When it comes to Nitrous Oxide, the first thing coming to mind is ‘laugh’. The gas is popularly known as laughing gas as it triggers the hormones responsible for laughing.
Nitrous Oxide is commonly used as an anesthetic in dentistry and medicine, but scientists believe that the gas could also be helpful in treating severe problem of depression in patients who do not respond to standard therapies.
“We are hoping that the therapy with nitrous oxide eventually could help many people with depression,” said lead study investigator Peter Nagele, who is an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
This is believed to be the first study in which depression patients were treated with laughing gas.
For the study, the researchers involved 20 patients with treatment-resistant clinical depression. They were given laughing gas in hope of treating the depression symptoms. It was found that two-third of the participants experienced an improvement in their symptoms due to nitrous oxide.
Even though the team evaluated the effects of the nitrous oxide treatment only two times over a 24-hour period, the results were found very encouraging.
Laughing gas attracts medical scientists due to its immense characteristics and negligible adverse effects like nausea and vomiting. It also exits the body very quickly once inhalation of the gas is stopped.
Nagele said, “It is quite surprising that it was never thought earlier that a drug could be developed that makes people laugh as a treatment for patients of depression and sadness.”
The findings of study were detailed online in the journal Biological Psychiatry.