This article presents the proceedings of a symposium entitled "The Tipsy Terminal: Presynaptic Effects of Ethanol" (held at the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, in Santa Barbara, CA, June 27, 2005). The objective of this symposium was to focus on a cellular site of ethanol action underrepresented in the alcohol literature, but quickly becoming a "hot" topic. The chairs of the session were Marisa Roberto and George Robert Siggins. Our speakers were chosen on the basis of the diverse electrophysiological and other methods used to discern the effects of acute and chronic ethanol on presynaptic terminals and on the basis of significant insights that their data provide for understanding ethanol actions on neurons in general, as mechanisms underlying problematic behavioral effects of alcohol. The 5 presenters drew from their recent studies examining the effects of acute and chronic ethanol using a range of sophisticated methods from electrophysiological analysis of paired-pulse facilitation and spontaneous and miniature synaptic currents (Drs. Weiner, Valenzuela, Zhu, and Morrisett), to direct recording of ion channel activity and peptide release from acutely isolated synaptic terminals (Dr. Treistman), to direct microscopic observation of vesicular release (Dr. Morrisett). They showed that ethanol administration could both increase and decrease the probability of release of different transmitters from synaptic terminals. The effects of ethanol on synaptic terminals could often be correlated with important behavioral or developmental actions of alcohol. These and other novel findings suggest that future analyses of synaptic effects of ethanol should attempt to ascertain, in multiple brain regions, the role of presynaptic terminals, relevant presynaptic receptors and signal transduction linkages, exocytotic mechanisms, and their involvement in alcohol's behavioral actions. Such studies could lead to new treatment strategies for alcohol intoxication, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism.