Patients who received botulinum toxin injections at various sites for different conditions reported depression significantly less often, compared with patients undergoing different treatments for the same conditions, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.
“For years, clinicians have observed that Botox injected for cosmetic reasons seems to ease depression for their patients,” said researcher Ruben Abagyan, PhD, professor of pharmacy at the University of California San Diego. “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 finding stems from an analysis of 40,000 botulinum toxin treatment reports in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Adverse Event Reporting System.
People who received botulinum toxin injections at 6 different sites for the treatment of conditions such as hyperhidrosis, facial wrinkles, migraine prophylaxis, spasticity, and spasms reported depression 40% to 88% less often than patients who received other treatments for the same conditions, according to the study.
Although the data used in the study was not collected for the purpose of exploring a link between botulinum toxin injections and depression and represents a subset of patients who experienced negative side effects, researchers believe the findings point to a significant antidepressant effect across a broad range of injection sites.
“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,” said Tigran Makunts, PharmD, a research fellow at the FDA.
Makunts T, Wollmer MA, Abagyan R. Postmarketing safety surveillance data reveals antidepressant effects of botulinum toxin across various indications and injection sites. Scientific Reports. 2020;10(1):12851.