We used in vivo microdialysis in awake rats to test the hypothesis that intravenous morphine increases serotonin (5-HT) release within the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM). We also injected morphine into various sites along the rostrocaudal extent of the periaqueductal gray (PAG), and examined the extent of its diffusion to the RVM. Intravenous morphine (3.0 mg/kg) produced thermal antinociception and increased RVM dialysate 5-HT, 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid (5-HIAA), and homovanillic acid (HVA) in a naloxone-reversible manner. As neither PAG microinjection of morphine (5 μg/ 0.5 μL) nor RVM administration of fentanyl or D-Ala(2),NMe-Phe(4),Gly-ol(5)]enkephalin (DAMGO) increased RVM 5-HT, we were unable to determine the precise site of action of morphine. Surprisingly, peak morphine levels in the RVM were higher after microinjection into the caudal PAG as compared to either intravenous injection or microinjection into more rostral sites within the PAG. Naloxone-precipitated withdrawal in morphine-tolerant rats not only increased extracellular 5-HT in the RVM, but also dopamine (DA) and HVA. We conclude that substantial amounts of morphine diffuse from the PAG to the RVM, and speculate that opioid receptor interactions at multiple brain sites mediate the analgesic effects of PAG morphine. Further studies will be required to elucidate the contribution of 5-HT and DA release in the RVM to opioid analgesia and opioid withdrawal.