‘Laughing Gas’ May Help Tough-to-Treat Depression

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 10, 2021 (HealthDay News) — When antidepressants fall short to rein in hard-to-deal with melancholy, the frequent anesthetic most know as “laughing fuel” may well be a risk-free and productive option, new study suggests.

The discovering follows get the job done with 28 clients having difficulties with “treatment-resistant significant despair,” a significant issue that investigators say influences about one particular-3rd of all individuals — an estimated 17 million American older people — who establish important depressive problem.

For these patients, antidepressants frequently fall short to deliver aid. But next three just one-hour laughing fuel inhalation classes unfold throughout a few months, 85% of people had important melancholy relief that endured weeks publish-treatment.

“Laughing fuel is nitrous oxide, just one of the oldest and most commonly applied anesthetics,” defined analyze creator Peter Nagele, chair of anesthesia and critical care at the University of Chicago.

“And we identified that laughing fuel, at a much lower concentration than is employed, for occasion, for the duration of dental methods, can enable individuals with tough-to-deal with despair,” Nagele claimed.


In between 2016 and 2019, Nagele’s crew attempted out two laughing gas formulations: 1 at a level of 50% nitrous oxide and just one at a degree of 25%.

Preceding investigations experienced presently shown an antidepressant gain at the larger amount. But those people efforts only assessed a submit-remedy reward of 24 hours. And people exposed to the larger dose commonly expert facet results, together with nausea, sedation and or “delicate dissociation,” a form of daydreaming practical experience.

In the most up-to-date examine, clients had been amongst the ages of 18 and 75. All had been explained to to carry on their common despair care and manage their existing antidepressant program.

About one-third have been exposed to 3 sessions of 50% nitrous oxide inhalation cure, a single-3rd were provided a 25% nitrous oxide inhalation cure and 1-third were supplied an oxygen inhalation cure that contained no laughing fuel.

Treatment was sent via a standard anesthesia experience mask, and all had been monitored for up to one particular hour write-up-treatment method.

Soon after 4 individuals withdrew from the examine, outcomes had been drawn from 20 patients who accomplished all a few inhalation sessions and 4 sufferers who accomplished at least just one procedure.


The investigators located that each formulations supplied important despair command. In point, just a solitary session (at both dosage) provided “speedy” despair handle among people, the crew pointed out.

Depression control also appeared to improve in effect above time, enduring up to a thirty day period write-up-therapy amongst some of the clients. At the three-month mark, the crew identified that 85% of clients experienced symptom improvement and 40% were uncovered to be in despair remission.

Possibly just as importantly, the team also uncovered that “employing a decreased concentration of nitrous oxide also minimized the possibility of facet results fourfold.”

So, how particularly does laughing fuel tamp down despair?

“The mechanism of how nitrous oxide exerts antidepressant consequences is unknown, and is most likely unique from how it induces sedation and unconsciousness and also soreness reduction,” Nagele stated. “Owning said this, the most widely recognized idea is that nitrous oxide blocks a specific receptor in the mind referred to as NMDA-receptor, which is also viewed as the main mechanism for [the medication] ketamine.”


Ketamine is a class III scheduled drug. While hospitals usually deploy the drug as an anesthetic, it is also been explored for its likely as an “off-label” procedure for depression.

According to Steven Hollon, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt College in Brentwood, Tenn., “Ketamine is the best issue heading” in the earth of alternate despair therapy analysis.

Hollon was not included in the new examine, and acknowledged that he is not very well-versed in the particulars of nitrous oxide despair therapy investigation. Still, he pressured that the discovering “suggests a common mechanism” with ketamine. And he characterized Nagele’s get the job done as “a most spectacular ‘proof-of-concept’ analyze that would make me want to see the issue pursued.”

The melancholy handle viewed among those people clients uncovered to minimal-dose laughing gas was “as good or superior than you would hope to get in a placebo-controlled demo with antidepressant drugs, and these are cure-resistant individuals. [It’s] pretty remarkable,” Hollon famous.

“If they arrived ahead with this as pilot knowledge, I would fund them for a significant demo,” he additional. “These are quite promising findings.”


The report by Nagele and his colleagues was revealed in the June 9 situation of Science Translational Drugs.

More details

There’s a lot more on cure-resistant depression at the Mayo Clinic.

Sources: Peter Nagele, chair, anesthesia and essential treatment, section of anesthesia and important treatment, College of Chicago Steven Hollon, PhD, professor, psychology, Vanderbilt University, Brentwood, Tenn. Science Translational Medication, June 9, 2021

Resource connection

Back to top button