Monday, June 14, 2021
Home Health 'Laughing Gas' May Help Tough-to-Treat Depression

‘Laughing Gas’ May Help Tough-to-Treat Depression

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 10, 2021 (HealthDay News) — When antidepressants fail to rein in hard-to-treat despair, the widespread anesthetic most know as “laughing gas” is perhaps a secure and efficient different, new analysis suggests.

The discovering follows work with 28 sufferers battling “treatment-resistant major depression,” a extreme situation that investigators say impacts about one-third of all sufferers — an estimated 17 million American adults — who develop main depressive dysfunction.

For such sufferers, antidepressants usually fail to offer reduction. But following three one-hour laughing fuel inhalation periods unfold throughout three months, 85% of sufferers had vital despair reduction that endured weeks post-treatment.

“Laughing gas is nitrous oxide, one of the oldest and most commonly used anesthetics,” defined research writer Peter Nagele, chair of anesthesia and important care on the University of Chicago.

“And we found that laughing gas, at a much lower concentration than is used, for instance, during dental procedures, can help patients with difficult-to-treat depression,” Nagele mentioned.


Between 2016 and 2019, Nagele’s workforce tried out two laughing fuel formulations: one at a stage of fifty% nitrous oxide and one at a stage of 25%.

Previous investigations had already demonstrated an antidepressant profit on the greater stage. But these efforts solely assessed a post-treatment advantage of 24 hours. And sufferers uncovered to the upper dose generally skilled unwanted effects, together with nausea, sedation and or “mild dissociation,” a sort of daydreaming expertise.

In the newest research, sufferers have been between the ages of 18 and 75. All have been informed to proceed their ordinary despair care and keep their current antidepressant routine.

About one-third have been uncovered to 3 periods of fifty% nitrous oxide inhalation remedy, one-third got a 25% nitrous oxide inhalation remedy and one-third got an oxygen inhalation remedy that contained no laughing fuel.

Treatment was delivered through a typical anesthesia face masks, and all have been monitored for as much as one hour post-treatment.

After 4 sufferers withdrew from the research, outcomes have been drawn from 20 sufferers who accomplished all three inhalation periods and 4 sufferers who accomplished no less than one remedy.


The investigators discovered that each formulations supplied vital despair management. In reality, only a single session (at both dosage) supplied “rapid” despair management amongst sufferers, the workforce famous.

Depression management additionally appeared to develop in impact over time, enduring as much as a month post-treatment amongst a number of the sufferers. At the three-month mark, the workforce discovered that 85% of sufferers had symptom enchancment and 40% have been discovered to be in despair remission.

Perhaps simply as importantly, the workforce additionally discovered that “using a lower concentration of nitrous oxide also reduced the risk of side effects fourfold.”

So, how precisely does laughing fuel tamp down despair?

“The mechanism of how nitrous oxide exerts antidepressant effects is unknown, and is likely different from how it induces sedation and unconsciousness and also pain relief,” Nagele mentioned. “Having said this, the most widely accepted theory is that nitrous oxide blocks a specific receptor in the brain called NMDA-receptor, which is also considered the main mechanism for [the medication] ketamine.”


Ketamine is a category III scheduled drug. While hospitals historically deploy the drug as an anesthetic, it is also been explored for its potential as an “off-label” remedy for despair.

According to Steven Hollon, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University in Brentwood, Tenn., “Ketamine is the hottest thing going” on the planet of different despair remedy analysis.

Hollon was not concerned within the new research, and acknowledged that he’s not well-versed within the specifics of nitrous oxide despair remedy analysis. Still, he confused that the discovering “suggests a common mechanism” with ketamine. And he characterised Nagele’s work as “a most impressive ‘proof-of-concept’ study that would make me want to see the matter pursued.”

The despair management seen amongst these sufferers uncovered to low-dose laughing fuel was “as good or better than you would hope to get in a placebo-controlled trial with antidepressant medications, and these are treatment-resistant patients. [It’s] quite impressive,” Hollon famous.

“If they came forward with this as pilot data, I would fund them for a major trial,” he added. “These are very promising findings.”


The report by Nagele and his colleagues was revealed within the June 9 subject of Science Translational Medicine.

More info

There’s extra on treatment-resistant despair on the Mayo Clinic.

SOURCES: Peter Nagele, chair, anesthesia and important care, division of anesthesia and important care, University of Chicago; Steven Hollon, PhD, professor, psychology, Vanderbilt University, Brentwood, Tenn.; Science Translational Medicine, June 9, 2021

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