Army veteran Vivian Cooke has long struggled with debilitating depression, and with varied evidence of available treatments’ effectiveness on the market for depression. Now, Cooke relies on Botox to help fight her debilitating depression, according to CBS News.
Vivian had tried numerous alternative therapies and medications without success before giving the unlikely cosmetic treatment a try three years ago. Although Botox is typically associated with giving users fewer wrinkles and more youthful looks, it may help to ease mental health conditions by blocking the facial expressions that send signals to the brain and are linked to low mood.
Vivian has also alternative therapies and medication to cope with her symptoms, then three years ago, she decided to try something new after hearing about a study testing Botox to treat depression.
“It wasn’t effective. Some side effects would be headaches or stomachache.”
Botox is commonly used for cosmetic purposes, doctors say the reasoning behind the treatment for depression is interesting and has nothing to do with wrinkles. Researcher Dr. Eric Finzi of Chevy Chase Cosmetic Center said facial expressions are part of the circuit of the brain related to mood. Finzi explained to CBS News, pointing out the area between the eyebrows where Botox inhibits the muscle.
“Fear, anger and sadness — all go through this muscle… So Botox basically inhibits the muscle and calms it down, so it becomes more difficult to feel those negative emotions.”
Botox is a prescription drug that blocks nerve signals to muscles in the injection area. Its effects are temporary and typically wear off after three months. The makers of Botox recently announced plans for the final phase of testing as a treatment for depression. Previous studies show between 50 to 60 percent of patients may have benefited from the treatment.
“Our hope is eventually it will form a place as one of the tools to treat depression.”
Early trials suggest Botox may alleviate symptoms in people with depression through a proposed mechanism called the facial feedback hypothesis. The theory holds that a person’s facial expressions can influence their mood, according to Time. One small study of 74 people with major depressive disorder found that 52 percent of people who received Botox reported a drop in symptoms six weeks later, compared with 15 percent of the people given a placebo.
Allergan is currently conducting clinical trials to see if Botox can treat depression.
Botox has also been used to treat a number of conditions, including chronic migraines, bladder incontinence, excessive underarm perspiration, and certain types of neck pain and eye issues. Costs vary widely, but the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery said the average price for a Botox treatment in 2016 was $376.
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As for Cooke, she said she noticed a change in her depression almost immediately.
“I found overall my mood was better on a day-to-day basis… I had less problems with depression.”
The study the army veteran took part in is now over, however, she will continue to get Botox injections.
When a drug is approved in the U.S. for one medical condition, doctors are legally allowed to prescribe it for any medical issue they think it could benefit, according to Time magazine. However, some experts caution that more research is needed to understand how Botox works and whether it’s safe for all health problems before off-label use balloons.
When Botox is used for migraine prevention, people will receive 31 injections in different spots on their head and neck, and the effects can last around three months.
Botox was approved to treat overly sweaty hands and feet in 2004. Researchers are also studying whether Botox can treat social anxiety and bipolar disorder.
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