People who received Botox (botulinum toxin) injections for certain conditions reported less depression less often compared to patients who did not receive the injections for similar diagnoses, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.
“For years, clinicians have observed that Botox injected for cosmetic reasons seems to ease depression for their patients,” said Ruben Abagyan, Ph.D., professor of pharmacy and one of the lead researchers of the study, in a statement.
“It’s been thought that easing severe frown lines in the 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," the author stated in a news release.
The research team at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California San Diego combed through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Adverse Effect Reporting System (FAERS) database to see the side effects reported by nearly 40,000 people who received Botox injections for various reasons, according to a news release by the university.
The treatments were not just in the forehead but included several different sites, including the neck, limbs and forehead. The release stated the researchers used an algorithm to find significant statistical differences between patients who used Botox and those who did not for the same issue.
The researchers found depression was reported 40 to 88 percent less often by Botox users for six of the eight conditions and injection sites, according to the release.
“This finding is exciting because it supports a new treatment to affect mood and fight depression, one of the common and dangerous mental illnesses — and it’s based on a very large body of statistical data, rather than limited-scale observations,” Tigran Makunts, PharmD, one of the researchers in the study, stated in the release.
More research is needed to determine how Botox potentially acts as an antidepressant, according to the study. The researchers have a few theories that need further investigation. For instance, Botox being absorbed systemically to the central nervous system, which is involved in mood or emotions, they hypothesized, or possibly Botox indirectly affecting a person’s depression because the Botox helped relieve an underlying chronic condition that may have been a contributing factor to the patient’s depression.
Health experts say Botox is commonly used not only for cosmetic reasons, such as combatting wrinkles but also for muscle spasms, tight muscles, migraines, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, as well as other conditions including excessive sweating and bladder conditions.
The FAERS data used in this study was not exclusively gathered for the purpose of investigating the link between Botox and depression, according to the news release. The data represents only a subgroup of Botox users who reported experiencing negative side effects. The authors note they excluded data from patients who were taking antidepressants; however, in some of the cases, the use of medications could have been underreported.
The release stated there is a clinical trial underway that is directly investigating Botox treatment for people with depression, but it is only testing forehead injection sites,. The authors said additional clinical trials are necessary to investigate which site is best to specifically inject to treat depression.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated more than 264 million people worldwide experience depression.