Opioidergic neurotransmission and, specifically, the μ opioid receptor have been implicated in the reinforcing effects of a variety of drugs of abuse. Consequently, the present study examined the association of a polymorphic (CA)n repeat at the OPRM1 locus (the gene coding for the μ opioid receptor) to alcohol or drug dependence in 320 Caucasian and 108 African-American substance-dependent or control subjects. Among Caucasians, suggestion of a modest association, which could be interpreted as statistically significant (p= 0.03), was observed between OPRMl alleles and substance (alcohol, cocaine, or opioid) dependence. Analysis by specific substance showed only a trend level association to alcohol dependence. Comparisons among African Americans yielded no evidence for association. Further studies of the association between alleles of the OPRM1 gene and substance dependence appear warranted, particularly if they use a family-based approach to control for population stratication. Phenotypes other than a broad diagnostic categorization, such as opioid antagonist effects on drinking behavior in alcoholics, may provide more consistent evidence of a role for OPRMl in behavioral variability.