An unbiased place preference conditioning procedure was used to examine the role of delta-opioid receptors in mediating the aversive effects of opioid withdrawal. Rats were implanted s.c. with two pellets each containing placebo or 75 mg morphine. Single-trial conditioning sessions with saline and the opioid receptor antagonists naloxone (0.001-1.0 mg/kg, s.c.), naltrindole (0.01-3.0 mg/kg, s.c.) or naltriben (0.01-3.0 mg/kg, s.c.) commenced 4 days later. During these conditioning sessions, physical signs of withdrawal were also quantified. Tests of conditioning were conducted on day 5. Naloxone in doses of 0.01-1.0 mg/kg produced significant conditioned place aversions in morphine-implanted animals. A dose of 0.01 mg/kg produced few physical withdrawal signs whereas higher doses resulted in marked wet dog shakes, body weight loss ptosis and diarrhea. No such effects were observed in control (placebo-implanted) animals. Administration of the selective delta-opioid receptor antagonists naltrindole and naltriben produced dose-related place aversions in morphine-implanted animals. The magnitude of these effects did not differ from that observed with naloxone. The minimum effective doses of naltrindole and naltriben were 0.1 mg/kg. Doses of 0.1-1.0 mg/kg produced few, if any, somatic signs of withdrawal whereas higher doses of these antagonists only produced diarrhea and wet-dog shakes. Other withdrawal signs were absent. In contrast to the opioid receptor antagonists tested, the dopamine D1 receptor antagonist SCH23390 failed to produced conditioned place aversions or physical signs of withdrawal in morphine-pelleted animals. These data demonstrate that the selective blockade of either delta- or mu-opioid receptors is sufficient to induce conditioned aversive effects in morphine-dependent animals. They also indicate that physical symptoms associated with precipitated morphine withdrawal differ depending upon the opioid receptor antagonist employed.