Abnormal rectal motor physiology and visceral hypersensitivity are implicated in the pathogenesis of irritable bowel syndrome. Endogenous opioids are involved in both the regulation of gut motility and the processing of sensory information. Our aim was to study the effect of suppression of endogenous opioid function by naloxone on rectal sensorimotor function in health. Eighteen healthy subjects participated in a rectal barostat study. Sensorimotor function was evaluated during two consecutive stepwise distensions separated by 30 min of basal tone recording, and with perception scoring on a 0-6 graded scale. Naloxone was administered, after 15 min of basal tone measurements, as an intravenous bolus (0.4 mg), followed by continuous infusion (20 μg kg−1 h−1) in a placebo-controlled, single-blinded and randomized fashion. Naloxone did not alter rectal sensitivity. Comparison of visual analogue scale scores between naloxone and saline did not reveal altered intensities of pain or discomfort. Compared to the baseline distension, a significant adaptive increase in compliance occurred during the second distension after saline (7.8 ± 0.7 vs 11.0 ± 0.6 mL mmHg−1, P = 0.0016). This dynamic change in rectal compliance did not occur after naloxone administration (8.8 ± 0.7 vs 10.1 ± 0.8 mL mmHg−1, ns). Low intensity tonic distension induced a rectal adaptive relaxation, which was absent after naloxone. Naloxone does not alter rectal sensitivity but abolishes rectal adaptation in response to repeated balloon distention. These observations suggest that the endogenous opioid system is involved in control of rectal tone rather than rectal sensitivity.