Dopamine Agonists

Content written by Irwin Goldstein MD

Sexual behavior is modulated by a number of central nervous system neurotransmitters including dopamine. Dopamine agonists have been reported to improve sexual function. It is postulated that the increased levels of dopamine in the brain from dopamine agonists facilitate sexual functions including sexual interest and orgasm.

The dopamine agonist bupropion is used widely for treatment of depression. It has fewer reported adverse sexual side effects than traditional selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor based anti-depressants, and appears to affect the uptake of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Buproprion has been used “off-label” in women with sexual dysfunction for low sexual desire and anti-depressant-associated sexual dysfunction.

Another dopamine agonist is cabergoline, a drug that raises brain dopamine and lowers prolactin levels. Cabergoline can increase sexual interest and sexual orgasm, in part, by its dopamine agonist actions. It has also been used for sexual dysfunction not related to high prolactin. In patients with psychogenic sexual dysfunction, cabergoline treatment improved sexual desire, orgasmic function, and patient and partner sexual satisfaction.

Currently, multiple dopamine agonist-like drugs are being studied in clinical investigations for women with sexual dysfunction.