The effect of different contextual stimuli on different ethanol-induced internal states was investigated during the time course of both the hypothermic effect of the drug and of drug tolerance. Minimitters were surgically implanted in 16 Wistar rats to assess changes in their body temperature under the effect of ethanol. Rat groups were submitted to ethanol or saline trials every other day. The animals were divided into two groups, one receiving a constant dose (CD) of ethanol injected intraperitoneally, and the other receiving increasing doses (ID) during the 10 training sessions. During the ethanol training sessions, conditioned stimuli A (tone) and B (buzzer) were presented at "state +" (35 min after drug injection) and "state -" (170 min after drug injection), respectively. Conditioned stimuli C (bip) and D (white noise) were presented at moments equivalent to stimuli A and B, respectively, but during the saline training sessions. All stimuli lasted 15 min. The CD group, but not the ID group, developed tolerance to the hypothermic effect of ethanol. Stimulus A (associated with drug "state +") induced hyperthermia with saline injection in the ID group. Stimulus B (associated with drug "state -") reduced ethanol tolerance in the CD group and modulated the hypothermic effect of the drug in the ID group. These results indicate that contextual stimuli acquire modulatory conditioned properties that are associated with the time course of both the action of the drug and the development of drug tolerance.