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The purpose of these experiments was to characterize the nature of tolerance to the analgesic action of nitrous oxide. Analgesia was assessed in rats using a tail-flick latency test and in mice using an abdominal constriction test. Rats and mice were exposed to nitrous oxide, 75 per cent, the balance oxygen, continuously for 16–18 hours. On re-exposure to nitrous oxide 30 min later, these animals were found tolerant to nitrous oxide in that the analgesic response was decreased by at least 50 per cent. Animals folerant to nitrous oxide were not tolerant to morphine. Morphine (0.25–1.5 mg/kg) produced equal degrees of analgesia in control and nitrous oxide-tolerant mice and rats. In contrast, rats made tolerant to morphine by repeated daily injections of as much as 400 mg/kg subcutaneously or by subcutaneous implantation of morphine pellets (75 mg, twice) showed a decreased analgesic response to nitrous oxide. Thus the cross-tolerance between nitrous oxide and morphine appears unique in that it is unidirectional.