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Laughing Gasoline has shown potential as a treatment for depression

By Clare Wilson Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a common anaestheticAMELIE-BENOIST/BSIPl/Alamy Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, has shown promise as a treatment for depression. When people inhaled a low dose as part of a small study, their depression improved over the next two weeks. It has long been known that nitrous oxide…

By Clare Wilson

Patient using nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a common anaesthetic

AMELIE-BENOIST/BSIPl/Alamy

Nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, has shown promise as a remedy for depression. When individuals inhaled a low dose as part of a little study, their depression improved over the next two weeks.

It has long been proven that nitrous oxide can give a brief boost to mood in addition to relieving pain — hence its original name of laughing gas — but that the effect is thought to wear off quickly. Nitrous oxide is one of the most common anaesthetics, utilized by hospitals, dental surgeries and paramedics, in addition to being available illegally in tiny capsules for recreational use.

The gasoline appears to mostly affect the mind by blocking molecules on neural cells known as N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. This is the identical thing targeted at the stronger anaesthetic ketamine, which also relieves depression; a similar chemical to ketamine has recently been approved as a new intranasal spray treatment.

It is not understood how NMDA receptors alter mood. But since the antidepressant effects of ketamine began to emerge,” Peter Nagele, an anaesthetist in Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri, believed if nitrous oxide had similar potential.

In 2014, he and his coworkers discovered that one hour’s inhalation of nitrous oxide reduced symptoms for up to a day in people with depression who had not improved after attempting standard antidepressant medicines, but the study did not document whether the result lasted no more.

Prolonged nitrous oxide use may lead to nausea and headaches. So, in the most recent study, Nagele’s team looked at 24 people with treatment-resistant melancholy and gave them half-dose nitrous oxide, a full dose or a placebo mix of oxygen and air. They were awarded one treatment a month for three months.

After two weeks, depression symptoms for those with the half-dose treatment h

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