Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

Possible New Treatment for Depression

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Around one third of people with depression do not find any relief with  existing treatments. That may be about to change thanks to the findings of a recent study.

 The study, believed to be the first of its kind, found promising results from the use of laughing gas (nitrous oxide) as a treatment for severe depression.

Findings from the study were presented on 9 December at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.


The Research – What They Did

The study involved 20 participants whose symptoms were resistant to conventional treatments. Participants were given a placebo or laughing gas – the same mixtures dentists give during dental procedures – but they were blind to which they were receiving.

Two hours after receiving the laughing gas, and again a day later, participants were assessed for their severity of symptoms – sadness, feelings of guilt, suicidal thoughts, anxiety and insomnia.

What They Found

 Two thirds of participants reported an improvement in symptoms after receiving the laughing gas. The improvement was evident 2 hours after treatment, a vast improvement on the two weeks or so it takes for conventional antidepressant treatments to make a difference.


Laughing gas has minimal side effects – the most common are nausea and vomiting.

It leaves the body very quickly once people stop breathing in the gas, which is why the improvements in symptoms a day later are considered to be a real effect and not because of any leftover gas.

More studies are needed but the path is a promising one. As explained by Peter Nagele, MD, lead researcher and assistant professor of anesthesiology at the School of Medicine, ‘It’s kind of surprising that no one ever thought about using a drug that makes people laugh as a treatment for patients whose main symptoms is that they’re so very sad.’

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Hey Warrior - A book about anxiety in children.








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We humans are meaning makers. We are storytellers We humans are meaning makers. We are storytellers at heart. It’s how we make sense of each other, our world, and most importantly, ourselves. But big feelings can hijack our stories. When anxiety drives the story, it tells tales of deficiency and lacking, and puts avoidance where courage should be - but we can change that.
.
When we get a feeling, we are driven to make sense of it. Anxiety feels awful. It’s meant to. It compels us to listen to, and act on, its story: ‘This is unsafe and you need to act.’ This is how it keeps us safe. When there is no obvious threat, it is understandable that the story that children (or any of us) might put to the feeling is, ‘I feel as though something bad is going to happen, so something bad must be going to happen.’ .
.
This is when anxiety grows teeth. It assumes a power it doesn’t deserve, and drive a response that holds brave hearts back. .
To change the response, we have to change the story. First, we validate, because that lets them feel us beside them. ‘I can see how worried you are about going to school. It makes so much sense that you want to stay home. I’d want to stay home too if I felt like that.’
⠀⠀
Then, to change how the story ends, we change how it begins. ‘Anxiety feels awful. It’s meant to - it’s how it keeps you safe from things that are actually dangerous, like dark alleys. But here’s the secret to doing hard things: Anxiety doesn’t only happen when something is dangerous. It also happens when there is something important or meaningful you need to do, like school or trying something new. It happens when you’re about to be brave. This is when you have a decision to make. Is this a time to stay safe, or is this a time to be brave?’
.
Then, we align with the part of them - and it’s always in them - that wants to be brave and knows they can be. It might be the tiniest whisper, or threadbare, or wilted by anxiety, but it will be there. .
Our job as their important people is to usher that brave part of them into the light, so they can start to feel it too. ‘You have done brave things before my darling, and I know you can do this. I know it with everything in me.’

We humans are meaning makers. We are storytellers at heart. It’s how we make sense of each other, our world, and most importantly, ourselves. But big feelings can hijack our stories. When anxiety drives the story, it tells tales of deficiency and lacking, and puts avoidance where courage should be - but we can change that.
.
When we get a feeling, we are driven to make sense of it. Anxiety feels awful. It’s meant to. It compels us to listen to, and act on, its story: ‘This is unsafe and you need to act.’ This is how it keeps us safe. When there is no obvious threat, it is understandable that the story that children (or any of us) might put to the feeling is, ‘I feel as though something bad is going to happen, so something bad must be going to happen.’ .
.
This is when anxiety grows teeth. It assumes a power it doesn’t deserve, and drive a response that holds brave hearts back. .
To change the response, we have to change the story. First, we validate, because that lets them feel us beside them. ‘I can see how worried you are about going to school. It makes so much sense that you want to stay home. I’d want to stay home too if I felt like that.’
⠀⠀
Then, to change how the story ends, we change how it begins. ‘Anxiety feels awful. It’s meant to - it’s how it keeps you safe from things that are actually dangerous, like dark alleys. But here’s the secret to doing hard things: Anxiety doesn’t only happen when something is dangerous. It also happens when there is something important or meaningful you need to do, like school or trying something new. It happens when you’re about to be brave. This is when you have a decision to make. Is this a time to stay safe, or is this a time to be brave?’
.
Then, we align with the part of them - and it’s always in them - that wants to be brave and knows they can be. It might be the tiniest whisper, or threadbare, or wilted by anxiety, but it will be there. .
Our job as their important people is to usher that brave part of them into the light, so they can start to feel it too. ‘You have done brave things before my darling, and I know you can do this. I know it with everything in me.’
...







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