DHEA and depression in HIV positive patients.




Am J Psychiatry

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Professional Data: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)


DHEA has been heavily publicized for its potential use as an anti-aging agent. It is a hormone that functions as a precursor for the production of more than 50 other hormones in the body. It is estimated that from 30 to 50 percent of testosterone in men and about 75 percent of estrogen in women is derived from DHEA. Human production of DHEA normally peaks during a person's mid-20s and then begins a steady, progressive decline.

DHEA is only produced in the bodies of humans and other primates such as monkeys and apes. There are no good dietary sources of DHEA other than supplementation.

Much of the press on DHEA has covered its potential use in slowing the aging process. Studies have suggested that DHEA can enhance muscle strength and lean body mass while boosting immunity. Other benefits may include enhanced energy and sex drive, improved mood and sleep patterns, and a greater capacity to deal with stress. Further studies in animals suggest that DHEA may be helpful for such conditions as obesity, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.

A recent study stated that mild depression is common in HIV/AIDS patients. The role of this study was to determine if DHEA supplementation could help alleviate the symptoms of depression. A total of 145 HIV/AIDS patients with symptoms of depression were recruited. Not all participants completed the study. This 8-week placebo-controlled trial used flexible DHEA dosing, 100-400 mg per day. The outcome was measured by a Clinical Global Impression and a Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. The results showed that the response rate for the DHEA supplementation was 62% versus 33% in the placebo group. There were few adverse events reported in both groups. The authors of this study concluded that, “Nonmajor but persistent depression is common in patients with HIV/AIDS, and DHEA appears to be a useful treatment that is superior to placebo in reducing depressive symptoms.”1


1. Rabkin JG, et al. Placebo-Controlled Trial of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) for Treatment of Nonmajor Depression in Patients With HIV/AIDS. Am J Psychiatry 163:59-66, January 2006.