Botox reduces wrinkles … but to treat clinical depression?


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Botox reduces wrinkles … but to treat clinical depression?

Most people are familiar with botulinum toxin A, BOTOX®, and its use to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. In April 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for “the temporary improvement in the appearance of moderate to severe glabellar lines [the vertical lines between eyebrows] in adult men and women.” BOTOX is injected under the skin to weaken the muscles in the forehead and around the eyes that pull the skin and cause wrinkles. The procedure is minimally invasive, so there is no need for sedation or local anesthetic. After treatment, you can resume normal activity. The overlying skin remains smooth and unwrinkled from three to six months.

This past May 2006, BOTOX was used for a different remedy. Eric Finzi, MD, PhD, and psychologist Erika Wasserman, PhD, conducted a study that found BOTOX to be an effective new treatment for clinical depression. Nine out of 10 patients injected with BOTOX between the eyebrows were no longer clinically depressed two months after treatment. The complete study can be found in the May 15, 2006 issue of Dermatologic Surgery.

People who are depressed often display external symptoms such as furrowed brows, raised eyebrows, or an anxious expression. Dr. Finzi wanted to determine whether inhibiting facial frowning by injecting BOTOX could improve the depressive symptoms. In the study, Dr. Finzi presents research regarding patients with paralyzed facial muscles who often have difficulty feeling sadness. In addition, significant depression diagnoses showed up in patients with very strong frown lines. Even early scientist Charles Darwin suggested that facial muscle and skin movement might contribute to our moods and emotions. Therefore, Dr. Finzi wanted to test if alleviating the furrowed brows could impact the depressive disorders.

Dr. Wasserman evaluated 10 clinically depressed patients [according to the guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II) quantitative test] between the ages of 36 and 63. The patients never had previously received any BOTOX treatments. Dr. Wasserman re-evaluated the patients two months after they received the BOTOX treatments and administered a repeat test for depression. At that time, Dr. Finzi also confirmed the absence of glabellar frown muscle activity.

The study found that nine out of the 10 patients treated with BOTOX were no longer depressed two months after treatment; the tenth patient reported an improvement in mood. Both Dr. Finzi and Dr. Wasserman hope that a larger scale study will be conducted to confirm these findings. It was also noted that to maintain the benefits of BOTOX, treatments would have to be repeated, as the effects are temporary.