Botox, or the active compound in Botox, called Botulinum-A, is a neurotoxin that was discovered in the 19th century when people ate bad sausages, according to the Daily Times. Although considered a serious hindrance and possible cause of illness and death at that time, it has been known to have properties that, when properly utilized, are beneficial to health in humans. Botox was first used to paralyze nerve endings so that wrinkles would disappear, commonly known as “frown lines” in those who are beginning to age. Once only popular with celebrities, it soon became mainstream medicine that most people can enjoy if desired. It does have some serious side effects and occasional complications, including the paralysis of the diaphragm, the muscle that assists the up-and-down motion of the lungs that is responsible for breathing. Properly dosed, injected, and monitored, these complications are rare.
It’s already been established that Botox can help in the treatment of migraine headaches, a condition that affects approximately 10 percent of the population and is responsible for major loss of productivity and lost work days in the United States. When treating patients for either migraine or aesthetic reasons with Botox, physicians began to notice a trend: their patients reported feeling happier. Their mood was better, and doctors did not believe it was simply because their wrinkles were less prominent.
Jason S. Reichenberg, MD, the director of dermatology at the University of Texas-Austin and co-author of a study about the correlation between Botox and depression, says that science is very close to discovering exactly why Botox is making people happier.
“One of the theories about Botox treating depression is that it doesn’t make you smile, but it stops you from frowning. Fake it until you make it! Some of the patients in our studies didn’t like the way they looked with Botox, but were likely to see their depression get better…It’s very exciting to have another possible tool, but I don’t think it’ll replace antidepressants. I think it means we need to start thinking outside the box.”
Clinical Depression is a crippling mood disorder that affects approximately one-out-of-nine people in their lifetime, with twice as many women affected as men. While many of these individuals respond to traditional treatment methods, such as antidepressants and psychotherapy, others find little relief even with antidepressant changes, dosage adjustments, and counseling. It’s these type of refractory, hard-to-treat depression cases that may need alternative therapies from the usual mainstays of treatment, and one of those may be the use of Botox.
In clinical trials, Reichenberg found that those who had been subcutaneously injected with Botox for aesthetic reasons noted that their depressive symptoms decreased 42 percent of the time, compared to a placebo, which only demonstrated a drop in depression 15 percent of that time. Those are promising statistics and far outside the margin of error, although more studies need to be completed, and on larger populations, in order to have stronger scientific evidence that Botox does indeed effectively treat clinical depression.
The current study by Reichenberg presented evidence that Botox was as effective as a first-line treatment of antidepressant medication, which generally provides relief from depression to approximately 40 percent of those who take it, without having to change medications or adjust dosages. It’s also possible that Botox may be used in combination with other therapies, such as antidepressants, counseling, light therapy, and any number of homeopathic therapies available. More studies will be needed to determine the safety and efficacy of combining multiple therapies with Botox.
While looking younger is sure to be a pleasant thing for most people, experiencing less symptoms of depression is sure to be something to smile about, with or without wrinkles.
[Featured Image by George Marks/Getty Images]