Researchers found individuals with depression that is unresponsive to conventional treatment responding to Nitrous Oxide, the laughing gas.
Laughing gas can now be used to treat severe depression. A mixture of Nitrous Oxide and Oxygen was found to relieve some symptoms and in a few all symptoms of depression struck patients who were not responding to standard treatment.
Exploration of the affect of Nitrous Oxide began in contrast to Ketamine, a sedative that produces a euphoric effect. Nitrous Oxide is non-addicting and does not carry extreme side effects as compared to Ketamine.
The study was a small pilot study. Journal Biological Psychiatry published the study. It was conducted over twenty people with severe, recalcitrant depression who were given a mixture of Nitrous Oxide and Oxygen.
Patients were given Nitrous Oxide for an hour one week and the next week a placebo. They were asked to explain their symptoms. Seven participants felt to have undergone a significant improvement. Another seven experienced mild improvement in their symptoms. Three patients said they felt no symptoms of depression at all after one hour inhalation of Nitrous Oxide. None of the patients experienced a worsening in symptoms. Also, none of the participants felt any relief of symptoms after placebo and there were complaints of worsening.
Nitrous Oxide is commonly used as an anesthetic agent and an analgesic agent, a pain reliever. As a chemical compound it is non-flammable, mildly sweet to taste and odor, and colorless in properties. The reason why it is known as the laughing gas is because it carries a euphoric effect which explains why it is often used for recreational purposes.
Although, the study shows improvements in symptom of severe depression, Nitrous Oxide is a temporary means of alleviating them as experts believe it is not a long term solution. Nonetheless, it is can be used to affect during the time period the standard medication take to become effective.
Laughing gas showed many benefits along with its easy to administer availability and low addictive potential but it did so at some cost, a little one. The side effects of Nitrous Oxide include nausea, vomiting and headaches.
The mechanism of action of both Nitrous Oxide and Ketamine is a mystery.