In rats previously trained to self-administer heroin intravenously, the application of morphine directly to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) has been shown to reinstate responding after a period of extinction, suggesting that the activation of mesolimbic dopamine neurons might underlie the priming effects of i.v. injections of opiates and stimulants found previously. In the present experiments rats were trained to self-administer heroin intravenously. Following extinction training, and after a period of at least 30 min of no responding, bilateral microinjections of either 0.5 microliter saline or 10 micrograms/0.5 microliter (+)-amphetamine sulfate were made into the N. accumbens. Amphetamine, but not saline reinstated self-administration behavior for about 1 h. In contrast, bilateral intra-accumbens injections of either 5 or 10 micrograms/0.5 microliter morphine sulfate to these same animals led to only infrequent responses late in the 90 min session. Both drugs increased locomotor activity measured in independent tests. Because the locomotor activity produced by intra-accumbens morphine occurs independent of the mesolimbic dopamine system, unlike that produced by VTA morphine and intra-accumbens amphetamine, and because it does not show sensitization, it is argued that the reinstatement effects of opiates and stimulants on self-administration behavior are mediated by the mesolimbic dopamine system, and may be related to the ability of opiates and stimulant drugs to cause sensitization within that system.