DHEA is a steroidal pro-hormone, naturally produced from cholesterol. DHEA synthesized in the brain functions as a neurosteroid. DHEA is the most abundant circulating steroid hormone in humans, although its secretion changes across the lifespan. Its natural production in the body begins at the age of 7 and peaks at the age of 25, followed by a steady decline in production; by the age of 75, it is at ~20% of its peak amount.

DHEA is essential for the immunological system, and was shown to help prevent various diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. 

DHEA was also found to boost energy, improve mood and well-being, decrease depression and anxiety, and also have an anti-aging effect [1, 2].  DHEA may have weak side effects, e.g., transient increase in hepatic enzymes, increased perspiration, oily facial skin or increased facial hair, abdominal pain, sleep disturbances, rash, or breast sensitivity. These transient effects were seen mostly at a higher doses of 100-200 mg per day given for 12-24 weeks [3, 4]; as for longer periods of 10-12 months (at 50 mg DHEA), either slight or no serious adverse events were reported [5, 6].   For treatment of addiction, DHEA is generally taken at the higher doses, and therefore patients require tight supervision, including weekly data collection and analysis, and possible alterations of DHEA dosage accordingly.

Supporting Research

  1.  Yadid G, Sudai E, Maayan R, Gispan I, Weizman A. The role of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in drug-seeking behavior. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010 Nov;35(2):303-14.

  2. Vinson GP, Brennan CH. Addiction and the adrenal cortex. Endocr Connect. 2013 May 31.

  3. Chang DM, Lan JL, Lin HY, Luo SF. Dehydroepiandrosterone treatment of women with mild-to-moderate systemic lupus erythematosus: a multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum 2002. 46 (11): 2924–2927.  

  4. Flynn MA, Weaver-Osterholtz D, Sharpe-Timms KL, Allen S, Krause G. Dehydroepiandrosterone replacement in aging humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1999. 84(5):1527-33.

  5. Brooke AM, Kalingag LA, Miraki-Moud F, Camacho-Hübner C, Maher KT, Walker DM, Hinson JP, Monson JP. Dehydroepiandrosterone improves psychological well-being in male and female hypopituitary patients on maintenance growth hormone replacement. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2006. 91 (10): 3773–3779.

  6. Villareal DT, Holloszy JO. DHEA enhances effects of weight training on muscle mass and strength in elderly women and men. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 291. 2006 (5): E1003–1008.