Endorphins in male impotence: evidence for naltrexone stimulation of erectile activity in patient therapy

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1989;14(1-2):103-11. doi: 10.1016/0306-4530(89)90059-0.


In the present study we evaluated whether naltrexone administration could stimulate sexual function in 30 male patients, ages 25 to 50 years, with idiopathic impotence of at least one year's duration and not of organic etiology. The patients received naltrexone (50 mg/day) or placebo, on a random basis for two weeks. Sexual performance, expressed as the number of full coitus/week, was assessed before (time 0) and during (on days 7 and 15) each treatment. The naltrexone therapy significantly increased the number of successful coitus compared to placebo after 7 and 15 days of treatment: improvement of sexual performance was evident in 11 out of the 15 treated patients. All the patients experienced a significant increase in morning and spontaneous full penile erections/week. No significant side effects were reported. Endocrine studies revealed no significant modification of plasma LH, FSH or testosterone by naltrexone, suggesting that the positive effect of the drug on sexual behavior was exerted at a central level. A two-month follow-up, at which time patients were off treatment, erectile capacity had returned to baseline in 10 patients, while five reported complete recovery of their sexual ability. We hypothesize that an alteration in central opioid tone is present in idiopathic impotence and is involved in the impairment of sexual behavior.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Endorphins / blood*
  • Erectile Dysfunction / blood
  • Erectile Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Naltrexone / administration & dosage*
  • Penile Erection / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Opioid / drug effects
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Endorphins
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Testosterone
  • Naltrexone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone