Botox Found to Have Some Positive Effects Against Major Depression?
Botulinum toxin is popular for helping reduce wrinkles in the face, commonly used for cosmetic surgery. It is a powerful neurotoxin; 270 nanogram of it is enough to kill a person within minutes. But if diluted greatly, is therapeutic for paralyzing specific muscles that are responsible for blepharospasm, strabismus, and focal dystonias.
The experiment and results
The researchers performed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 30 patients suffering from chronic major depression. The patients involved both men and women, undergoing antidepressant medication; age range is 25 to 65 years old. All of them posses moderate to severe glabellar frown line. Their depression scales were scored using Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), with higher scores indicating worsening depression.
At 2 weeks after the injection of Botox, patients reported improved mood. This improvement is not evident among those who received placebo.
In 6 weeks, those who received Botox showed 50% reduction of depression scores, from baseline 22 to about 12, while those who received placebo showed only 9% improvement rate. The reductions of HAM-D scores were significant at all times from 2 to 16 weeks.
A full response is at least 50% reduction of HAM-D scores. More than 60% of Botox group had full response, compared to only 13% in the placebo group. In addition, 33% of participants in the Botox group experienced full remission or HAM-D score of 7 or less.
In the end, no patients dropped out in the study. Botox was later offered to patients in the placebo group.
How does it work?
Researchers cannot provide explanation on how Botox injection on frown-forming muscle helps depressed people recover from depression. It is long known that frowning reaction expresses negative emotions like fear, anger or sadness. They hypothesized that frown itself causes and reinforces negative emotions, and therefore, refraining from frowning can also help reduce negative emotions associated with depression. And by reducing frown response using Botox, the contributing factor to depression is solved to help in patient’s recovery.
They also added that removing deep-seated frowns might elicit a positive feedback from families and friends, which helps in recovery.
Botox looks promising for depression
Botox injection is not costly, is widely available and is tolerated by most individuals. It has excellent safety profile too. Only a single injection is required every 16 weeks, making it economical. However, researchers say that larger studies are needed to know whether Botox is truly effective against depression.
Researchers also added that although Botox is shown to be effective in their experiment, the participants involved are on antidepressant therapy. So those who wished to undergo Botox for depression should continue taking their meds, and to consult a doctor first.
The study is presented at the 20th European Congress of Psychiatry at Prague, Czech Republic.
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