Can Botox now cure depression?

Unbelievably, it’s now 15 years since Botox was granted a license for cosmetic use, and its capacity to surprise the medical community with new and creative uses refuses to end. Originally used in the early Seventies as a muscle relaxant for stroke victims – as well as sufferers of cerebral palsy and Bell’s palsy – Botox has also been successfully deployed for a range of conditions, from excessive sweating and an overactive bladder to chronic migraines and limb spasticity.

But the most recent development in the world of Botox has certainly piqued our interest. It turns out that Allergen, the owners of the Botox brand, are making a push to ratify Botox as a treatment for major depressive disorder in women – even though a recent study conducted by the company didn’t back their claim up at all.

Why Botox?

The study, which featured 258 female patients suffering from major depressive order in the USA, divided the participants into three groups. One group received a 50-unit dose of Botox, another received a smaller 30-unit dose, while the third received a placebo. Using the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale – the medical benchmark for measuring the extent of a patient’s depression – the study concluded that the group given the smaller dose of Botox scored better than the group who received the higher dose

However, the group who came out of the study with the lowest MADRS score (and therefore the least depressed group) were the people on a placebo. However, the company are not discouraged by the results, and are already planning a more large-scale study. Why are they trying to prove that Botox can help with depression? The company claim that while Botox modifies facial muscle contractions, the drug is also calming down the chemical imbalances associated with depression. Although a more prosaic explanation could be that the market size of depression treatments is a lot bigger than the cosmetic share.

Whatever the truth about Botox and depression, it’s a cast-iron certainty that the treatment can take years off your face, smoothing out wrinkles and lines by preventing certain chemical messages from reaching muscle cells around the face, thus preventing the facial contractions which cause wrinkles.