Forget smoothing forehead wrinkles, frown lines, and crow’s feet, Botox is now a multi-purpose drug that is quickly helping patients with various health ailments.
For Vivian Cooke, massage therapy, physical therapy, and aqua therapy just didn’t make the cut when it came to solving her depression, yet Botox almost immediately relieved her of her symptoms. She receives an injection of the drug several times a year between her eyebrows.
“This is an alternative for me that has proven to be, almost immediately, giving the result that I want, and that is to feel happier and not be depressed,” Cooke said.
From 2012 to 2013, the number of Botox procedures in the United States rose nearly 8%, mostly due to the fact that the procedure is relatively painless, has little to no side effects, and now it is a cure for other health ailments such as lazy eye and chronic migraines.
Cooke is being treated by Maryland dermatologist Dr. Eric Finzi, who’s extensive work with the toxin led him to pioneer the use of it to treat depression in patients. The toxin is normally used to relax minute facial muscles and temporarily numb surrounding nerves.
Finzi’s research found that over half of those suffering from moderate to severe depression who received Botox showed “substantial improvement” in their symptoms after a single treatment. The average length of a Botox injection procedure is around 30 minutes, and results are generally immediate.
So how does Botox affect depression? “Botox is an inhibitor of nerve transmission, so the muscle can’t fire,” said Finzi. “The same muscle [in the forehead] is involved not just with sadness, but anger and fear,” he explained.
And Finzi isn’t alone when it comes to his Botox and depression research: two other studies have came to the same conclusion. There were roughly 14.6 million cosmetic surgery procedures performed in the U.S. in 2012, the majority of them Botox injections, yet unfortunately the Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the use of Botox for depression, which also means it is not covered by the majority of health insurance companies.
“It clearly needs more research because the most obvious explanation of why people respond to this treatment is that they feel better about themselves,” said Dr. Thomas Wise, a psychiatrist. “They look in the mirror every day and think they look younger.”
This may be the psychological case, but some patients say Botox is actually making a physiological difference. “With Botox, there is also a side effect, but to me it was a real positive side effect, because it would make my skin look smoother,” said Pam Oginz, a patient who recently stopped antidepressant medication to try Botox.