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Study: 'Laughing Gas' May Help Relieve Treatment-Resistant Depression

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Nitrous oxide—the anesthetic gas used by dentists—may relieve symptoms of depression in people who aren’t helped by antidepressants, according to a recent, small study in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Researchers studied 20 adults who’d had depression for an average of 19 years and who hadn’t gotten relief from taking several different antidepressants. The study participants were randomly assigned to inhale for one hour a gas that consisted of 50 percent nitrous oxide/50 percent oxygen or a placebo gas. The nitrous oxide/oxygen mix is the same dosage of nitrous oxide used by dentists. One week later, the participants switched treatments. During the study, they continued to take their usual treatments for depression; on average, they were taking two antidepressants.

Depressive symptoms improved significantly at two hours and 24 hours after treatment in people who received nitrous oxide compared to those who received placebo. At 24 hours, symptoms of depression were completely alleviated in three people who received nitrous oxide, compared to none of those who received placebo. In some people, the improvements lasted one week. There were no serious side effects.

Nitrous oxide is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating depression. The results of this study need to be repeated in much larger studies before doctors will prescribe nitrous oxide for depression.





Posted in Depression and Anxiety on April 8, 2016

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