Nitrous Oxide also known as ‘Laughing Gas’ can be put to varied use and the latest is as an Anti Depressant. Nitrous Oxide can be found in the inventory of a dentist. Patients who inhaled a few whiffs of nitrous oxide led to a feeling of ease and improvement in their depressive symptoms.
Nitrous Oxide is labeled as a gentle anesthetic and is used by dentists, could be used as a treatment for severe depression in persons who have not responded to conventional treatment which includes anti depressant medications.
A study which was conducted under the aegis of Washington University in St. Louis had patients undergo two rounds of treatment for depression with one group inhaling placebos while the second group inhaled a mixture of half-oxygen, half-nitrous oxide which is used in dental procedure.
Two third of the study participants had reported a substantial improvement in their symptoms which are associated with depression compared to a third of the participants in the placebo group. The detail of the study was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
Dr. Peter Nagele, assistant professor of anesthesiology in the university’s School of Medicine said, “The nitrous oxide treatment improved [symptoms] above and beyond the placebo. This was fairly rapid, so at two hours. But our primary endpoint when we measured everybody — we asked the patients to come back the next day — was sustained to a day.”
Dr. Peter is convinced about the anti depression possibilities of nitrous oxide and he is also reviewing the earlier studies on Ketamine which was also used as a treatment for depression. Ketamine is a much stronger anesthetic which is often given to patients who are undergoing surgery.
Nagele says, “Interestingly, katamine and nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, share several aspects of how they work in the brain, and one core affect site is called the NMDA receptor. Both nitrous oxide and ketamine act on this mechanism.”
NMDA receptors are neurotransmitters aid memory and cognitive functions. How exactly this happens is not clear and this aspect of Nitrous Oxide needs to be further researched. Nitrous Oxide is a much benign and inert substance and since it can be inhaled, it is much more convenient as compared to ketamine which has to be administered intravenously.