Laughing Away Depression?

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No energy, living in darkness, thoughts of suicide-this is how people suffering from depression describe their lives. (KFSN)

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 six million of these people are resistant to drugs. Now, there may be a simple way to improve their mood.

Nicholas and Mary Fournie have been riding together for 37 years. They've managed life's twists and turns as a team.

Mary Fournie said, "When you turned 30, is when you pretty much said there's something wrong. There's something really wrong. "

Nicholas Fournie told ABC30, "Yeah, I was mowing the lawn and I was like if this is all there is, then I don't want to really keep going on."

Nicholas suffers from severe medication-resistant depression. Charles Conway, PhD, Psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis said, "These people are among the sickest of the sick."

Drugs do little to help and the side effects do too much. Now doctors are researching another option. The same sedative your dentist uses, laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, 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.

Peter Nagele, MD, MSC, Anesthesiologist at Washington University in St. Louis told ABC30, "It's by inactivating or temporarily blocking the receptors."

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

Dr. Nagele said, "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." Something Nicholas says could change his life.

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, will offer an alternative and get people suffering depression the help they need.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:

Judy Martin
Director, Media Relations
314-286-0105
martinju@wustl.edu
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