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“Laughter gas” can help treat depression hard

“Laughter gas” can help treat depression hard

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, JUNE 10, 2021 (HealthDay News) – When antidepressants it is not difficult to treat depression, common anesthetic a new study says most people know it as a “laughing gas” that can be a safe and effective alternative.

The finding is the work of 28 patients who are “treatment-resistant” great depression, “The serious condition of the researchers is that about a third of all patients (approximately 17 million American adults) develop a severe depressive disorder.

For such patients, antidepressants often do not provide relief. But after three sessions of inhaling hour-long laughter spread over three months, 85% of patients experienced significant relief from the depression they experienced weeks after treatment.

“Laughter gas is nitrous oxide, one of the oldest and most widely used anesthetics,” explains study author Peter Nagele, president of anesthesia and critical care at the University of Chicago.

“And we found that laughter gas, at a much lower concentration than is used, for example, in dental procedures, can help patients with depression that are difficult to treat,” Nagel said.


Between 2016 and 2019, Nagele’s team tested two formulations for laughing: one with a 50% nitrous oxide level and the other with a 25% level.

Previous research has already shown antidepressant benefits at a high level. But these efforts only evaluated the benefit after 24 hours of treatment. And patients who suffer from higher doses usually had side effects, among other things nausea, sedation or or “mild dissociation, “a kind of dream experience.

In the latest study, patients ranged in age from 18 to 75 years. They were all told to continue their regular depression care and maintain their existing antidepressant regimen.

Approximately one-third underwent three sessions of inhaling nitrous oxide at 50%, one-third inhaling 25% nitrous oxide, and one-third inhaling oxygen that had no gas to laugh at.

Treatment was given through a standard face mask under anesthesia and the treatment was monitored for up to an hour afterwards.

After taking four patients out of the study, 20 patients underwent three breathing sessions and at least one patient underwent one treatment.


The researchers found that both formulations provided great control for depression. In fact, a single session (in both doses) provided “rapid” control of depression among patients, the group noted.

Control of depression also seemed to be in place over time, until some months after treatment in some patients. Within three months, the group found that 85% of patients had improved symptoms and 40% were depressed. forgiveness.

As important as it may be, the team also found that “using a lower concentration of nitrous oxide also quadrupled the risk of side effects.”

So how does laughter affect depression?

“The mechanism by which nitrous oxide causes antidepressants is unknown, and it is likely that there are different ways that it causes sedation and unconsciousness and pain relief,” Nagel said. “That being said, the most widely accepted theory is that nitrous oxide blocks a specific receptor in the brain called the NMDA receptor, which is also considered to be the main mechanism. [the medication] ketamine “.


Ketamine III is a programmed class drug. While hospitals have traditionally used the drug as an anesthetic, its potential as an “off-label” treatment for depression has also been examined.

According to Steven Hollon, a psychology professor at Lieutenant Vanderbilt University in Brentwood, “Ketamine is the hottest thing going on in the world in the study of alternative treatments for depression.”

Hollon was not involved in the new study, and admitted that they are not well known in research into the treatment of nitrous oxide depression. However, he stressed that the findings suggest a common mechanism with ketamine. And he said Nagele’s work is the most spectacular “proof of the concept” that will make me want to see the issue addressed. “

The control of depression seen among patients who experienced low-dose laughter was “as good or better than what you would expect in a placebo-controlled trial with antidepressant medications. They are treatment-resistant patients. [It’s] quite impressive, ”Hollon noted.

“If they were to present it as pilot data, I would fund it for a major trial,” he added. “They are very promising discoveries.”


The report by Nagele and his colleagues was published in the June 9 issue Science in Translational Medicine.

More information

There is more depression in dealing with treatment Mayo Clinic.

SOURCES: Peter Nagele, Chair, Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, University of Chicago; Steven Hollon, PhD, Professor, Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Brentwood, Ten; Science in Translational Medicine, June 9, 2021

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