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Nitrous oxide shows potential as a treatment for depression

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Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a common anesthetic.

AMELIE-BENOIST / BSI Pl / Alamy

Nitrous oxideAlso known as laughing gas, has been shown to be a promising treatment for depression. When people inhaled low doses as part of a small study, depression improved in the next two weeks.

It has long been known that nitrous oxide can temporarily raise mood and relieve pain, so it was originally called laughing gas, but its effects are thought to disappear soon. I will. Nitrous oxide is one of the most common anesthetics, used by hospitals, dental surgeries, paramedics, and illegally available in small recreational capsules.

The gas appears to affect the brain primarily by blocking molecules on nerve cells called N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors. This is the same target as the powerful anesthetic ketamine that relieves depression. a Ketamine-like chemicals It was recently approved as a new intranasal spray treatment.

It is not known how NMDA receptors change mood. However, when the antidepressant effect of ketamine began to appear, Peter NagereHe was an anesthesiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri at the time, and wondered if nitrous oxide had similar potential.

In 2014, when he inhaled nitrous oxide for an hour, Symptoms reduced up to 1 day For depressed patients who did not improve after trying standard antidepressants, this study did not record whether the effect lasted longer.

Prolonged use of nitrous oxide can cause nausea and headaches. So, in the latest study, Nagele’s team compared half and full doses of nitrous oxide with inhaled air-oxygen mixed placebo in 24 people with treatment-resistant depression. They were administered once a month for 3 months.

Two weeks after half-dose treatment, depression symptoms were reduced by an average of 5 points compared to placebo on the commonly used depression rating scale, with significant benefits. After treatment with Fulldose, the symptoms of depression improved a little, but the difference was so small that it could have happened by accident. The half-dose group also had a much lower incidence of side effects such as nausea, headache, and light-headedness.

Like ketamine, nitrous oxide has the advantage of being able to improve mood quickly, says Nagere, who is currently at the University of Chicago in Illinois. “Something happens in the brain-it’s like turning it on, but no one knows how this works.”

Journal reference: Science translational medicine, DOI: 10.1126 / scitranslmed.abe1376

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Nitrous oxide shows potential as a treatment for depression

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