Difference Between Dopamine and Endorphins

The main difference between dopamine and endorphins is that brain releases dopamine as a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behaviour whereas endorphins serve as natural morphine of the body, triggering in response to physical pain. Furthermore, dopamine is a neurotransmitter of the catecholamine family while endorphins are opioid neuropeptides. In addition, dopamine acts on the brain while endorphins act on both central and peripheral nervous systems. 

Dopamine and endorphins are two types of chemical messengers that also act as hormones. Moreover, they are two of the four chemicals responsible for happiness – the other two being serotonin and oxytocin. 

Key Areas Covered 

1. What is Dopamine
     – Definition, Structure, Function
2. What are Endorphins
     – Definition, Structure, Function
3. What are the Similarities Between Dopamine and Endorphins
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Dopamine and Endorphins
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms 

Brain, Dopamine, Endorphins, Neuropeptides, Neurotransmitters Difference Between Dopamine and Endorphins - Comparison Summary

What is Dopamine 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter of the catecholamine family, acting on the brain. Both brain and kidney synthesize dopamine by using L-DOPA as the precursor. However, even other animals and plants synthesize dopamine in addition to humans. Moreover, dopamine levels increase in the brain in response to many types of rewards in the brain. Generally, the brain only releases dopamine when an important goal is within reach. Otherwise, this neurotransmitter may deplete the energy reserves of the body.

Difference Between Dopamine and Endorphins

Figure 1: Dopamine 

Furthermore, outside the nervous system, dopamine performs several functions vital to the functioning of the body. Basically, it serves as a vasodilator by inhibiting the release of norepinephrine. It also increases sodium excretion and urine output in kidneys. It can also reduce gastrointestinal motility. Moreover, dopamine reduces insulin production by the pancreas. Furthermore, impairments of dopamine production in the brain cause several disease conditions. Here, the reduction of dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra of the midbrain results in Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, altered levels of dopamine cause schizophrenia.  

What are Endorphins 

Endorphins are endogenous opioid neuropeptides produced by the central and the pituitary gland of humans and other animals. Moreover, they are morphine-like substances, relieving physical pain. Thus, the main function of endorphins is to inhibit the transmission of nerve signals of pain. Generally, the three classes of endorphins include alpha-endorphins, beta-endorphins, and gamma-endorphins. The original precursor protein of these endorphins is proopiomelanocortin (POMC), fragmented into beta-lipotropin (β-LPH), giving rise to the three different forms of endorphins. 

Key Difference - Dopamine vs Endorphins

Figure 2: Beta-Endorphin

Moreover, endorphins act upon the central nervous system as well as the peripheral nervous system. Beta-endorphin is the form of endorphins acting on the peripheral nervous system. However, in the central nervous system, endorphins block the release of GABA while increasing the release of dopamine. Exercising and laughter are two key ways to induce the release of endorphins. In addition, aromatherapies including the smelling of vanilla or lavender can increase the production of endorphins. 

Similarities Between Dopamine and Endorphins  

  • Dopamine and endorphins are two types of neurotransmitters responsible for happiness. 
  • Therefore, they have a significant impact on motivation,  productivity, and wellbeing.    
  • Both can act on the brain. 
  • They act as hormones as well. 

Difference Between Dopamine and Endorphins 


Dopamine refers to a neurotransmitter in the brain, acting as a precursor of other substances such as adrenaline, while endorphins refer to any of a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system, activating the opiate receptors in the body. 


While dopamine is a neurotransmitter that belongs to the catecholamine family, endorphins are opioid neuropeptides.  


Moreover, dopamine is synthesized in the brain and kidneys while endorphins are synthesized by the central nervous system and pituitary gland. 


L-DOPA is the precursor chemical of dopamine while proopiomelanocortin (POMC) is the precursor protein of endorphins. 


Furthermore, dopamine acts on the brain while endorphins act on both central and peripheral nervous systems. 

Receptor Binding 

Dopamine binds to dopamine receptors and human trace amine-associated receptor 1 (hTAAR1) while endorphins bind to μ-opioid receptors.  


The main function of dopamine is to serve as a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behaviour while the main function of endorphins is to inhibit the communication of pain signals.  

Endocrine Function 

Furthermore, dopamine serves as a vasodilator in blood vessels, increases sodium excretion and urine output in kidneys, reduces insulin production in the pancreas, etc. while beta-endorphin affects the secretion of ACTH, prolactin, aldosterone, corticosterone, and somatotrophin formation in the pituitary gland in the absence of dopamine.  


Dopamine is one of the four neurotransmitters responsible for happiness. Generally, it acts on the brain in response to reward-motivated behaviour. It also serves as a vasodilator outside the nervous system while performing several other important functions. On the other hand, endorphins are another group of chemicals responsible for happiness. However, they act on both the central and peripheral nervous system. Moreover, they act like natural morphine in the body, reducing pain. Therefore, the main difference between dopamine and endorphins is type and function. 


1. “Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins, & Oxytocin.” The Utopian Life, 27 July 2016, Available Here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Dopamine chemical structure” By Cacycle – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia   
2. “Beta-endorphin 1-9” By Edgar181 (talk) – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia  

About the Author: Hasa

Hasanthi is a seasoned content writer and editor with over 8 years of experience. Armed with a BA degree in English and a knack for digital marketing, she explores her passions for literature, history, culture, and food through her engaging and informative writing.

Leave a Reply