Laughing gas found to offer relief from depression for weeks

  • November 23, 2023

The typical antidepressants don’t work for every person. A new study of the antidepressant properties of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” has revealed an interesting fact which is that it can help alleviate symptoms of depression for weeks.

The researchers considered whether nitrous oxide possessed any of the antidepressant properties observed in ketamine. An author of the study Peter Nagele explains, “Ketamine, like nitrous oxide, functions as an anesthetic. Subanesthetic doses of ketamine have shown promise in the treatment of depression.” 20 individuals diagnosed with depression were administered an oxygen mixture containing 50 percent nitrous oxide during a one-hour session identified by the researchers as a “proof-of-principle” trial. After twenty-four hours, the investigators observed a statistically significant decrease in the depressive symptoms of the participants in comparison to the control group.

However, in addition to these adverse effects, laughing gas frequently induces regurgitation, nausea, and headaches in dental patients.

20 individuals with depression were administered a lighter nitrous oxide mixture in a new study; only 25% of those who participated reported adverse effects that were 75% less severe than those who received an air/oxygen placebo as the control group. In this iteration, the investigators monitored the impact of nitrous oxide on depressive symptoms for an extended duration of two weeks, as opposed to the initial twenty-four hours.

“The side effect reduction was unexpected and quite drastic,” Nagele reports. “More remarkably, the effects persisted for an entire two weeks following a single administration.” This has never prior been demonstrated. “This discovery is extremely intriguing.”