Interactions between opioids and anabolic androgenic steroids: implications for the development of addictive behavior

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2012;102:189-206. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-386986-9.00008-9.


Over the past decades, research on doping agents, such as anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS), has revealed that these compounds are often used in combination with other drugs of abuse. It seems that misuse of AAS probably involves more than a desire to enhance appearance or sports performance and studies have revealed that steroids are commonly connected with alcohol, opioids, tobacco, and psychotropic drugs. We have observed that AAS may interact with the endogenous opioids, excitatory amino acids, and dopaminergic pathways involved in the brain reward system. Furthermore, our studies provide evidence that AAS may induce an imbalance in these signal systems leading to an increased sensitivity toward opioid narcotics and central stimulants. In fact, studies performed in various clinics have shown that individuals taking AAS are likely to get addicted to opioids like heroin. This chapter reviews current knowledge on interactions between AAS and endogenous as well as exogenous opioids based not only on research in our laboratory but also on research carried out by several other clinical and preclinical investigators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Androgens / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / chemically induced*
  • Behavior, Addictive / complications
  • Behavior, Addictive / metabolism*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Doping in Sports / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / pharmacology
  • Opioid Peptides / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Androgens
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Opioid Peptides