While so many people are spending hundreds of bucks on treating depression, a mental disorder that becomes more and more prevalent in the world, the perfect remedy could be easier than anyone thought. If we look only at the statistics in the US, the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) estimates that 16.2 million adults had at least a major depression episode in 2016.
GIZMODO brings good news for those suffering from depression: a simple dose of laughing gas could be just what they need, even in the case of hard-to-treat depression. The conclusion came after a new small clinical trial.
Inhaling nitrous oxide (N₂O) is the answer
According to the new study, those who inhaled nitrous oxide reported improvements in their depression. The discovery isn’t too surprising, considering that nitrous oxide is a gas that was used before as a recreational drug because of the euphoria and hallucinations it can cause after inhalation. Even in the case of a smaller dose, the people surveyed for the new study felt similar improvements as when they got a larger one.
Peter Nagele, who is a researcher and trauma anesthesiologist at the University of Chicago, began even a few years ago to analyze nitrous oxide along with his colleagues to see if it can act as a treatment for depression.
Nagele wrote for GIZMODO in an email:
It started with the observation that ketamine, a different anesthetic with similar mechanistic properties like nitrous oxide (likely via NMDA-receptor blockage), was found to be a rapid antidepressant that also worked in patients with treatment-resistant depression,
By connecting these dots, we hypothesized that nitrous oxide may also be an antidepressant.
The new study was published in Science Translational Medicine, and it’s a Phase II controlled trial of the treatment.