Doctors study laughter as a medicine for depression

Doctors study laughter as a medicine for depression

ST. LOUIS (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) - No energy, living in darkness, thoughts of suicide-this is how people suffering from depression describe their lives.

For many of the 17.5 million Americans diagnosed with it, therapy and medication will help, but as many as 6 million of these people are resistant to drugs.  Now, there may be a simple way to improve their mood.

Drugs do little to help and the side effects do too much. Now doctors are researching another option: the same sedative your dentist uses - nitrous oxide, or laughing gas - could offer instant relief to patients suffering suicidal thoughts or depression.

Doctors at Washington University found the effects of nitrous oxide resemble that of anti-depressants.

"It's by inactivating or temporarily blocking the receptors," says anesthesiologist Peter Nagele, MD, MSC, at Washington University in St. Louis.

In a small study, four patients out of 20 had more than a 50 percent improvement in mood. Three patients went into full remission.

"A drug that provides rapid improvement on the order of hours may be very helpful to get the patient out of this really bad depression," Nagele says.

Two-thirds of people suffering from depression do not seek the necessary treatment. Doctors hope that therapies that do not involve medications with serious side effects and are non-addictive, like nitrous oxide, and will offer an alternative to get people suffering depression the help they need.

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