 year. It is suggested that the transient changes in brain and behavior described here may represent an animal analogue of the "distress syndrome" seen in humans during AMPH withdrawal, which is associated with symptoms of depression and alterations in catecholamine function. On the other hand, persistent behavioral sensitization may be analogous to the enduring hypersensitivity to the psychotogenic effects of AMPH seen in former AMPH addicts.