Botulinum toxin could really be a wonder drug. As well as curing chronic migraine, alleviating spasms, treating incontinence, reducing excessive sweating and smoothing away lines and wrinkles, a new study has found that it could also be prescribed as a treatment for depression.
Researchers have found that the injectable toxin reduced the risk of depression by a very significant amount. A large-scale study of 40,000 people found that depression was reported 40 to 88% less in those patients that had received Botulinum toxin injections.
Those assessed in the study had undergone injections for several medical and cosmetic reasons and in different injection sites, including the forehead, neck and bladder.
This mood boost may be no surprise to patients who have already enjoyed the aesthetic results of botulinum toxin but, as the lead author Tigran Makunts, previously at the University of California at San Diego and now at the FDA explains, these results are based on statistical data rather than anecdotal evidence: “This finding is exciting because it supports a new treatment to affect mood and fight depression, one of the common and dangerous mental illnesses.”
How do wrinkle smoothing injections reduce the risk of depression?
This is not the first study into the effects of Botulinum toxin on psychological wellbeing. Previous research suggested that our facial expressions can influence our mental state so, therefore, our moods can be lightened by literally wiping the frown off our face.
This most recent study acknowledges this: “It’s been thought that easing severe frown lines in forehead region disrupts a feedback loop that reinforces negative emotions. But we’ve found here that the mechanism may be more complex, because it doesn’t really matter where the Botox is injected.”
Another possible argument is that Botulinum toxin ‘freezes’ areas of the central nervous system that regulates emotions. Or, when it is successfully used to treat chronic conditions that can trigger depression, it can help to improve mood.
The next step is to test these injectables on people suffering with depression to analyse how it acts as an antidepressant. The clinical trial underway is only testing forehead injections so further trials may be required to work out the best site and dose required to treat depression.