Researchers Turn Frown Upside Down by Using Botox to Treat Depression

allergnOver the past several years, Allergan has been increasingly interested in finding alternative uses for Botox injections. About 54% of sales for the muscle-paralyzing drug, in fact, are comprised of non-traditional uses. Instead of injections smoothing away wrinkles, they’re also treating chronic migraines, overactive bladders, and eyelid spasms. Right now, growth for these uses is outpacing the growth of Botox used for cosmetic enhancement.

According to new research from Hannover Medical School, Allergan might have another important usage to add to the lineup sometime soon. The German team discovered that a single injection of Botox could be an effective treatment for depression. In the study, patients were treated with Botox — also known as cosmetic botulinum toxin — which was used to eliminate frown lines. The team hypothesized that facial muscles can help inform our brains of how we “feel.”

“Our emotions are expressed by facial muscles, which in turn send feedback signals to the brain to reinforce those emotions. Treating facial muscles with botulinum toxin interrupts this cycle,” explained study investigator Professor Tillmann Kruger in a press conference with the American Psychiatric Association.

Out of 30 patients suffering from high levels of treatment-resistant depression, the research showed that those treated with Botox had a 47% reduction in the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, compared to a 9% reduction among the placebo group that received a saline injection instead of Botox. “The study … supports the concept that the facial musculature not only expresses but also regulates mood states,” the research team noted.

In an exciting follow-up for patients suffering from chronic depression, the study’s findings have since been replicated twice by American researchers. Dr. Kruger’s team is also examining Botox’s potential to help with other psychiatric disorders.

“I agree with Dr. Kruger’s findings. Patients receiving Botox cosmetic to their frown lines have scored much better on depression score assesments. The emerging uses of Botox are uses in sweat management, migraines and scar improvement. In the case of scar improvement Botox is injected in the surrounding area to lessen muscle pull that may affect the tension on incision lines.” – Dr. Janis P. Campbell, Dermatologist at Laser Rejuvenation Clinic & Spa of Calgary.

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