N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists share a number of pharmacological effects with GABA(A) agonists, including anxiolytic and anticonvulsant effects. This study evaluated the effects of site-selective NMDA antagonists in rats trained to discriminate the benzodiazepine diazepam from vehicle. As expected, diazepam produced robust discriminative stimulus effects and dose-dependently substituted for the training dose. Mixed results were obtained with competitive NMDA antagonists: whereas NPC 17742 partially substituted for diazepam, SDZ EAA 494 did not elicit responding on the diazepam-associated lever. Other site-selective NMDA antagonists, including the open channel blocker phencyclidine, the glycine-site antagonists ACEA 1021 and MDL 102,288, the polyamine-site antagonist arcaine, and the glutamate release inhibitor riluzole, failed to substitute for diazepam. Agonists at nonbenzodiazepine sites of the GABA(A) receptor complex were also tested for comparison purposes. The barbiturate pentobarbital and the neurosteroid Co 2-1068 partially substituted for diazepam. In contrast, the anticonvulsant carbamazepine failed to substitute even at a dose that substantially reduced response rates. These results suggest that substitution of NMDA antagonists for GABA(A) agonists is dependent upon the site at which the NMDA antagonist binds. Further, they suggest that similarities between the stimulus properties of GABA(A) agonists and NMDA antagonists are at least as strong as similarities among agonists acting at different sites on GABA(A) receptors.