Laughing gas against depression? Our expert answers

Laughing gas against depression?  Our expert answers

French researchers had an idea that may seem strange: using laughing gas to treat depressed patients. These scientists, from the University of Tours, publish astonishing conclusions on the effect of this gas in these patients. The point of view of Dr Joachim Müllner, psychiatrist and member of the TipsForWomens expert committee.

It’s scientifically proven: laughing is good for your health! What if to treat depressed patients, laughter was artificially provoked, through the use of laughing gas? This is the theory studied by French researchers from the University of Tours.

What is laughing gas?

Its real name will undoubtedly tell you something: laughing gas is in reality nitrous oxide, a gas found in siphons, in cooking, but also diverted by certain people for recreational use, with serious consequences. for health, particularly because it is used pure, with 100% nitrous oxide.

In medical use, nitrous oxide, with analgesic (and euphoric) properties, which gave it its nickname laughing gas) is in reality MEOPA, an “Equimolar mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide”. It relieves thousands of patients each year during potentially painful medical procedures. And recently, scientists have discovered an antidepressant effect.

MEOPA against depression?

The scientists therefore used “MEOPA, a medical gas based on nitrous oxide” explains Dr Joachim Müllner, psychiatrist and member of the TipsForWomens expert committee. It accounts for 50%, the other half being oxygen.

The study was carried out on a group of 30 female volunteers aged 25 to 50, within the Tours University Hospital. They all had MRI scans before and after a one-hour exposure session with laughing gas. Result: almost half of these women showed a “almost total absence of depressive symptoms in the following weeks, or even several months later, for certain patients” write the researchers in a press release.

Significant results for researchers, not for our expert

Co-author of the article and specialist in psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine of Tours, Professor Thomas Desmidt explains that the results of this study are “obvious” and “confirm the effectiveness of laughing gas in the treatment of depression“. According to him, laughing gas could well become “a new generation of antidepressants“.

A point of view that our expert, Dr. Joachim Müllner, does not entirely share: “This study is as surprising as it is promising but remains insufficient to create a revolution in the therapeutic practice of major depressive episodes.” he explains first.

Effectively, “it is quite promising because it shows a significant reduction in depressive symptoms present in major depressive episodes (reduction of 50%), quickly (during and immediately after inhalation of the gas), and in a significant number of patients (45%), thanks to the inhalation of MEOPA during a single 1 hour session” he emphasizes.

An “insufficient” study, which concerns a cohort that is too small

Before recalling its limits. According to him, “However, this study remains insufficient because it only involved 20 patients suffering from depression, and only monitored the effectiveness of the treatment for 1 week after inhalation, which remains completely insufficient to characterize the effectiveness of the treatment. treatment in daily practice”.

Before adding: “Let us therefore hope that the rest of the study will be published in a second phase and that it is not only the originality of this research which will have enabled the team to publish in an influential journal. If the administration of this gas proves effective, it would be quite interesting in daily clinical practice because it is accessible in all hospitals, and causes few side effects such as temporary nausea and vomiting..