Could Laughing Gas Help to Treat Depression?

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Researchers in the USA have suggested that laughing gas, a substance used commonly to help dental patients feel relaxed, could be used to successfully treat depression.

Laughing gas, also known as nitrous oxide, has been used for many years in medicine and dentistry and it has become a popular party drug in recent years. Now, researchers in America have suggested that nitrous oxide could be beneficial for patients who suffer from depression.

Researchers from Washington University, St Louis conducted a pilot study, which involved 20 participants, all of whom had failed to notice significant improvements in their mental state following the use of other treatments, such as talking therapies and medication. The group was given laughing gas and a placebo gas and asked to describe how they felt 2 hours after each treatment and 24 hours later.

Some of the participants said they felt better after inhaling the placebo, but there were significant improvements following the inhalation of laughing gas. Seven study participants said they experienced minor improvements in their symptoms, (which included feeling low, insomnia, difficulty sleeping and feelings of guilt and sadness) while another seven individuals reported a significant improvement.

Charles Zormuski  from Washington University explained that further research is required, but the initial results are very positive. The effects of inhaling laughing gas were rapid and lasted for up to a week, which indicates that this could be a solution for patients who suffer from severe depression and require treatment very quickly. Medication can often take up to 2 weeks to have a positive effect and therefore nitrous oxide could provide a much faster alternative.

Peter Nagele, lead researcher on the study, explained that it was perhaps a little odd that nobody has ever thought to try a treatment that naturally makes people feel happy and relaxed to treat depression before. He added that the results of the study were interesting and very positive, and further research would be beneficial to see if this could be a viable treatment option in the future.

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