Don’t laugh — well, maybe do laugh; researchers say there may be a new way to treat depression using nitrous oxide. And yes, that’s the laughing gas you may know from visits to your dentist.
The fairly gentle general anesthetic sometimes used in dental surgery may be an effective and quick-results treatment option for severe depression for patients who aren’t helped by usual therapies including antidepressant medications, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis suggest.
In a pilot study, WU researchers had patients undergo two rounds of treatment for depression, with one group getting inhaled placebos and another group getting the half-oxygen, half-nitrous oxide mixture used in dental procedures.
Two-thirds of the study participants to whom gas was administered reported substantial improvements in their depression symptoms, compared to just a third of participants in the control placebo group, the researchers reported in the journal Biological Psychiatry.