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A Small Trail Finds Nitrous Oxide Role in Treatment of Depression

Laughing gas has been used to dull pain in dental offices and maternity units for more than a century, and researchers now think the gas, called Nitrous Oxide, may effectively treat Depression when other therapies have failed. According to the results of a small phase 2 clinical trial, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Nearly 30% of people diagnosed with major depressive disorder don’t respond to typical treatments, leaving a significant proportion of patients in need of new treatment options. The landscape for those patients began shifting in 2019 when the Food and Drug Administration approved therapy for treatment-resistant Depression based on the anaesthetic ketamine.

That works by blocking N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in the brain, which have been linked to major depressive disorder. Traditional antidepressants act on serotonin receptors in the brain. The new study expanded on an earlier proof-of-concept trial, which showed that inhaling 50% Nitrous Oxide, the amount used for pain management during medical procedures. That reduced depressive symptoms in people who were resistant to other treatments.

Nagele and the other co-authors wanted to know whether those effects were long-lasting, as well as whether a lower dose produce the same results with fewer side effects. The trial included 24 participants. More than 70% were women, 96% were white, and all experienced treatment-resistant Depression. Twenty participants completed the full trial, which involved receiving two doses at 25% and 50% concentrations of Nitrous Oxide and a placebo in a random order over three months. Each session took one hour.Ravi Das, a researching psychopharmacologist at University College London said that the key limitation is that it’s a very small study.

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