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ANIMAL models have revealed that psychoactive cannabinoids induce both anxiolytic and anxiety-like reactions which are dose- and context-dependent. In the present study we examined the acute actions of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor antagonist SR 141716A in both the defensive withdrawal test and the elevated plus-maze in rats. Acute administration of SR 141716A (0.1, 1 and 3 mg kg−1) induced defensive responses in both anxiety tests, at a dose of 3 mg kg−1. This dose had no effect on horizontal locomotor activity and did not activate the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis, although several cannabinoid withdrawal-like behavioural symptoms were observed. These results demonstrate that blockade of the endogenous cannabinoid tone might induce anxiety-like responses in rats.