Nitrous oxide, also known as whippets, is a promising treatment for depression, according to researchers at the University of Chicago Anesthesiologist Peter Nagele and colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine. Interestingly, nitric oxide affects the brain in the same way as Ketamine, another dissociative psychedelic drug that is also now being used to treat major depression. How it works to relieve depression, Nagele says, remains a mystery. From New Scientist:
Prolonged use of nitrous oxide can lead to nausea and headaches. So in the latest study, Nagele’s team looked at 24 people with treatment-resistant depression and gave them half a dose of nitrous oxide, a full dose, or a placebo mixture of air and oxygen. They received one treatment a month for three months.
After two weeks, depressive symptoms for those on half-dose treatment were reduced by an average of five points on a commonly used depression scale compared to those on placebo, which is a significant advantage. After full-dose treatment, depressive symptoms decreased slightly more, although the difference was so small that it could have occurred by chance. The half-dose group also had a much lower incidence of side effects, such as nausea, headache and dizziness.
“A Phase 2 trial of inhaled laughing gas for treatment-resistant major depression”
image (cropped): GreenZeb (CC BY-SA 3.0)