Anabolic androgenic steroids increase beta-endorphin levels in the ventral tegmental area in the male rat brain

Neurosci Res. 1997 Feb;27(2):185-9. doi: 10.1016/s0168-0102(96)01141-8.


The levels of beta-endorphin and Met-enkephalin-Arg-Phe (MEAP) immunoreactivity in various brain regions (including amygdala, cortex, hippocampus, hypothalmus, nucleus accumbens, pituitary and ventral tegmental area) were studied in male rats subjected to daily intramuscular injections during 14 days of high doses (5 and 15 mg/kg) of the anabolic androgenic steroid (AAS), nandrolone decanoate. At the nandrolone dose of 15 mg/kg a significant (about 20-fold) increase in beta-endorphin levels in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) was observed. The steroid did not significantly affect the concentration of the peptide at any dose in other brain areas examined. The levels of MEAP remained unaltered in all studied regions. A slight increase in serum concentrations of both peptides was also found but this elevation was not statistically significant. The observed increase in beta-endorphin in VTA was suggested to be involved in a mechanism by which the steroid may influence the reward system in the brain. An opioid mediated stimulation of the reward system following injection of AAS supports a previous hypothesis that AAS may induce psychological dependence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Chromatography, Ion Exchange
  • Enkephalin, Methionine / blood
  • Enkephalin, Methionine / metabolism
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Male
  • Nandrolone / administration & dosage
  • Nandrolone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Nandrolone / pharmacology
  • Nandrolone Decanoate
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • Testosterone Congeners / administration & dosage
  • Testosterone Congeners / pharmacology*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / drug effects
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / metabolism*
  • beta-Endorphin / blood
  • beta-Endorphin / metabolism*


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Testosterone Congeners
  • Enkephalin, Methionine
  • beta-Endorphin
  • Nandrolone
  • Nandrolone Decanoate