INSERM researchers reveal that laughing gas, used as an anesthetic, could be effective in the treatment of severe depression. Here are the conclusions of their work.

What is laughing gas used for?

Also called nitrous oxide, laughing gas is used as an anesthetic and analgesic in medicine. It is an odorless gas that contains as much oxygen as nitrous oxide. It is often used to perform painful treatments in children and adults.

This gas is also consumed by young people for recreational purposes, for its euphoric effects. They will look for it in the whipped cream siphon cartridges.

An effective treatment for resistant depression?

Inserm researchers carried out a study on patients suffering from severe depression, resistant to traditional treatments with antidepressants (this concerns 30% of depressives). They administered one hour of laughing gas to women aged 25 to 50 suffering from severe depression.

Just one hour of laughing gas reduced symptoms of depression in half of the patients. The positive effects of laughing gas even lasted several months for some of them. For comparison, treatment with an antidepressant generally takes several weeks, or even several months, to take effect.

To understand how laughing gas acts on the brains of depressed patients, the researchers gave the participants a brain MRI, before and after treatment with nitrous oxide.

They realized that laughing gas had the effect to deactivate the areas of the brain responsible for depression. In other words, it had the effect of anesthetize them.

This important discovery represents hope for treating severe depression.

Thus, the positive effects of laughing gas but also of hallucinogenic mushrooms and ketamine on the symptoms of depression, could pave the way towards a new generation of antidepressants.

Laughing gas can be dangerous

The use of laughing gas must be supervised and carried out under medical supervision.

This gas, if used incorrectly, in too high doses or for too long, can cause severe neurological damage. such as paralysis or spinal cord injuries.

Annabelle Iglesias


June 5, 2024, at 12:20 p.m.

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