Laughing Gas May Help Fight Depression, Alcoholism, and PTSD

Scientists from the University of Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis (USA) have published data from a study on the use of nitrous oxide for the treatment and prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Work in this direction has been underway since 2014, and so far the successes are contradictory. Scientists have been able to prove the very possibility of using this substance, also known as "laughing gas", to treat conditions such as alcoholism or clinical depression. But the effectiveness of the treatment and the duration of the positive effect are still in question.

Doctors like nitrous oxide as an analgesic because of its low cost and high safety profile; it has been used as a quick pain reliever for the second hundred years. Recent studies have shown that nitrous oxide is able to block the NMDA receptor, a key tool for memory function and the formation of knowledge, memories and experience. Including the negative, which scientists want to "remove" from the brain of a patient suffering from PTSD.

The exact mechanisms by which nitrous oxide acts on the NMDA receptor are still under investigation. In a very simplified form, therapy is reduced to the fact that when receiving a negative experience or sensation, the brain cannot remember this, it does not create clues for experiences and anxiety. For example, if a veteran with PTSD sees combat footage, he may experience panic. But if you give the patient nitrous oxide before viewing, he will watch the video detached, not linking the footage on the screen with his own memories.

Alas, in practice, everything so far varies greatly from patient to patient. Where one receives "enlightenment" and does not experience anxiety attacks for more than a week, the negative symptoms again overtake another within a day. It is even more difficult with alcohol or depression - the patient is guaranteed to calm down after inhalation of laughing gas, but how long he will stay in this state is impossible to predict.